Can You Eat Kidney Beans Raw?

by Charlie

Did you know that eating kidney beans raw can be harmful to your health?

Kidney bean is a variety of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris). It is named for its visual resemblance in shape and the red variety color to a human kidney. It is a legume native to Central America and Mexico.

Kidney bean is an important food crop mainly composed of carbs and fiber and a good protein source. Raw or improperly cooked kidney beans are toxic, but well-prepared beans can be a healthy component of a well-balanced diet.

Kidney beans come in various colors and patterns, such as Red kidney bean, also known as common kidney bean, rajma in India, Lightly speckled kidney bean, Red speckled kidney bean, and White kidney bean, also called cannellini in Italy.

Can you eat kidney beans raw? No, you cannot eat raw kidney beans. Raw kidney bean contains very high amounts of phytohemagglutinin, also known as kidney bean, lectin making them much more toxic than other types of beans. The kidney bean lectin is a naturally occurring protein that may protect the plant from harm. Kidney bean lectin is measured in toxin units called hemagglutinating units, hau. 

Can You Eat Red Kidney Beans Raw?

No, it would be best not to eat raw red kidney beans. This is because they contain the highest amount of phytohemagglutinin (PHA) compared to other bean types. This substance can be very toxic at high levels.

The digestive enzymes in your gut cannot break down PHA, so it travels intact through your digestive system. This allows it to bind to specific carbohydrates, which induces changes in your digestive system’s absorptive, secretory, and protective functions.

Raw red kidney beans contain about 20,000 to 70,000 hau, but when cooked properly, the toxin level reduces to 200 to 400 hau. High intakes of PHA damage the intestinal wall and affect internal organs, like the small intestine, pancreas, liver, and might affect the immune system.

Red Kidney beans can also be harmful if used in flour or eaten after minimal processing, like steaming, dehydrating, or slow-cooked, and the sickness caused by red kidney beans is related to eating raw beans, such as fresh, soaked, and sprouted forms.

Can You Eat Sprouted Kidney Beans Raw?

Kidney bean sprouts are young shoots that usually grow when mature kidney beans are introduced to germination conditions like moisture, and they have a yellowish to green color with the spiny shoot. As they sprout, the seed losses the old hull, which may be removed via submerging the sprouts in a bowl of water and picking out the floating hulls.

A raw kidney bean sprout is usually bitter with an unpleasant flavor. This is due to the presence of phytohemagglutinin, which is a naturally occurring toxin in a bean. This makes the sprouted kidney beans to toxic for raw consumption.

So, can you eat sprouted kidney beans raw? No, you should avoid eating sprouting kidney beans raw. This is because they contain phytohemagglutinin toxin that causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in most people. However, if you choose to sprout kidney beans, make sure to boil the finished sprouts for at least 10 minutes before consuming them.

Can Raw Kidney Beans Be Deadly?

No, eating raw kidney beans will not kill you, but eating them raw can make you sick for hours. If the beans are not cooked to break down the toxin, it makes cause blood cells to clump together, leading to a blood clot, which can cause thrombosis or stroke, among many others, if taken in high doses.

Even if you eat them in a small quantity of four or five raw kidney beans can constitute a toxic dose. This can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea, although the person generally recovers within a few hours without needing medical attention at such a low dose.

The symptoms usually begin with extreme nausea and vomiting within one to three hours of consuming the red kidney beans, with diarrhea developing later within that timeframe.

Although some cases have required hospitalization, for example, the young children, the elderly, or those already in poor health. Most people normally feel better within three to four hours after symptoms start. 

Can You Eat Canned Kidney Bean Raw?

We already know that kidney beans contain a natural lectin toxin, which can only be destroyed by proper cooking. Canned kidney beans have already been cooked. 

Well, yes, you can eat canned kidney beans raw. During the pressure canning process, beans are fully cooked in the can, and the toxin is deactivated. This makes them ready to eat right away, even as cold as it is.

However, to avoid the poisoning of the kidney beans, it is good to ensure that canned beans are properly processed and safe to use immediately without causing unwanted symptoms.

What are the Dangers of Eating Raw Kidney Beans?

The lectin poisoning in the kidney beans starts at around one to three hours after eating the beans. You will start having gastrointestinal symptoms, including severe nausea and vomiting. Diarrhea follows within a few hours; some people also develop abdominal pain. 

Most people recover rapidly, although some require hospitalization and intravenous fluids. Outbreaks are reported more frequently in the United Kingdom than in the United States, which may be related to better recognition and diagnosis of symptoms in the U.K. or more frequent consumption of dried beans.

Final Thoughts

  • You cannot eat raw kidney beans because they contain very high amounts of phytohemagglutinin, a naturally occurring protein that may protect the plant from harm. This makes them much more toxic than other types of beans.
  • You cannot eat red kidney beans raw. They contain the highest amount of phytohemagglutinin (PHA), around 20,000 to 70,000 hau, which cannot be broken down by the digestive enzymes in your gut.
  • Eating raw kidney beans might not kill you, but eating them can make you sick for hours. Even if you eat them in a small quantity of four or five raw kidney beans can constitute a toxic dose. This toxin causes gastroenteritis, an unpleasant which leads to diarrhea and vomiting. Proper boiling at a very temperature can eliminate the toxin.
  • You can eat canned raw kidney beans. This is because, during the canning process the toxic is deactivated.

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