Adding Adzuki Beans to the Menu

Adzuki beans (Vigna angularis) are also known as adsuki, azuki, asuki, aduki, chi dou or hong xiao dou (Mandarin), feijao, field peas, red oriental beans, and ‘Tiensin red beans. They share their genus with black eyed peas, black grams, and mung beans. All of these legumes belong to the family Fabaceae, along with  fava beansedible-pod and mature peassoybeans, common beans (green snap beanspinto beansheirloom beansblack turtle beans, kidney beans, and navy beans), jicama, lentilslima beanspeanutschickpeas, carob, and licorice. The family also includes broom, gorse, and kudzu.

Adzuki beans from 8,000 years ago have been excavated in Japan. They were likely first cultivated in Japan between 4000 BC and 2000 BC. In China and Korea, adzuki beans (likely cultivated) from ruins date from 3000 BC to 1000 BC.

Over 2,000 years ago, people in India invented the manufacture of cane sugar. Buddhist monks brought sugar crystallization methods to China in the 7th century. Sugar was first brought to Japan from China in the mid-8th century as a luxury used mainly as a medicine. As trade with China flourished from the 14th to 17th centuries, Japanese imports of sugar increased and it began to be used as a sweetener in cooking. The practice of the tea ceremony spread among the upper classes during this period, and sweets were developed to accompany the tea. In the 18th century, sugar cane began to be cultivated in Japan, and sugar became more readily available to the common people.

Around 1862, Hosoda Yasubei opened a confectionary store in Tokyo, which he named for his childhood name, Eitaro. He developed a confection called amanattō from adzuki beans simmered in sugar syrup, dried, and then covered with refined sugar. The Meiji era (September 1868 through July 1912) was a period in which Japan was becoming increasingly westernized, and many samurai who lost their jobs with the rise of the conscript Imperial Army and the dissolution of the samurai as a social class were given work that was totally new to them. The Western role of baker was one such job. Kimura Yasubei was an unemployed samurai who met a young man working as a baker. Yasubei started a bakery named Bun’eidō. In 1874, He moved to Ginza and renamed the bakery Kimuraya. At that time, the only recipe for bread known in Japan was for making a salty and sour-tasting bread. Yasubei wanted to make a bread that was more to Japanese tastes. He figured out how to make bread like the Japanese manju using the traditional sakadane liquid yeast as leavening. He then filled the bread with amanattō and sold anpan as snacks. Anpan was very popular, not only because of its taste, but also because the Japanese were interested in anything new and foreign at this time. Yamaoka Tesshū, a chamberlain of the Meiji emperor, loved anpan, and had Yasubei make some for the emperor on April 4, 1875. The Emperor asked Yasubei to make him anpan everyday, and because the Emperor ate anpan, the popularity of bread, and especially anpan, began spreading around the country.

Adzuki beans gained popularity in the United States in the 1960s, thanks to the macrobiotic movement. By the late 20th century AD, Adzuki beans were being grown in Australia.

Adzuki beans are the second most important legume in Japan after soybeans. Most of the Chinese crop is produced in the Yangtse River Valley. They also grow in south China, Korea, New Zealand, India, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Adzuki beans can:

  1. Eliminate toxinsMolybdenum in adzuki beans produces the enzyme sulfite oxidase, which helps in eliminating toxic substances, including purines, sulfites, and drug residues.
  2. Give you energy while stabilizing your blood sugarMolybdenum in adzuki beans helps in metabolizing fats and carbohydrates and in mobilizing iron from your liver, which can prevent anemia. Adzuki beans are especially good sources of soluble fiber, which helps prevent type 2 diabetes by keeping blood sugar balanced after you eat. Hemoglobin synthesis relies on the copper in adzuki beans; without it, your red blood cells cannot properly use iron.  Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, helps regulate blood sugar levels, and is involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.
  3. Prevent diseaseFolate in adzuki beans lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer by preventing build-up of homocysteine in your blood and helps prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.
  4. Build strong, flexible bodiesMolybdenum in adzuki beans helps in preventing tooth decay. Folate in adzuki beans helps create genetic material and build cells. Consuming an adequate amount of folate is essential during periods of growth, from pregnancy through adolescence. Women who get enough folate before becoming pregnant, and during the early months of pregnancy, lower the risk of birth defects of the spinal cord and brain. At all ages, everyone needs folate to produce enough red blood cells to avoid developing anemia. Folate supports cell production, especially in your skin, allows nerves to function properly, and helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures. Several enzymes need manganese to fulfill their jobs forming cartilage and bone and metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Phosphorus in adzuki beans helps in the formation of bones and teeth, in using carbohydrates and fats and synthesizing protein, storing energy, muscle contraction, kidney function, heartbeat, and nerve conduction. Protein in adzuki beans forms many body structures, including muscles, skin, and hair.  Copper is necessary for the activity of lysyl oxidase, an enzyme involved in cross-linking collagen and elastin, both of which provide strength and flexibility in blood vessels, bones, and joints. Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function and keeps bones strong.
  5. Lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and carries it out of your body. The magnesium in adzuki beans acts as a calcium channel blocker, which relaxes veins and arteries, reducing blood pressure and improving the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. Lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
  6. Promote digestive health. The fiber in adzuki beans helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly, prevents constipation and may help to prevent colon cancer.
  7. Promote healthy weight. The fiber in adzuki beans fills your stomach and keeps you feeling satiated longer. They are also high in protein which helps to keep blood sugar levels low and which, in turn, may help to keep weight off.
  8. Fight free radicalsManganese in adzuki beans is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within your cells).

Nutrients in 1 Cup Cooked Adzuki Beans

Nutrient

Amount

Daily Value

molybdenum

168 µg

224%

folate

278 µg

70%

fiber

16.8 g

67%

manganese

1.3 mg

66%

phosphorus

386 mg

39%

protein

17.3 g

35%

copper

0.7 mg

34%

magnesium

120 mg

30%

zinc

4.1 mg

27%

iron

4.6 mg

26%

potassium

1224 mg

25%

carbohydrates

57 g

19%

thiamine

0.3 mg

18%

Calories

294

15%

vitamin B6

0.2 mg

11%

pantothenic acid

1 mg

10%

riboflavin

0.1 mg

9%

niacin

1.6 mg

8%

calcium

64.4 mg

6%

selenium

2.8 µg

4%

cholesterol

0 mg

0.7%

fat

0.2 g

0.3%

sodium

18.4 mg

0.29%

vitamin A

13.8 IU

0.28%

Available year-round, both dried and canned, adzuki beans can be purchased in most Asian markets and natural food groceries. Look for shiny beans with a rich reddish brown or brownish purple color.

There is little difference in the nutritional value of canned adzuki beans and those you cook yourself. Look for canned beans that do not contain extra salt or additives, and whose cans do not include a liner made from bisphenol A (BPA), a plastic and resin ingredient associated with endocrine disruption. (Eden and Trader Joe’s are two brands that don’t use BPA in their cans.)

One pound of dry legumes equals about four 15-ounce cans. You can buy a pound of organic legumes in bulk for around $2.00, which is about the same price as one can. So you’re saving about 75% by going with the dry. Yes, there are energy costs in cooking, but they are small (an estimated 15 cents to run an electric burner for 2 hours; 10 cents to run a slow cooker for 8 hours). And if you purchase your bulk beans in reusable cotton bags or reused coffee cans, you are saving a lot of energy that would have gone into the production and transport of the can or plastic bag.

Store dried adzuki  beans in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place where they will keep for up to 12 months. If you purchase adzuki beans at different times, store them separately; they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked adzuki beans will keep fresh in a covered container in the refrigerator for about three days.

Before washing dried adzuki beans, spread them on a light-colored plate or cooking surface to check for small stones, debris, or damaged beans. Then, place the beans in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.

Note that most of the phosphorus in adzuki beans is in a storage form of phosphate called phytic acid or phytate. Seeds are how most plants reproduce. When they are eaten by animals, it is beneficial to the survival of their species if they can pass through the animal’s digestive system intact to be deposited, encased in fertilizer, elsewhere. In order for the plant to reproduce, it’s necessary that the seed pass through the digestive tract whole (undigested). Many plant seeds have developed defense mechanisms to make them more difficult to digest, including enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion and other natural substances that block nutrient absorption. Phytic acid prevents premature germination and stores nutrients for plant growth. Unfortunately, it also reduces the absorption of the important minerals calciummagnesiumiron, and zinc, and reduces the digestibility of protein. This applies not only to the minerals and protein in the food containing the phytic acid, but also the food that you eat with it. Over time, these phytates can lead to mineral deficiencies, allergies, and irritation of the intestinal tract. Only about 50% of the phosphorus from phytate is available to humans because we lack phytase, the enzyme that liberates phosphorus from phytate.

Traditionally, humans soaked, sprouted,  or fermented beans before eating them, processes that neutralizes phytates and enzyme inhibitors so that all the nutrients are more available.

When a plant seed undergoes germination, changes occur that provide the growing plant with needed nutrients. These changes include the breakdown of phytic acid, the inactivation of protease inhibitors, and the increased availability of vitamins and minerals, all of which increase the nutritional value of the seed and improve its digestibility. In nature, germination typically occurs when a plant seed encounters conditions that are favorable for growth, and that typically involves water. You can easily initiate the germination of adzuki beans by soaking them in 2-3 cups of water per cup of beans. Soaking reduces phytic acid in about 12 hours. Soaking can also increase the content of some vitamins and help break down complex carbohydrates such as raffinose-type oligosaccharides (sugars associated with causing flatulence). Cooking also deactivates natural plant toxins that may still exist after soaking.

To prevent adzuki beans from absorbing chemicals from the water or container that they’re soaking in, consider using a glass or ceramic container and filtered water. It may also be beneficial to use lukewarm water and increase its acidity with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice or vinegar. Soak adzuki beans for 12 to 24 hours in water with 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice. Rinse well and cook as usual in 4 cups of fresh water per cup of dried beans.

Soaking seeds is easy; it just takes takes a little discipline. In the evening, put your adzuki beans in a bowl and cover them with filtered water. By the next day, the beans are ready to cook.

You can cook adzuki beans either on the stove top or in a pressure cooker or slow cooker. For the stove top method, add four cups of fresh water for each cup of dried beans. The liquid should be about one to two inches above the top of the beans. Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, partially covering the pot. If any foam develops, simply skim it off during the simmering process. Adzuki beans generally take about one hour to become tender using this method.

You can also cook adzuki beans in a pressure cooker, where they take about 5-9 minutes to prepare, or in a slow cooker, where they take about four to five hours on high or eight hours on low.

Regardless of cooking method, do not add any salt or acid (like tomatoes) until after beans have been cooked; adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time. To aid in digestion, you can add to your cooking beans a four-inch strip of the sea vegetable kombu, available dried in the Asian specialty section of grocery stores. Adzuki beans pair well with coriander, cumin, and ginger.

Try adzuki beans in some of these recipes:


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s