Beans are a rich source of fiber and plant-based protein, and they can fulfill a good part of your daily requirements of other nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, etc. Unfortunately, they also cause unwanted digestive symptoms, like gas, bloating, and stomach pain. However, there are ways you can take care of this problem and enjoy all the nutritional benefits beans offer.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent or reduce gas caused by beans:
Beans have many health benefits, and you shouldn't avoid them just because they can be a bit difficult to digest. Please read this article to learn how to cook them to reduce gas and other ways to prevent gas generated by them.
Before discussing ways to reduce gas, let's first understand why beans cause gas and other unpleasant digestive symptoms.
Beans contain a non-digestible carbohydrate known as raffinose. The human body struggles to digest this compound properly, which results in the production of different kinds of gasses, leading to bloating and flatulence.
Beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, which lowers bad cholesterol levels in the body. It also improves heart health and stabilizes sugar levels. However, during digestion, your gut bacteria ferment this fiber. Gas is a byproduct of this process.
Now that you know why beans cause gas and bloating, let's see how to minimize or eliminate these problems.
Soaking beans in water reduces the time it takes to cook them. Additionally, it also makes it easy for you to digest them. It is because soaking reduces the raffinose content in the beans. There is no need to worry; it doesn't significantly change the beans' nutritional value.
According to The Bean Institute, you can employ one of three soaking methods.
*Please note that for the purpose of this article, one cup equals two pounds or approximately 900 grams of beans.
Did you forget to soak beans last night? No issue. The hot soak is here to your rescue.
This method reduces your waiting time from overnight to a couple of hours. It also lessens the raffinose compound by a lot.
Here is how to use this method:
The beans are ready for use now.
The hot soak process takes more than four hours, but what if you don't have that much time in hand? In that case, the quick soak method is your best bet. This method allows you to make a steaming pot of beans in just a little more than an hour.
Here is the step-by-step process:
You can proceed with the recipe now.
This method is the easiest among the three methods mentioned in this article. You should always use this method when you have enough time, as research has proven this to be the most effective way to reduce gas-producing substances in beans.
Here is how you can employ this method:
This step is often a continuation of the previous step. When soaked beans are cooked properly, they become more edible and easier to digest.
You can cook beans either on a stovetop or in a pressure cooker, depending on your preference.
Depending on the variety of beans you're using, it can take anywhere between 15 minutes to two hours.
Here are the step-by-step instructions to cook beans on the stovetop:
A pressure cooker can take between five and 40 minutes to cook beans. Usually, larger beans require more time compared to short beans. As always, when in doubt, follow the specific guidelines mentioned in the recipe you're cooking.
Here is how to cook beans in a pressure cooker:
The Internet is populated with testimonials claiming baking soda helps better the digestion of beans. Science, however, is divided on the claim. This study says soaking beans in baking soda decreases raffinose, thus reducing the amount of gas produced. Another study, though, claims that soaked beans aren't necessarily more digestible than non-soaked beans.
It'll be best if you try this little experiment for yourself. Maybe baking soda will make it easier for you to digest the beans. Even if it doesn't, you can always count on baking soda to make beans tender in less time.
Every family has its way of cooking traditional recipes passed from one generation to another. Often, they use some particular herbs and spices to give the dish a distinctive taste.
Some of these herbs and spices are an integral part of different cuisines across the world. For example, Indians use carom seed and asafoetida, locally known as ajwain and hing, respectively, as precautionary measures to prevent stomach upset. Similarly, natives of Mexico and South America use epazote to help better digest beans.
You can add the following spices to beans:
You can add these spices any time during the cooking process; it won't affect the nutritional quotient or tenderness of the beans.
However, if you’re using onions in your beans and want to preserve its taste, add it to the dish towards the last 30 minutes of cooking. When in doubt, it will be wise to follow the steps mentioned in the recipe.
Take this advice with a pinch of salt, though, as there is no scientific study that proves using spices and herbs can reduce the gas formed by beans. Still, there is no harm in trying. Even if they don't aid digestion, the spices and herbs will add more taste to your recipe.
So far, you have learned ways to cook beans that reduce gas. However, besides cooking them in specific ways, you can try a few more things to make beans a little easier on your stomach.
As mentioned earlier, beans are a rich source of fiber, which can cause gas. However, research has shown that slowly increasing your intake of beans can help you avoid or lessen side effects, such as intestinal bloating and gas. It happens because, with time, your body learns to adjust to the increased fiber consumption.
Some beans have a higher amount of gas-producing substance than others. For example, chickpeas have the highest gas-producing component, while lentils have the lowest. Also, people react differently to different beans. So, if a particular type of bean gives you gas, switch to another variety. There is a chance your body might handle it better.
The digestive process of beans starts in your mouth. When you eat quickly, you also swallow air, which leads to gas formation in the digestive tract.
When you chew food properly, you give the enzymes in your saliva more time to break down the beans. It results in less flatulence. Besides, you get more time to enjoy the delicious dish when you chew slowly. So, always remember to take your time and savor the taste in your mouth before you swallow.
You already know that the fermentation of fiber is the root cause of gas produced by beans. However, another helpful tip that you should know is that you can take care of this problem by drinking plenty of water.
The next time you eat beans or any other high-fiber food, keep a glass full of water with you and make sure you sip some now and then. It'll keep food in your digestive system moving and give bacteria less time to produce gasses.
Your stomach is hard at work trying to digest the fiber and raffinose present in beans. Don't make your gut's job even more difficult by eating other high-fiber food along with beans.
Instead, try easily digestible food such as rice, leafy green vegetables, etc. These foods will dilute the gas-producing substance and make life slightly easier for your digestive system.
Food companies often use salt as a preservative for canned food. Read the box; there is a good chance the same is the case for those canned beans in your pantry.
The salt used, however, can be a cause of dehydration. Hence, rinse it well before using it. It'll remove excessive salt and the metallic taste of the box.
A small minority of people are quite sensitive to beans, and none of the tips mentioned above will help them. If you happen to be one of them, don't lose hope just yet. As a last resort, you can try any over-the-counter products that contain digestive enzymes, such as alpha-galactosidase digestive enzymes. Studies have shown these drugs to be safe and effective.
If you want to try these products, I recommend this Beano Gas Prevention and Digestive Supplement from Amazon.com. The product is relatively inexpensive, extremely effective, and you can purchase it in a variety of package sizes.
Beans are a great, inexpensive source of valuable nutrients and have many health benefits. However, due to soluble fiber and raffinose, they can be challenging to digest.
You can take care of this problem by soaking them in water before use. Cooking beans properly, using baking soda, and adding herbs and spices may also help.
Furthermore, gradually increase your intake of beans and experiment with different varieties. Chew your beans adequately, drink plenty of water, and pair them with rice or other easily digestible foods, and you should be fine. If nothing else works, consider taking digestive enzymes like Beano.