If you’re a fan of Asian cuisine then you’re most likely familiar with red bean paste, but did you know which small red beans are used to create this unique condiment? That would be adzuki beans, awesome sources of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
In general, research has associated beans with slower aging, improved heart health, cancer prevention, lower cholesterol, reduced waistlines and increased energy. (1) Dried beans are often a staple in the diet of many vegetarians, and studies show that beans like the adzuki may be a main reason so many health benefits are associated with this way of eating. (2)
These legumes, also sometimes called azuki or aduki beans, are said to be the most “yang” or warming of the bean family. With their nutty yet quite neutral flavor profile, even the pickiest of palates will likely be a fan of the adzuki bean. Keep reading to see just how impressive adzuki beans truly can be for your health.
Related: 10 Best Legumes to Eat
The adzuki bean (Vigna angularis) is an annual vine widely grown throughout East Asia and the Himalayas for its small beans. The varieties most common in Northeast Asia are red, but white, black, gray and mottled varieties also exist.
Adzuki beans are highly nutritious. One cup of cooked adzuki beans has about: (7)
- 294 calories
- 57 grams carbohydrates
- 17.3 grams protein
- 0.2 gram fat
- 16.8 grams fiber
- 278 micrograms folate (70 percent DV)
- 1.3 milligrams manganese (66 percent DV)
- 386 milligrams phosphorus (39 percent DV)
- 1,224 milligrams potassium (35 percent DV)
- 0.7 milligram copper (34 percent DV)
- 120 milligrams magnesium (30 percent DV)
- 4.1 milligrams zinc (27 percent DV)
- 4.6 milligrams iron (26 percent DV)
- 0.3 milligram thiamine (18 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligram vitamin B6 (11 percent DV)
- 0.1 milligram riboflavin (9 percent DV)
- 1.6 milligrams niacin (8 percent DV)
- 64.4 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)
1. Help Manage Diabetes
With their high mix of protein and fiber, adzuki beans are great for helping manage normal blood sugar. Animal research has even shown that the protein found in adzuki beans can even inhibit intestinal α-glucosidases, which are are enzymes involved in breaking down complex carbohydrates like starch and glycogen. In other words, adzuki beans act like alpha-glucosidase inhibitors that are taken to control diabetes. (3)
This makes the adzuki bean a great addition to any diabetic diet plan to help treat, manage or prevent diabetes.
2. Increase Antioxidant Intake
Not only are adzuki beans tasty, but they’re also loaded with disease-fighting and health-promoting antioxidants. Researchers have identified at least 29 different compounds found within an adzuki bean, making them some of the most high-antioxidant foods around. These compounds include bioflavonoids that are valued for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. (4)
3. Up Muscle Mass
Consuming protein foods like adzuki beans can help build muscle mass. Just one cup of adzuki beans contains 17.3 grams of protein, packing a powerful protein punch.
Muscles are made up of protein — therefore protein is necessary to build and maintain muscle. Without adequate protein, muscle loss occurs. If you do heavy lifting, then your protein needs are even higher. Combining a regular workout routine with increased healthy protein intake is a great way to get your body not only leaner, but stronger.
4. Improve Heart Health
With their high concentration of dietary fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium and B vitamins, adzuki beans really have heart health written all over them. Eating adzuki beans as part of an overall heart healthy diet and lifestyle can help reduce your chances of developing coronary heart disease.
Their dietary fiber aids in regulating cholesterol levels while their potassium relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow, which reduces blood pressure and strain on the heart. (5)
5. Healthy Weight Management
Adding adzuki beans to your diet can help you eat less and keep you feeling full longer. Feeling full longer hopefully means less overeating because you reach satiety without consuming too much food.
The high fiber content of adzuki beans is the reason you feel satiated longer. High-fiber foods like beans also tend to take longer to eat and less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food. So whether you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, I highly suggest adzuki beans as part of your diet. (6)
Adzuki Beans vs. Kidney Beans
You might be wondering what differentiates adzuki beans from, say, kidney beans. It’s a good question, since most beans are good for you — but few pack as great a punch as adzuki beans. Here’s how these two stack up:
- Compared to kidney beans, adzuki beans have more calories, but they also have more protein and fiber per serving. When it comes to vitamins and minerals, adzuki beans beat kidney beans every time minus being equals when it comes to thiamine and vitamin B6.
- Adzuki beans and kidney beans consumption can both increase antioxidant intake, which protects against inflammation and disease, boosts heart health, and helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar, making them excellent for diabetics.
- Adzuki beans have more protein than kidney beans so for vegetarians or athletes looking to increase their protein intake, adzuki beans are a better choice.
- Adzuki beans are a better choice for people suffering from anemic symptoms or low energy since they have a higher iron content than kidney beans.
- Kidney beans have less calories than adzuki beans so if calories are a primary concern, kidney beans can be a better choice.
- Kidney beans can almost always be found in your local grocery store, but adzuki beans can be more difficult to find.
- According to genetic evidence, the adzuki bean was first cultivated in East Asia and later was crossbred with native species in the Himalayas. The earliest known archaeological evidence of the bean comes from Japan around 4000 B.C.
- In China and Korea, adzuki bean specimens from ruins date from 3000 to 1000 B.C., which are believed to be cultivated ones.
- In East Asian cuisine, the adzuki bean is commonly sweetened before eating. In particular, it often is boiled with sugar, resulting in red bean paste, a very common ingredient in all of these cuisines.
- It also is common to add flavoring to the bean paste, such as chestnut.
- Red bean paste made from adzuki beans is used in a variety of Asian dishes. Some Asian cultures enjoy red bean paste as a filling or topping for various kinds of waffles, pastries, baked buns or biscuits.
How to Use and Cook
It’s best to buy organic adzuki beans in their dry, uncooked form. Most health stores and grocery stores have whole adzuki beans readily available. Many health stores also carry adzuki bean flour, a protein-rich, gluten-free four alternative. Once you’re ready to use your dry beans, you’ll need to soak them.
- Place dry beans in a bowl covered with several inches of water, and cover with a kitchen towel. Let them sit for 8 hours.
- After 8 hours, you’ll notice how much they’ve expanded at this point as they’ve soaked up a lot of water — that’s a good thing!
- Keep the beans in the refrigerator, and use within the next few days since they now have the potential to spoil.
Directions to Sprout:
- Strain the beans and leave them out in a dish or shallow bowl, on the counter top or somewhere where they will be exposed to air.
- You can keep them slightly damp by adding just a small amount of water to the bowl/dish, but you don’t need them to be covered in water completely. Try adding just 1–2 tablespoons of water.
- Leave them out for anywhere from 3–4 days.
- When ready, rinse sprouts well, drain, and store in a jar or container.
- Keep in the refrigerator for up to 7 days, but every day you need to rinse the sprouted beans and put them in a fresh bowl. You want to do this to avoid having any mold or harmful bacteria grow.
Sprouted adzuki beans are ready to be used as is in soups, salads, smoothies and side dishes. If you want to skip the extra step of sprouting — though I highly recommend sprouting them — then after soaking the beans, you can follow package directions for how to cook adzuki beans. Typically, you add the beans to water, bring the water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender (usually 45–60 minutes). Drain and rinse the beans under cold water, and they’re ready to be used in stew, chili and all kinds of protein-rich culinary creations.
Also, always avoid buying any beans that are already mixed with added sweeteners.
Adzuki beans are versatile and delicious. They also have the deserved honor of being among the best healing foods you can eat and part of my healing diet. My all-time favorite adzuki bean recipe has to be Turkey Chili with Adzuki Beans. Rich and hearty and packed with a double punch of protein, this recipe is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Adzuki beans are great thrown into vegetable-centric soups for a punch of protein. They’re also great with steamed brown rice or quinoa.
You can mash them up into a bean dip or you use them as the star of a salad like this Cucumber, Tomato and Sprouted Adzuki Bean Salad, which is loaded with healthy ingredients and tons of nutrition.
Risks and Side Effects
The most common side effect of eating adzuki beans is — you guessed it — gas! If you’re not currently a big bean consumer, then it’s helpful to introduce adzuki beans into your diet gradually. If you opt for dried beans that you need to soak, don’t use the water you soaked them in to cook them in because it is very gas-producing.
Digestive enzymes can come to the rescue if you find you really have trouble digesting beans. The good news is that adzuki beans are one of the beans that are easier to digest.
- Adzuki beans are an awesome source of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and they’re used to make red bean paste.
- They’re packed with protein, fiber, folate, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, copper, magnesium, zinc, iron, thiamine, vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, calcium and more.
- They’ve been shown to help manage diabetes, increase antioxidant intake, up muscle mass, improve heart health and help manage weight.
- In order to use adzuki beans, you need to soak them and then ideally sprout them as well. This brings out the optimal nutrition and taste.