Dr. Fuhrman Dr. Fuhrman

How to prevent gas when eating beans

Good news about beans: Research shows adults and teens who eat beans weigh less:

The study found that adults who eat beans weigh 6.6 pounds less – yet eat 199 more daily calories – than adults who don't eat beans. Similar results were found for teenage bean eaters who consume 335 more daily calories but weigh 7.3 pounds less than non-bean-eating teens.

It seems to me that bean eaters are probably just more likely to live healthier in general, but that's not the point. Beans are very good for you: they are relatively high in protein, have a low glycemic index (which means it does not raise your blood sugar much) and are full of nutrients like iron, magnesium, folate and other B vitamins, and of course fiber.

Unfortunately, they also contain difficult to digest sugars which can cause gas. Here are some tips to make them less gassy:

  • Chew well: Chewing is important for good digestion.
  • Eat slowly: Swallowing air often causes flatulence.
  • Start with small amounts: Most people find that they can tolerate more beans when they are used to it.
  • Start with lentils, mung beans and adzuki beans: Smaller beans are easier to digest. Red or Pink lentils are easiest, but contain fewer nutrients than other lentils.
  • Soak well and discard soaking water: The indigestible sugars dissolve in the soaking water, so use plenty of water and change the soaking water once or twice. The Californian Dry Bean Advisory Board recommends boiling the dry beans for a couple of minutes, then turning off the heat and soaking overnight. Discard the soaking water, and cook the beans in fresh water.
  • Cook for a longer time: In many countries where beans are a staple food, they are left to simmer on low heat all day. A crockpot may be useful.
  • Sprout: The sprouting process completely changes the sugars, making the legumes much better digestible. Lightly cooked sprouts are easier to digest than raw sprouts.
  • Add a piece of kombu in the cooking water.
  • Do not add salt during cooking. If you want salt, add it afterwards.
  • Cook with ginger, fennel, cumin or epazote (a Mexican herb).
  • Scoop off and discard foam when cooking.
  • Add a little vinegar to the cooking water when the legumes are almost done.
  • If you are in the US you can try Bean-zyme, a pill that helps prevent gas. Bean-zyme is a vegan/vegetarian alternative to Beano.

The vinegar tip comes from Healing With Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition

Enjoy your beans!

April 4, 2006