Kidney beans: The side dish with a dark side

Kidney beans are a delicious source of protein and are indispensable to a batch of chili. However, they harbor a threatening secret: undercooked kidney beans contain phytohemagglutinin, also known as kidney bean lectin, which is toxin that causes food poisoning.

kidney beans

What makes kidney beans potentially dangerous?

Lectin is a protein which can be found in many types of beans, but it’s most highly concentrated in kidney beans. Ingesting high doses of lectin can cause diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Lectin in kidney beans is so concentrated that some individuals can become sick after consuming just four or five beans. And in some cases, the severity of the symptoms is directly proportional to the number of beans eaten.

However, there is a bright side. Though gastrointestinal pain sets in only one to three hours after consumption, the recovery is just as swift. After the onset of symptoms, it only takes about three to four hours for the illness to abate. Though some individuals have been hospitalized, it does not appear to be a fatal illness.

chili bowl

How to properly prepare kidney beans

Properly preparing kidney beans is a lengthy process. Follow these tips:

  • Just as you do with fresh produce, you always must wash your beans.
  • Soak your beans for at least five hours (12 hours is ideal). It might be simpler for you to plan ahead for your dish and leave the beans in a pot overnight.
  • Studies have proven that boiling beans for 10 minutes at 100 °C (212 °F) eradicates lectin. When you’re finished soaking, discard the dirty water and boil the beans in fresh water for at least 30 minutes. Interestingly, it has been shown that undercooked beans are more toxic than raw beans.
  • Do not use a slow cooker. The heat is insufficient and can result in undercooked beans and an upset stomach.
  • You’ll know when they’re done when they’re tender, but firm. Hard, chalky beans are undercooked, and mushy beans are overcooked.

Ensuring that you’re informed about the risks of undercooked kidney beans is important to ensuring that your meal is as safe as it is delicious. If you have suffered a foodborne illness through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Allen & Allen for a free consultation today, at 866-388-1307.