Q: Is there a way to eat beans without getting gassy?
A: Yes! To make beans more digestible, you want to make sure you soak, cook and use carminative herbs. While that can be enough for most, if you have some kind of digestive compromise, then you want to sprout the beans, use apple cider vinegar, and add in kombu seaweed. As a health practitioner who has IBS, I always follow these 6 steps and no longer have issues with beans.
6 Steps to Make Beans More Digestible
1. Soak Beans. Soak beans 8 hours/overnight. Since beans are seeds in their dormant form, all seeds need water in order to germinate. Soaking beans is thus the 1st step in the germination process.
2. Sprout Beans. Sprouting beans is very easy to do and is something you want to get into if you have some kind of digestive issue. Since beans are seeds, sprouting is nothing more than growing the seeds hydroponically (using just water) until they are tiny sprouts (or tiny plants). Since sprouting breaks down the molecular structure of the beans, you will now be eating eating baby bean plants instead of bean seeds.
Sprouting beans is really simple: after the overnight soak (step #1), simply drain and rinse beans, and leave them to germinate in a colander (i.e., to develop "tails."). Different beans have different germination times e.g. chickpeas 1 day, lentils 3-4 days, black beans 5-6 days. How long it will take for them to develop tails not only depends upon the type of bean, but also the heat and humidity in your home. Make sure to rinse the beans well 2X a day (morning and evening). Once ready, proceed to the next step.
Tip: Using a colander is a dirt cheap method to sprout beans, but there are other methods you can use if you'd like, such as an automatic sprouter or a large glass jar. Check Sproutpeople.org to find out how to sprout everything from lentils to sunflower sprouts to popcorn shoots.
3. Cook Beans Well. While you can eat sprouted beans all on their own (usually the smaller beans, like lentil, aduki and mung), you'll often notice their crunchy bitter taste. Blanching them for 5-10 minutes will remove the bitterness, but won't necessarily mean you won't be the culprit of flatulence and bloating. If you want to avoid the unpleasant side effects from eating beans, you'll certainly want to cook them very well.
Beans do have different cooking times. Generally, small beans like lentils take 30-45 minutes while larger beans like black eyed peas require 1-2 hours of cooking. If you want a simple rule to follow, cook small beans like aduki, lentil and mung for 45 minutes and larger beans like kidney, great northern and black beans for 2X that time, which is 1.5 hours. Be sure to cover beans with water, let come to a boil, and then simmer for the required amount of time.
Note: for maximum digestibility and in order to avoid re-cooking the beans (see my #1 tip below), you'll want to experiment and bump up the cooking times. Cook smaller beans for 1-1.5 hours and larger beans for 2-2.5 hours. Try this longer cooking time if the standard cooking time still gives you gastly symptoms.
Tip: To sprout a large batch of beans, use a large strainer basket (or two). These are made of stainless steel and fit inside a steel pot (often sold together), and are used to cook pasta and steam veggies. They come in different sizes and keep forever, so are a good investment. You can leave the baskets in your sink while the beans sprout. After cooking, freeze the beans to have on hand when you need them. Cooking and freezing a large amount is a good food prep idea. Frozen beans will keep for up to 6 months.
4. Add in Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). In order to further help break down the sugars in the beans, you'll want to add in 2-4 TBSP of ACV to the cooking water. The acid in the vinegar will help to tenderize the beans. No need to use ACV with "mother," but you can if you like. If you are cooking a large batch of beans (e.g. I cook 2 bags of 907g beans which have been sprouted), add in 1/2-1 cup of ACV.
5. Add in Kombu or Wakame Seaweed. To further break down the sugars in the beans, this is a tip I learned from my background in Chinese medicine. Seaweed, like ACV, helps to tenderize the beans, as well as impart nutrients to the cooking water. They are naturally salty, so there is no need to add salt to the cooking water.
For kombu, add in 1-2 strips to the pot with the water (3-4 for a big batch of beans). For wakame, you want to soak it first, as it may contain sand and rocks. Soak 1/2 cup dried wakame with 1-1.5 cups water. Let soak 10-15 minutes then drain, rinse very well, and add to the pot. For a big batch, you can bump up the wakame to 1 cup and use 2-2.5 cups soaking water.
Can you eat the seaweed once everything is cooked? Yes! It has a slimy feel, so if you don't like the texture, puree it with the beans, such as with pate, for soup or in a shake.
Wait! Were you going to throw out that cooking water? Hold that thought, because that cooking water can be used:
One caveat: Mung bean cooking water is awfully bitter, so unless you remove the green skins from them before cooking, you'll want to give this cooking water to your plants :)
6. Use Carminative Herbs. There are many common herbs that are known to counter gassiness, so adding them to the cooking pot (or after) is highly beneficial. Many are warming herbs and include spices such as Ginger, Fennel and Coriander seeds, and spice blends such as Mexican, Thai and Indian. The popular Italian/Mediterranean herbs are also warming and include Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary and Basil. If you are using beans to make desserts, you can use the warming spices of Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Cloves and Anise. Note that you can add them to the pot or after. For example, I personally don't add spices cooking up a big batch of beans. What I do is add spice to the dish I happen to be making (e.g. cinnamon for bean cookies and Italian herbs for bean soup).
Tip: You might be interested in the herb Epazote, also known as Wormseed. It has both bitter and vermifuge properties and is commonly added in Mexican cuisine to curb gassiness. Add in a few fresh leaves or 1-2 TSP of dried herb. I've bought seeds and grown Epazote and it's a very easy plant to grow. Grow in a container as it will take over your garden. Self-seeds and will come back the next year. A little goes a long way and does help to curb gassiness from my experience. Also good for the liver (bile) and to help with parasites.
Additional Tips To Ensure a GAS-less Experience
Now that you've got those sprouted cooked beans, you want to test out how your body does. The usual serving is 1/2 cup, although it's easy to go over, especially if you're vegetarian or vegan.
Tip #1. Got bean gas? One of my tried-and-true tricks now that I always sprout and cook my beans is to re-cook them. I find this trick always works and is especially beneficial for those larger beans that needed a little more lovin' time in the pot. I usually cook the beans an additional 1-1.5 hours. Because I've gotten savvier with cooking beans over time (and in order to avoid re-cooking them) I now bump up the initial cooking time, often cooking larger beans for 2-2.5 hours. See what works for you :)
Tip #2. Smaller beans are easier to digest than larger beans. Choose aduki, lentil or mung over larger beans like black bean, kidney and black-eyed peas.
Do split peas and split beans like split lentils or split chickpeas give you gas? They are beans that have been broken up and can't be sprouted. Best to avoid, unless you are interested in fart-a-thons.
My Fart-All-Day Long True Story
In order to skimp on time, I decided to try those alluring red split lentils. They looked so striking at the store, and seemed to be temptingly inviting me for a little tete-a-tete.
I lovingly washed them well until the water ran clear, then added water to cover, and cooked them up in the pot for 45 minutes. I was so happy they cooked quickly, and no sprouting fuss, although it's not really that much bother to sprout beans. Then I merrily ate them--- and merriment threw herself into a fit and went into a whirlwind. Apparently, love was not enough to save me from this storm, for it was indeed a fart-a-thon all day long!
What I thought was a brillant idea dovetailed into teaching me a valuable lesson: that wind is certainly a force to be reckoned with. And yet while the fascination of farting continues to elude me (alas), I did indeed go back to my tried-and-true tested way of sprouting beans with fishy vinegar water. The end ;)
Respect food combining rules. Beans contain both protein and carbs and pair best with veggies (NOT starches and grains and definitely not with fruit). Eat beans with a salad and some steamed veggies for optimal digestion. You can read about simple food combining rules HERE.
Stick to eating 1/2 cup beans. If you still have gas, reduce to 1/4 cup. Still gas? Limit to 2 TBSP. If you are eating sprouted beans as described above, are eating the smaller beans, are eating plain beans (yes, skimp on ALL spices for this test), and are following proper food combining rules, try reducing the amount first as this tip says before cutting beans out totally.
Still Can't Tolerate Beans? Go For Bean Tea.
In Chinese medicine, beans are known as an excellent food to reduce dampness in the body and for weight loss. Beans are therefore helpful with vaginal secretions, candida, edema, nasal drip and excess weight. Beans are also chock-full of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and a host of other minerals.
If despite soaking, sprouting, and cooking beans, you still get gas, then get in the benefits by drinking the cooking water. Alternatively, you can make bean tea. Bean tea is nothing more than adding more water when you cook beans, commonly in a ratio of 1 part bean to 5-8 parts water. Chinese medicine often uses aduki, mung, kidney and black bean, but any bean is fine. Note (as mentioned previously) that mung bean water is bitter-tasting.
To do: Soak the beans overnight. Sprouting is completely optional. Use 1 cup of beans + 6 cups water. Let come to a boil, then simmer on low, covered, for 2-3 hours. Strain out the liquid (a nut milk bag comes in handy for this). Drink 1-3 cups throughout the day. Feel free to dilute the "tea" with additional water if you like. Drink warm or cold. You can add ACV and seaweed to the pot when cooking the bean tea, as described above.
Tried Bean Tea and Still Can't Handle the Beans?
IF ALL FAILS, you need to repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria before investing in the bean experience! Consider following FODMAPs, Paleo-Autoimmune or the GAPS diet. Don't worry, once you've rebuilt your digestive system, there'll be plenty more beanful days ahead :)
To tootless days,
Originally Written 2016. Updated 2021.
Infographic, Funny Poster & Pics Without Credits by Cat.
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