In this series of blogs we are looking at which foods you should try including in your diet if you are concerned about your cardio-vascular health. In this post we are looking at the kidney beans. Kidney beans are recognizable by their kidney like shape and dark red skin. They are available throughout the year and are known for being healthy and high in protein. But what can kidney beans do to help you maintain a healthy heart?
Like most varieties of bean, kidney beans are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Reducing high cholesterol levels can radically reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke- high cholesterol is one of the most common conditions that lead to heart disease. In addition to lowering cholesterol, kidney beans' high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after a meal, making these beans an especially good choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. When combined with whole grains such as rice, kidney beans provide virtually fat-free high quality protein.
Folate helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid and an intermediate product of our metabolism. Elevated blood levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease, and are found in between 20-40% of patients with heart disease. For this reason, folate is very helpful for reducing risk of heart disease.
Kidney beans also contain magnesium which has beneficial effects for the cardiovascular system. Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker. Magnesium has the effect of relaxing veins and arteries, which improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attacks, but also that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium can promote free radical damage to the heart. Finally, kidney beans have been found to have one of the highest capacity of antioxidants of any food. Antioxidants are believed to help prevent many kinds of diseases including heart disease by protecting cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals.
If you want to include kidney beans in your diet, bear in mind that they work especially well in simmered dishes such as chili since they absorb the flavors of seasonings they are cooked in. However one thing to remember about kidney beans is that they are actually toxic if not heated at boiling point for at least ten minutes so make sure you prepare them properly to avoid illness.