Adzuki beans, also known as azuki beans, are reddish-brown small legumes grown all over Asia. The natural sugar content of these beans is quite high and they are used widely to prepare various types of sweets as well as desserts. However, they can also be used along with spices and various vegetables to prepare more flavourful dishes. In order to get their maximum flavour, you should always buy adzuki beans fresh. However, often this is not possible for people residing in areas far away from the places where these beans are grown. In several regions of the world, adzuki beans are sold as dried beans or in the form of a concentrated paste.
Typically, adzuki beans are somewhat small and their length vary between 0.6 cm and 1.3 cm. Nearly all adzuki beans have a deep red or rusty hue and they usually have a white or cream seam running down their rear side. These beans may also have brown or dark grey color, depending on the place where they are cultivated. Raw adzuki beans have a sweet flavour and this taste becomes stronger when they are cooked.
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Nearly all food researchers are of the view that adzuki beans have their origin in the Himalayan foothills - the area that currently comprises Southern China, Northern India and Nepal. As a result, these beans are widely used in the cuisines of these Asian nations. However, today adzuki beans are relatively more popular in countries further southwards, especially Korea and Japan. Throughout Asia, farmers have discovered different ways to cultivate adzuki crops. Over the years, these beans have turned out to be the staple diet of people in several countries in the region. They are used to prepare sweets, desserts and a variety of other palatable dishes. While these plants are grown almost throughout Asia, it is unlikely that you will find people outside Asia growing adzuki crops. Nevertheless, these beans are exported to various countries and, hence, can be found in many markets outside Asia too. The market for these beans is very robust and they are sold in various international grocers and specialty shops across the globe.
In several parts of the world adzuki beans are mostly used in the form of a sweetening agent in ice creams, desserts and drinks. Often cooks boil these beans in a sugar solution to prepare a rough paste, which is used in the form of dough for making various confections and cakes. For instance, adzuki beans feature prominently in the Chinese "moon cakes", which are hugely popular during the moon festival held in the country every year. These cakes come in pale pink hue and are designed very intricately. Often imprint stamps or kitchen molds are used to design these flavourful cakes.
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Adzuki beans are widely used to prepare sticky rice dumplings called Zongzi and various foods served during Chinese festivals. Traditionally, such rice dumplings are filled with a paste made from red beans and the dish is extremely popular, especially during the Dragon Boat Festival held in mid-summer. Many traditional pastries made by Chinese for daily consumption are also made using similar recipes. You can mash the red beans to prepare a paste or even use them whole to prepare these dishes. Similarly, the red bean mash can be filled inside the sticky rice dumplings or used to bind dough used for preparing other dishes.
In Japan, people prepare a jellied substance from agar called anmitsu, an extract from seaweed, and serve it with red bean paste in the form of a dessert. Generally, cooks in Japan also use adzuki beans to make ice creams more flavourful. Often, they incorporate whole adzuki beans in ice creams. They also simmer these beans in sugar candies to prepare another very popular sweet dish called amanatto.
Korean children often have red bean rice for lunch in their school. Similarly, sweet bean soup is also a very common and simple meal in this Asian country. Moreover, chefs in Korea like to cook cream and milk mixed with red beans to prepare an exclusive dessert drink, which is generally consumed with a wide-mouthed straw or spoon.
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However, adzuki beans are not used only to prepare desserts and sweet dishes. Often, they impart an appealing balance to various spicy stir-fry foods. Hence, they are used to prepare dishes that usually go well with several vegetable and meat preparations. Cooks in Korea especially add adzuki beans to omelettes or egg-based pancakes along with other flavorful items like potatoes and even chili peppers.
Generally it is believed that consumption of adzuki beans is good for our overall health. These beans virtually do not contain any fat or cholesterol and are a very healthy source of protein and dietary fiber. Despite the fact that adzuki beans contain elevated levels of natural sugars, they are considered to be a healthy food. This is primarily because they also contain a variety of useful minerals, especially calcium and iron.
The presence of nutrients like potassium, folate, magnesium and dietary fiber in adzuki beans make a potent combination that contributes to boost the health of our cardiovascular system. Potassium helps to unwind the blood vessels and also promotes blood circulation, thereby lowering the blood pressure and stress on our heart. Similarly, dietary fiber is useful for keeping the cholesterol levels in check. Together these can be effective in reducing the risks of atherosclerosis. In other words, these nutrients in adzuki beans work to protect us from suffering strokes and heart attacks.
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Similar to many other varieties of beans, adzuki beans also contain elevated amounts of dietary fiber, which is vital for the health of our digestive system. Dietary fiber encourages peristaltic motion, thereby pushing ingested food smoothly through the digestive tract and allowing our body to absorb the nutrients contained in the foods easily. Moreover, dietary fiber is also effective in preventing a number of health conditions related to the digestive process, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea. What is more important is that fiber is also effective in preventing the occurrence of more serious health problems such as colon cancer.
Aside from the above discussed benefits of consuming adzuki beans, there is also another purpose. They help in governing the insulin receptors' activities in our body, thereby ensuring that the levels of blood sugar in our body remain normal and healthy. As a result of this, the chances of developing diabetes is diminished or if one is already suffering from the condition, the symptoms will be managed well. Adzuki beans help to prevent the abrupt spikes and drops in blood sugar levels, which are really dangerous for people with diabetes.
Adzuki beans also contain a significant quantity of protein, which is a vital constituent of our diet, especially for vegetarians and those who are vegans. Such people normally do not get this nutrient from animal sources. Inside our body, proteins are metabolized into various essential amino acids, which are necessary for the body to make new cells, tissues as well as organs. Moreover, amino acids are also needed for growth and repair of damaged cells, tissues and organs. The elevated protein content in adzuki beans also helps to boost our energy levels.
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In fact, consumption of adzuki beans as well as various other types of beans also helps to lose unwanted body weight and this is why many people across the world, especially in Asia, turn to them. Since these beans contain elevated levels of dietary fiber and protein, they keep one full for a longer time. As a result, appetite is satiated even without the intake of too many calories. For instance 115 grams or half cup of adzuki beans provides us with only 150 calories. In other words, consumption of adzuki beans offers us an assortment of nutrition even without having to gain weight.
In addition to vitamins, protein and dietary fiber, adzuki beans also have unique mineral called molybdenum. This mineral is found in significantly high concentrations. Molybdenum is actually a trace mineral and it is not present in too many foods. This mineral has a vital role in detoxifying the liver. Even if you have just half serving of this bean, they supply you with your total (100 percent) daily recommended intake (DRI) of this unique trace mineral.
Adzuki beans also contain elevated amounts of B vitamins and folic acid. As a result, consumption of these beans during pregnancy can help to avoid birth defects in newborns. It is worth mentioning that neural tube defects are directly related to deficiency of folate. Hence, high concentration of this vitamin in adzuki beans helps to make sure healthy delivery.
Incorporating essential minerals like copper, zinc and magnesium into your diet helps to avoid developing of osteoporosis and also delay the normal aging process. In fact, these minerals help to make the bones stronger and, at the same time, prevent demineralization of bones. Adzuki beans contain all these essential minerals and, hence, consuming them regularly helps to keep you youthful.