The White Kidney Bean is a cultivated variety of the common kidney bean. Like its relatives, it is widely used as a culinary legume, and for cooking purposes are also known as the cannellini bean. The primary nutritional benefits of the White Kidney Bean are an excellent source of dietary fibre and protein, but recent studies have confirmed further health benefits. There is growing evidence that White Kidney Bean extract is effective in reducing weight gain, improving blood-glucose regularity and supposedly decreasing the risk of cancer.
Latin name and cultivation
The White Kidney Bean is native to Central and South America. Domesticated in ancient times in both Mesoamerica and the Andes (independent from each other), the common bean Phaseolus Vulgaris formed one part of the nutritional triad that allowed Native American civilisations to flourish. Phaseolus Vulgaris has since been cultivated into dozens of cultivars including kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, wax beans, broad beans.
History of culinary and medicinal use
White Kidney Beans are popular in central and southern Italy, where they have often been eaten in minestrone soup as well as feature dishes. Their cousins, red kidney beans and navy beans, are the main ingredient in much-loved staples like baked beans and refried beans. Dry, raw kidney beans contain trace amounts of the toxin phytohaemagglutinin, which is easily rendered inactive by cooking at boiling point for 30 minutes. The White Kidney bean contains only abone-thirdhird the level of the toxin present in red kidney beans.
The FDA recommends soaking dry beans for up to five hours prior to cooking them. This helps break down the gas-producing sugars that cause flatulence in some people. For the same reason, the Japanese traditionally soaked and cooked beans with the seaweed Kombu, while in the Americas a spice called epazote was used.1
Similar to its relatives in the Phaseolus family, the White Kidney Bean is an excellent source of dietary fibre and protein, as well as iron, potassium, selenium, molybdenum, thiamine, vitamin B6, chromium and folate. Weight for weight, cooked kidney beans (red and white) contain more iron than beef. Compared to other vegetables, which tend to lose nutritional value in the canning process, kidney beans retain their nutritional value very well when canned.
Like all beans, White Kidney Beans are an excellent source of dietary fibre, essential for healthy bowel movements. The soluble fibre found in White Kidney Beans is known to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer. This preventative effect appears to be due to two separate benefits: the added bulk in your digestive system, which keeps bowel movements regular, and the presence of medically active compounds including starch inhibitors and saponins.
The bulk provided by fibre helps waste move through the digestive system faster. Since this waste often contains carcinogens, it follows that shorter exposure time for the surrounding cells reduces the effect of these carcinogens.2 In addition, when fibre is broken down by bacteria in the lower intestine, this produces a substance called butyrate which may inhibit the growth of colorectal tumors.3 A 2009 study of 2000 participants showed that strict adherence to a high-fibre, low-fat, high-fruit and high-vegetable diet decreased recurrence of polyps (colorectal adenoma) by approximately 35%.3 White Kidney Beans have significantly higher compositions of soluble fibre than most other legumes including lentils, pinto beans and peas.
White Kidney Beans offer distinct health benefits compared to the rest of the Phaseolus Vulgaris family. They are the best source of alpha-amylase inhibitor isoform 1, a weight-loss compound which works by inhibiting starch absorption in the gut. Studies have shown that a dose of 500mg White Kidney Bean extract / alpha-amylase inhibitor isoform 1 consistently helps with weight loss, though the extent of the weight loss effect varies.4
White Kidney Beans are an excellent source of chromium, which has been shown to assist in blood glucose control and weight loss. Several scientific studies have been carried out to confirm the benefits for diabetics of the White Kidney Bean’s blood glucose control effect.5 Consumption of navy beans has been shown to lower total cholesterol, presumed to be the effect of high levels of saponins.6 Saponins also exhibit anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and cancer-fighting properties.7
The White Kidney Bean, a cultivar of Phaseolus Vulgaris, is popular for its delicate taste and excellent nutritional content, with impressive levels of fibre, protein, iron and other vital minerals. In recent decades scientific research has focused on the ability of White Kidney Bean extract to positively impact blood glucose levels and cholesterol, as well as preventing weight gain and decreasing the risk of colorectal cancers. White Kidney Bean extract has been shown to work effectively as a dietary carbohydrate blocker. In order to be fully effective, White Kidney Bean extract (or isoform 1 supplements) should be taken alongside the daily mean containing the highest portion of carbohydrates.
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1 Albala, Ken Beans: A History Berg, 2007, p xiv.
2 Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL, Colditz GA, et al. Dietary fiber and the risk of colorectal cancer and adenoma in women. N Engl J Med. 1999;340:169-176.
3 Sansbury L, Wanke K, Albert P, et al. The Effect of Strict Adherence to a High-Fiber, High-Fruit and -Vegetable, and Low-Fat Eating Pattern on Adenoma Recurrence. Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170:576-584.
5. Ferguson LR, Harris PJ. Protection against cancer by wheat bran: role of dietary fiber and phytochemicals. Eur J Cancer Prev. 1999;8:17-25.
4 Udani J, Hardy M, Madsen DC Blocking carbohydrate absorption and weight loss: a clinical trial using Phase 2 brand proprietary fractionated white bean extract; Altern Med Rev. (2004) A Dietary Supplement Containing Standardized Phaseolus vulgaris Extract Influences Body Composition of Overweight Men and Women.
5 Pusztai A, et al Lipid accumulation in obese Zucker rats is reduced by inclusion of raw kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) in the diet . Br J Nutr. (1998); Layer P, et al Effect of a purified amylase inhibitor on carbohydrate tolerance in normal subjects and patients with diabetes mellitus . Mayo Clin Proc. (1986)
6 Susan M. Shutler, Gemma M. Bircher, Jacki A. Tredger, Linda M. Morgan, Ann F. Whine Rand and A. G. LOW (1989). The effect of daily baked bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) consumption on the plasma lipid levels of young, normo-cholesterolaemic men. British Journal of Nutrition, 61, pp. 257–265 doi:10.1079/BJN19890114.
7 John Shi, Sophia Jun Xue, Ying Mab, Dong Li, Yukio Kakuda, Yubin Lan. Kinetic study of saponins B stability in navy beans under different processing conditions. Journal of Food Engineering 93 (2009) 59–65; Hangen L, Bennink MR Consumption of black beans and navy beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) reduced azoxymethane-induced colon cancer in rats . Nutr Cancer. (2002)