Eating beans used to be a very gassy, uncomfortable experience for me. I could not enjoy any of the beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas or peanuts that I love.
You have maybe heard this rhyme as a child...
The magical fruit,
The more you eat,
The more you toot!
The more you toot,
the better you feel
So let’s eat beans
With every meal.”
The fact that there is a children’s rhyme like this underlines how common my past experience is!
Why Do I (and I hope you ) Bother Eating Beans?
Beans are worth eating because they are healthy, cheap and tasty! Here are some details:
- High in protein ― eating 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of cooked beans is equivalent to eating two ounces of lean protein.
- Lots of fibre ― a 1/2 cup serving of cooked dry beans has 4 to 10 grams of fibre.
- Rich in complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are known as “smart carbs.”
- Rich in antioxidants.
- Low in fat.
- Have a low glycemic index.
- In some Eastern cultures, legumes are a basic dietary staple that can be traced back more than 20,000 years.
Where Does the Gas Come From?
Beans contain a triple sugar, stachyose, a quadruple sugar, raffinose, and a five sugar, verbascose, that we cannot digest. We are missing an enzyme that is required to break these sugars down. When the beans get to the colon, the bacteria in the colon begins to ferment these sugars producing gas in the process.
If you gradually increase the amount of beans you eat over several weeks, you will likely overcome this problem provided you do a few simple things in terms of how you cook beans and what combinations you eat them in.
The benefit of eating more of these sugars in beans is that it promotes the growth of intestinal bacteria and these bacteria create an environment in the colon that lowers the risk for cancer.
7 ways to Decrease Intestinal Gas From Beans
Learn How to Cook Beans: see my recipe. It is easy to cook beans but it requires planning ahead of time.
Eat lots of vegetables, particularly green ones with your beans (75% of the meal should be vegetables).
As beans are slow to digest:
Eat fruit or sugar foods 2 - 3 hours away from a meal with beans.
Only eat one protein in the same meal, as each protein requires a specific type and strength of digestive juices.
Potatoes conflict with digestion of the beans, so avoid eating them in the same meal.
Eat a whole grain with beans to complement them.
In Japanese and far East Asia they add a piece of seaweed (Kombu or Wakame) after the beans as it makes the beans more digestible, more nutritious and tastes great!
Use digestive spices ― in India they cook ginger, turmeric and sometimes fennel and asafetida, with beans to make them more digestible.
Chew and savour your beans! Beans and grains are foods with which the digestion starts in the mouth. Savour bean soup in the mouth before swallowing to begin the process of digestion.
Start with mung beans, aduki and dhal as they are easy to digest because they are low in the complex sugars that are not easily broken down by the human digestive enzymes.
Ways to include beans, peas, & lentils to your diet:
- Add beans to your favourite vegetable soup or stew.
- Add beans to you salads.
- Instead of the meat in chili and stews add beans.
- Add beans to your favourite rice dishes.
- Plan meals ahead for a week adding beans to the daily menus.
- Try a new legume each week.
Try making these recipes:
Remember... with any of these recipes, you have to know how to cook them properly. Read Cooking Beans and Lentils first.
What is your favourite bean recipe?