The kidney bean is a reddish- brown or speckled legume with the colour and shape of a kidney.
It is a popular variety of ‘ibishyimbo’ the local name for the common bean.
Though available in markets countrywide, they are more concentrated in Gicumbi District to the north.
When boiled, they have a mild taste but easily absorb flavour from whatever seasoning they are cooked with.
Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of the nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says kidney beans have high quantities of folic acid, calcium carbohydrates, fibre and proteins, among other essential nutrients, all of which are necessary for the proper functioning of the body.
He notes that these beans are also known for their high concentration of iron compared to other varieties of beans.
“This makes them highly recommended for those who are vulnerable to iron, including pregnant women, children under five and also teen girls who have started their menstrual cycle,” he says.
Uwiragiye says kidney beans are also rich in various minerals, vitamins, fibres, antioxidants, and other plant compounds.
For these reasons, he says the beans may aid in weight loss; promote colon health and moderate blood sugar levels as well.
According to studies, consuming kidney beans is a lease into bodybuilding nutrition as they contain 48 per cent of the daily value of protein.
Also, research reveals that the vitamin department is also relatively well-proportioned for a legume: vitamin B-6 which supports cell metabolism is 20 per cent per serving.
Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Nutrition Cabinet in Kigali, says high content of complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre in kidney beans helps lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
“The presence of soluble dietary fibre forms a gel-like substance in the stomach, which surrounds the cholesterol and prevents its reabsorption into the body,” he says.
He goes on to add that these types of beans are good for people with diabetes.
Kamanzi explains that kidney beans are a healthy option for diabetic people because of the low glycaemic index, which keeps the body’s sugar content balanced.
Aside from this, he says it also reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
Uwiragiye says kidney beans are rich in vitamin B1 which contributes greatly to healthy cognitive functions.
He says that sufficient levels of vitamin B1 help in synthesising acetylcholine (an important neurotransmitter), which ensures proper functioning of the brain and boosts concentration and memory.
It is also beneficial in slowing the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia, Uwiragiye says.
The manganese in the kidney beans is very important in conducting metabolism, which is basically breaking down of nutrients to produce energy for the body.
Manganese in kidney beans also aids the body’s antioxidant defences to make sure that the harmful free radicals in the body are properly and efficiently destroyed, thus, kidney beans fall under the category of antioxidant-rich foods.
Erick Musengimana, a nutritionist at Rwanda Diabetes Association in Kigali, says kidney beans have high protein content.
For this reason, he says, it can serve as a great substitute for meat for vegetarians.
When consumed with rice or other forms of carbohydrates, he says it provides a boost of protein to the body without the added calories of meat or heavy dairy products.
Because of their presence of the antioxidants, Musengimana says when consumed, kidney beans help strengthen the immune system by getting rid of the free radicals and protecting the cells of our body.
Regarding antioxidants, he adds that they help slow down the ageing of cells.
Besides, when consumed, kidney beans can also help in reducing wrinkles, healing acne and nourishing hair and nails.