Beans are a versatile, nutritious and delicious food group but many people are put off eating them due to their side effects, namely flatulence and bloating. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Below are some ideas to help reduce the flatulent effect of beans.
See blog post on Benefits of Beans to learn about the many benefits of eating beans.
- Use canned beans – the fact that canned beans have been sitting in water for a good amount of time means that some of their indigestible properties have been absorbed into the water. Rinse them well before adding to recipes.
- Pre-soak – if using dried beans soak in plenty of water for 12-36 hours. Change the water every 8 hours or so. Soaking in warmer water will speed up the process but they need at least 8 hours. Drain and rinse before cooking.
- Boil hard – once you’ve soaked and rinsed your beans, put them in a pan with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Leave the lid off and boil hard for 10 minutes. Skim off any scum that arises before turning the heat down to a simmer and covering with a lid.
- Cook completely – cook the soaked and rinsed beans until they are really soft. The time this takes depends on the type of bean, how long they have been soaked and how fresh they are.
- Pressure cook – cooking beans in a pressure cooker can render them more digestible.
- Don’t salt – don’t add salt to your beans until they are thoroughly cooked as it can harden the skins.
- Spice it up – herbs and spices can stimulate digestion and improve the digestibility of beans. Ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, caraway, fennel, dill and asafetida all combine well with beans.
- Seaweed – adding a strip of rinsed kombu to the water during soaking and cooking also aids the digestibility of beans.
- Combine with grains – combining beans with grains provides a complete protein and is how they are eaten in most traditional cuisines from around the world. As a general rule the quantity of grains should be equal to or in excess of the quantity of beans.
- Sprouting – sprouting your beans will also improve their digestibility and increase their nutrient content. Soak them well in plenty of water, rinse and leave to drain in a sieve or colander, covered with a lid for a few days. Rinse them morning and evening. Once the sprout appears they are ready to eat but it’s also fine to leave them sprouting for a day or two longer. They can be either raw or cooked. They will cook much more quickly than unsprouted beans. Good legumes to sprout include chickpeas, aduki beans, mung beans and whole (not split) lentils. Do not sprout kidney beans as they contain a toxin and must be thoroughly cooked before eating.
- Fermented friends – fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir may all aid digestion so include a small amount with your bean dishes.
- Start small – whilst many people struggle with eating a large amount of beans most people can cope with small amounts.
- Chew, chew, chew – the digestion of beans and grains starts in the mouth so chew well. This mixes them with salivary enzymes and sends a signal down to the gut that food is coming and digestive juices are needed.
Look out for next month’s blog post Winning Ways with Beans in which there’ll be lots of ideas for how to incorporate beans into your meals, snacks and even cakes!