Adzuki beans as we know it today come from parts of Asia including Himalayas and East Asia. This red bean has become popular diet food as it offers good source of carbohydrates, proteins and is low on fat and calories. It provides wide range of medicinal benefits which have been exploited since centuries.
This crop has flourished in Indus valley, Ganges valley and Yangtse valley. History of adzuki bean can be traced to nearly 4000 years ago. Today this crop has flourished in China, Japan, Korea and parts of India, Thailand, Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.
The name Adzuki beans or Azuki beans is transliteration of its Japanese name. In Japan it is also referred as small bean or shōzu (小豆). Adzuki beans or Vigna angularis is known as Chi Xiao Dou in China which means rice bean. It is also referred as hongdou (紅豆) or chidou (赤豆); meaning red bean. It is called pat (팥) in Korean while đậu đỏ in Vietnamese. In India it is referred as Red cowpeas – ravaa’n (Punjabi), Lal Chavali (लाल चवळी – Marathi).
It is most commonly consumed along with rice similar to lentils. Apart from directly being part of diet, adzuki beans are used for making various cuisines and desserts. In China and Japan, it is used a confectionery. Adzuki beans are boiled with sugar and mashed to form sweat red bean paste which forms as filling for many asian desserts including ice creams.
Nutritional Value of Adzuki Beans
Consider a cup full of cooked beans – these 230 grams of boiled adzuki beans would offer just 295 calories. With almost nil fat, it offers good amount of dietary fibers and proteins. It offers minerals like Manganese, potassium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, Magnesium and iron in ample quantity. It also supplies body with trace mineral Molybdenum. Only 50 grams of dried beans are sufficient to meet daily dietary requirement of molybdenum. These beans also supplies body with Vitamin A, Vitamin B9 and Folate. Red cowpeas also contain polyphenols, tannins, saponin and other phytochemcials.
Health benefits of Adzuki beans
This popular Asian bean serves for benefits of various health functions. With high dietary fibers and protein, it works well as anti-diabetic, anti-obesity, cardio-protective, liver protective, anti-cancer and antimicrobial agent. Traditional Chinese medicines have used adzuki beans for various supportive and protective functions. It has been used in regulating gastrointestinal and excretory functions. Various other benefits of Adzuki beans are discussed below:
Adzuki beans for gastrointestinal health
Adzuki beans offer high amount of dietary fibers which supports digestive tract and other functions. It keeps digestive system smooth and improves bowel movements. It relieves from constipation. Dietary fibers help in removal of toxins from intestine and prevents from risk of colon cancer. Traditional Chinese medicine used adzuki beans as tonic for digestive system.
Adzuki beans and heart health
Adzuki beans support body with ample supply of soluble dietary fibers. Dietary fibers blocks absorption of bad cholesterol in body. Thus regular intake of adzuki beans will keep you blood cholesterol levels low and reduce risk of heart disorders including cardiac arrest, blockages and others. It is believed to lower blood pressure.
In a study with rats, it was found that ethanol extract of adzuki beans regulated and reduced serum cholesterol levels. It was found that in control group rats amount of cholesterol excreted was high. The research suggests that adzuki beans reduced absorption of cholesterol and removed them from body. The study also found that adzuki beans reduced metabolism of cholesterol in liver.
Another study concluded that Azuki bean juice lowered serum triglyceride concentration in healthy young women. Increased triglyceride levels are associated with higher risk of heart diseases. Thus traditional medicine form involving consumption of azuki bean juice is beneficial in preventing hypertriglyceridemia.
Adzuki beans and prevention of cancer
Cancer is often results of mutation in body cells by toxic chemicals in body. Removal of these toxic materials from body may aid in prevention of cancer. High dietary fibers in adzuki beans do exactly the same. They aid in preventing absorption of toxins in body and help them excrete out of body. Adzuki beans also contain phytochemcials which help in killing cancerous cells and inhibiting their growth. They contain chemicals which work as inhibitor in development of cancerous cells. Regular consumption of adzuki beans is considered to lower risk of cancers including breast cancer. A lab study has pointed out to antioxidant and antitumor activity of adzuki bean extract.
Adzuki beans and urinary tract functions
Another benefit of dietary fibers in adzuki beans is to kidney and bladder functions. It keeps the urinary tract smooth and free from infection. Adzuki bean is diuretic in nature and helps cleanse urinary tract and reduce inflammation.
Adzuki bean and weight loss
A weight loss diet would require it to provide low calorie, good amount of protein and dietary fiber. This is what adzuki bean offer. Each gram of adzuki bean offer less than 1.3 calories. It provides high amount of dietary fiber which helps keep your stomach full. This reduces craving for food and reduces sugar metabolism. It offers sufficient amount of proteins which is essential for body growth and function.
A research suggests that polyphenol in adzuki bean affects lipid metabolism and reduces its accumulation in liver. This shows potential of adzuki bean as potential natural anti-obesity agent.
Detoxify body with Adzuki beans
Another health benefit which can be attributed to the dietary fibers in Adzuki beans is its ability to detoxify body. It supports and increases process of removing toxic waste from body. It has been long known as liver tonic. Molybdenum, a trace metal found in good quantity in adzuki bean, helps produce enzyme sulfite oxidase which is important for detoxification of liver. This process reduces risk of degenerative brain disorder like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
Adzuki beans and treatment of diabetes
High protein and dietary fiber in adzuki bean makes it good diabetic food. It reduces food cravings, reduces sugar metabolism and increases insulin reponse. Regular intake of adzuki bean is helpful in diabetes.
Various studies have been done to establish ancient wisdom of use of adzuki beans in diabetes. In an animal study, hot water extract of adzuki bean was found to reduce blood sugar level in drug induced diabetic rats. The response to glucose and sucrose administration was different suggesting its ability to inhibit action of enzymes alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase without changing blood insulin levels.
Anti fungal properties of adzuki beans
Adzuki beans have been long used as antimicrobial agent in traditional Chinese medicine. However there is not much scientific evidence available. In an early study, an antifungal peptide – angularin, has been extracted from adzuki beans.
Benefits of adzuki beans for skin
Adzuki bean powder can make very good skin cleansing agent. Japanese women have been applying adzuki bean powder paste to face and body as scrub. It helps to remove clogged pores and rejuvenate skin. Saponin content in Adzuki is believe to clean sebum and dirt from skin pores. Adzuki bean powder is available in market. Else one can roast adzuki bean and grind them to make homemade powder. Thick paste of this powder along with rose water or yoghurt can be used as face mask. Japanese people also use homemade scrub made from adzuki bean powder and rice barn.
Adzuki a good source of minerals and protein
Azuki beans offers amply supply of minerals and protein which are required for healthy body function and immunity. It is possibly due to presence of folic acid, it is given to nursing mother in Japan to promote lactation. Along with other minerals, it contains trace mineral molybdenum which has liver protective function.
Antioxidant activity of Adzuki
Latest research shows antioxidant activity of phytochemcials present in Adzuki beans. They help in protecting body from harmful effect of free radicals. They reduce risk of several degenerative diseases. Regular consumption of adzuki beans is thus advised. A study isolated thirdeen flavonoids with reasonable antioxidant activity in hot water extract of adzuki beans. Adzuki extract was found to protect liver from oxidative stress of acetaminophen in rat. Studies suggest potential use of adzuki bean in making antioxidant supplements.
Potential Side effects of Adzuki beans
Just like other lentils, digestion of adzuki beans may lead to flatulence and cause gas problems in some people.
Healthy Recipes of Adzuki Beans
Adzuki beans have unique flavor and its flavor spreads in the recipe it is used. It is more commonly used in sweet forms including Chinese pastries, ice cream, truffles, muffins, chocolate dips, waffles, or porridge. Red beans with steamed brown rice and spiced vegetables taste great. Sprouted Adzuki beans are also eaten in salads or boiled in hot drink or soups. Pepsi in 2009 experimented with adzuki flavored cola soda in Japan suggests popularity of this bean in Japan. It is major ingredient in Somali recipe – cambuulo.
Where to buy Adzuki beans
Asian markets are best place to look for adzuki beans. It is mostly available as dry bean. They are also available in canned form or powder form. Hokkaido adzuki beans are cultivated in volcanic soil in north Japan and are darker, shinier and rounder than regular adzuki bean.
This popular Asian red bean offer high amount of dietary fiber and nutrients. It is gaining considerable popularity nowadays because of its numerable health benefits. Touted as superfood, make sure to enjoy these benefits by including red beans a part of your regular diet.Image Credits: Zita Nagy - Mini Dorayaki, Flickr - Chockylit