Beans are one of the most economical, health-enhancing foods readily available. The impressive number of nutrients, phytochemicals, and antioxidants in beans gives them both dietary and medicinal value. Doctors, health coaches, and dieticians suggest incorporating beans into the weekly (if not daily) diet of those with high cholesterol, those with diabetic blood glucose control, and those at risk of cancer. In addition, beans are an excellent source of fiber and protein, especially when combined with grains to create a complete protein. For those seeking to transition from a meat-heavy diet to a more plant-based diet, the inclusion of beans into the diet is crucial.
Problem: Understanding the medicinal and dietary benefits of beans makes the addition to your diet a no-brainer, except when this Yoffie Life power food causes embarrassing and uncomfortable gas.
The primary gas-causing compounds in beans are oligosaccharides, which are composed of three to five sugar molecules. The sugars are linked together in such a way that makes it impossible for the body to digest or absorb, forcing the oligosaccharides into the intestines for bacteria to break down. The gas is a result of the bacteria absorbing the oligosaccharides.
In my experience, the gas-causing effect of beans is the number one reason people avoid them. Many are surprised to learn that there are several potential solutions to this problem.
Solution: The manner in which beans are prepared for cooking and the cooking process itself can significantly reduce the gas produced after bean consumption.
All dried beans, outside of lentils, are best prepared by soaking in water overnight, ideally in the refrigerator. Soaking helps break down the biggest culprit of gas, oligosaccharides, as well as drastically cutting the cooking time. To start, spread the beans on a kitchen towel and remove any stones or damaged beans. Rinse the beans with cool water, drain, and place in a bowl. Add about three cups of water for every one cup of beans. The water should be about one to two inches higher than the beans. Place in your refrigerator and leave for twelve hours. After soaking, skim off any skins that may have floated to the top, drain the soaking water, and rinse with cool water.
Place beans in a medium pot, and again, for every cup of beans, add about three cups of water so that the water is one to two inches higher than the beans. Bring to a gentle boil and then turn down the heat to simmer for the remaining cooking time, skimming off any foam that develops. Avoid stirring to prevent broken beans. Finally, and this is important, do not add any salty or acidic seasoning such as salt or vinegars until after the beans are completely cooked. Adding salty or acidic seasoning prior will increase the cooking time and potentially make the beans tough.
Buying Tip: If gas is your biggest concern in eating beans, try lentils, known to produce the lowest amount of gas. And, to start, avoid navy and lima beans, as they have the reputation for being the greatest gas offenders.
- Add salt, kombu, cumin, fennel, or ginger. Added to cooked beans, these seasoning are known to help with gas. Kombu (seaweed) is particularly helpful, as it not only cuts potential gas but also is a natural tenderizer and flavor enhancer.
- Add beans slowly into your diet. It may take time before your body adjusts to the beans in your diet, especially if you are transitioning from a heavily meat-based diet to a more plant-based diet. Add small amounts of beans into your diet, a little at a time, as often as possible. Be patient; while it may take from six months to a year for your body to adjust, the process is well worth the health and medicinal benefits.
- Try a commercial enzyme. If you follow all the preparation and cooking instructions for beans and still experience gas, you may want to try an over-the-counter commercial enzyme like Beano.