Small, bright azuki beans, also called adzuki or aduki beans, are gaining popularity as the "weight loss bean". They are the central ingredient in many sweet and savory dishes, especially red bean paste. These versatile legumes can impart a unique nutty, sweet taste and a bevy of nutritional benefits on your diet. In addition to aiding weight loss, azuki beans can help control diabetes and blood pressure, optimize gut health, and stave off heart attack and stroke.
Azuki beans, scientific name Vigna angularis, are annual vines native to East Asia and quite common in Japan, China, and other Asian nations. They are mainly red; black, white, and mottled varieties do grow in some areas. Thanks to exportation, they are available worldwide. Azukis are one of the staples of the macrobiotic diet, which encourages copious intake of legumes. Followers of this regimen regard them as the most "yang" beans, offering strength. In traditional Chinese medicine, azukis reputedly support bladder, kidney, and reproductive function.
Azuki beans carry a dense nutritional load that makes them an ideal addition to your diet. One cup of cooked azuki beans has approximately:
Including azuki beans in your diet can help you feel satisfied with less food and feel full longer, which should discourage overeating. Research identifies compounds in the beans that may promote the expression of genes that increase satiety and contribute to weight loss. The high-fiber content of azukis means digestion takes longer; they also contain fewer calories for the same volume, compared to many other foods.
Azuki beans carry an immense load of fiber and protein, which makes them ideal for regulating blood glucose levels. Research suggests a protein in the beans can function like alpha-glucosidase inhibitors some people take to help control their diabetes. The abundant fiber in azukis helps promote insulin sensitivity and curb blood sugar fluctuations after meals.
Azuki beans contain a high concentration of nutrients that contribute to a healthy heart. Dietary fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and folate can help regulate cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and lower the risk of developing atherosclerosis. Azukis contain antioxidants and other plant phenols that help protect against heart attack and stroke.
Azuki beans are rich in dietary fiber and resistant starch, key contributors to digestive health. The fiber helps move food through the digestive tract, enables the body to absorb nutrients from this food, and feeds beneficial gut bacteria. Studies suggest that the fiber, starch, and antioxidants in azukis can help reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. These nutrients also help prevent and alleviate diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and more serious issues such as colon cancer.
Azuki beans are more widely available dried, although you may find them canned, sprouted, or as fresh pods in health stores and Oriental markets. Azuki bean flour is available in many health stores as a gluten-free flour option.
Soaking beans helps break down sugars that may cause digestive distress leading to gas or bloating. After sorting through and rinsing thoroughly, immerse the beans completely in cool water and let them soak for at least eight hours. An alternative shortcut method is to boil the azukis for two or three minutes, then allow them to sit for three to five hours. After soaking, cook or refrigerate for up to three days. To cook soaked beans, add beans to fresh water in a pot; bring the water to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse the beans to use in soups, chili, or even homemade red bean paste for an Asian-inspired dessert.
Sprouting your azuki beans will further enhance their digestibility and make the nutrients more bioavailable. After straining the beans, leave them in a shallow bowl or dish on a countertop. Keep them damp with one or two tablespoons of water. Let the beans sit for three to four days; rinse well, drain, and store in a container for up to seven days. Rinse the sprouts and place them in a fresh bowl daily to avoid bacteria or mold growth.
Allergies to beans such as azuki are extremely rare but serious when they do occur. Individuals with sensitivities to legumes should avoid these and other beans. Some people may experience digestive upset, especially if they are not accustomed to consuming large amounts of fiber. It is best to introduce azuki beans into your diet gradually and in small, incremental amounts.
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