"Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot…”
Does this sound familiar?
As a Gut Nutritionist and Digestive specialist, it often comes as a surprise that I encourage the inclusion of Beans as part of a Gut-friendly diet because they are so commonly associated with gas and bloating.
But beans really ARE magical, as they are loaded with fiber, protein and healthy fuel for the microbes in our Gut. And and as long as they are prepared correctly, I promise you they are easy to digest and enjoy.
So Why do Beans cause Gas?
Beans contain a particular sugar called Oligosaccharides, which humans are not able to fully digest. Most foods are digested and absorbed in the small intestine, but with Oligosaccharides specifically, they are passed into the large intestine, the home of our Microbiome (aka where all of our beneficial bacteria live). Once the Oligosaccharides reach the large intestine, they begin to ferment and become food for our Microbes. When microbes feed on these sugars, they simultaneously produce Gas in the process.
But does this make Beans the enemy? No!
An important piece of information here is that beans serve as a fuel source for our healthy Microbes, and Microbes need fuel in order to grow and thrive.
So - how do you Enjoy Beans without getting Gassy or Bloated?
The best way to prepare beans is to cook them from dry, not from the can. This is much more economical, as well.
Soaking beans in water helps to pre-digest Oligosaccharides. I recommend adding 1 tbsp of raw, enzyme-rich apple cider vinegar to further breakdown the starchy carbohydrates as well.
To soak your beans, simply add them to glass jar or container and cover them with cool with water. Add 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, if desired. Cover the jar and place it in the fridge overnight, or for at least 8 hours. Once you are ready to cook your beans, simply drain and rinse them and then cook them on a stove top as usual.
Kombu is a type of Seaweed that can easily be found at most grocery and health food stores. Kombu contains amino acids and enzymes that also help to pre-digest the compounds found in beans. I generally recommend using Kombu in addition to the soaking method.
To cook your beans with Kombu, simply add 1 strip to your pot of boiling water while you cook your beans. Once the beans are cooked, remove the Kombu and strain them as usual.
#3) Pressure cooking
Pressure cooking beans is one of the easiest ways to make them more digestible. The high pressure breaks down sugars and starches, again serving as a form of ‘pre-digestion’. You do not need to pre-soak your beans before cooking them in a pressure cooker, although I still recommend it.
A Note on Phytic Acid
Beans - as well as nuts, seeds and some whole grains - contain a compound called Phytic Acid (also known as Phytate, inositol hexaphosphate, or IP6), which serves as the main form of Phosphorous storage in plant seeds.
Unfortunately, Phytic Acid can actually block the uptake of important nutrients, including Zinc, Iron and Calcium. For this reason, it is often considered as an “anti-nutrient”.
Phytic acid is another reason why it is incredibly important to prepare beans correctly. By following the tips above, Phytic Acid is drastically reduced. Sprouting your beans can also be very helpful.