How to Cook & Eat Beans (And Fart Less)

I look at a lot of food diaries, and you know what I notice?

Y’all are AFRAID of beans!

Most of us like the taste of them, but we limit our consumption because we are concerned about the, er, end result.

After eating beans, many people experience gas and bloating. It’s almost a cliche that legumes and farts go together. “The Magical Fruit!”, people sing.

Would you believe me if I said it didn’t have to be that way?

Like many of you, I used avoid eating beans before social gatherings or romantic evenings. However, although they often caused a fair bit of digestive distress, I also noticed that beans were very satisfying, kept me full for a long time, and gave me a nice, steady supply of energy.

These days, I can eat beans without a problem, largely because my digestion has improved as a whole, but also because, through trial and error, I have found some tips that help reduce the negative effects of beans. Miraculously, I eat more beans than ever (at least once a day), and I still smell as fresh as a wild rose.

Legumes are very health-promoting, as they are a great source of fibre, protein, and minerals. They also contain good amounts of energy-giving carbohydrates, but are low glycemic because of all the fibre and protein they contain. Beans and lentils balance blood sugar, lower cholesterol, and promote proper elimination (ie. pooping).

Ingredients: beans, kombu, sea salt

If you’d like to include beans into your diet more often, here is my advice:

Make Your Own

Beans in a can are inferior to homemade for a couple of reasons. For one, the metals from the can, or the chemicals from the plastic lining the inside of the can can leach into the contents. With canned beans, you end up with trace amounts of toxic metals and plastics in your food, and that’s something I try to avoid. Additionally, when beans are canned, they are cooked inside the can. This means that all of the gas normally released into the air gets trapped inside the can and absorbed by the beans inside, which gets released after you eat them, causing gas and bloating. By making your own, you eliminate the presence of toxic metals and plastic, and boil off much of the gas. Dried beans are also wayyy cheaper, and don’t contribute to landfills like tin cans do.

Take a Soak

When cooking your own beans, I always recommend soaking them first. Most beans require about six hours of soaking time, but the smaller lentils can get by with two or three. I usually soak mine overnight and then cook them as I’m getting ready for work the next morning. Beans are basically seeds, and putting them in water starts the sprouting process. During this process, enzymes are created and begin to “pre-digest” the bean, making it easier for us to digest once they are cooked. Soaking also greatly reduces cooking time. After soaking beans, pour out soaking water and rinse beans thoroughly with water before cooking.

Add Some Seaweed

Kombu is a bean-maker’s secret weapon. Kombu, a member of the kelp family, is a type of seaweed, found for pretty cheap in most health food stores. You buy it dried, in a package, and add a six-inch or so chunk to the cooking water. This seaweed contains amino acids that tenderize proteins and render beans more digestible. Kombu is pretty much tasteless, so it won’t compromise flavour. Kombu kind of looks like dried out salted-stained shoe leather, so warn people that it’s in there, otherwise your boyfriend will look into the cooking pot and ask why there is a slice of Birkenstock sandal in the chickpeas. You can remove it once the beans are cooked, or break it up into small pieces and just eat it with the beans.

Keep It Simple.

Digesting beans (and everything else) gets tricky when you put them in complicated meals, with lots of mixed protein. For example, beans and animal proteins (meat, eggs, dairy) don’t mix particularly well. This is partly why a Texas Taco with refried beans, cheese, sour cream, and ground beef will give anyone a lot of hot air. Beans mix very well with whole grains like brown rice and/or vegetables. If you want to make things more interesting, spice up your beans with gas-reducing spices like cumin, turmeric, ginger, cloves, coriander, dill, or a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Chew, Goddamnit.

Don’t underestimate the power of proper chewing! Beans are not the best thing to eat when you are in a rush or anxious. Eat them when you have time to relax, chew properly, and digest. Digestion starts in the mouth! There are enzymes in saliva and the more we chew, the less our digestive system has to work. Also, start slow. If you know beans are an issue for you, begin with 1/4 cup at a time, and then build up to 1 cup or so over the course of a couple weeks.

******

As I mentioned, soaking and cooking times depend on the size of the bean. Someone has already done a great job of summarizing that info, so click here for a handy bean soaking/cooking time chart.

Or, follow these general directions:

-After soaking*, discard soaking water and rinse beans in a strainer. Add rinsed beans to a pot, and fill with enough water to cover beans, with about 1/2 inch of extra water at the top. Add kombu if using.

-Bring pot to a rolling boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for required amount*, or until bean is nice a soft. Salt when cooking is done, if desired.

*For big beans (kidney, chickpeas, navy, fava) soak about six to eight hours, or overnight. Cook time is 1 to 2 hours. For medium beans (black beans, black eyed peas, lima, pinto) soak about four to six hours, or overnight. Cook time is 40 minutes to an hour. For small beans (mung, adzuki, lentils) soak about four hours. Cook time is about 30 minutes. For split lentils and peas, soaking isn’t necessary, although still helpful. Soak about one to two hours, if desired. Cook time is under 30 minutes.

Some of my own bean recipes:

Coconut Dal

Red Bean Truffles

Mung Bean & Brown Rice Dosas

Lentil Vegetable Soup

Pumpkin Hummus

Take care,

Alex

15 Comments

Filed under Beans, Nutrition

15 responses to “How to Cook & Eat Beans (And Fart Less)

  1. Victoria

    Hi there-

    Came across your blog recently and I just wanted to say thank you for your extremely informative, witty and well-written pieces! I am learning a lot from them. And I absolutely love your recipes — I made your chocolate ginger coconut cream bars the other day and was in heaven.
    Cheers!

  2. Hi Alex! I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Javier’s friend from work and he gave me the name of your blog so that I could find the spiced nuts recipe. I’ve read a couple entries and I love your blog – it is super thoughtful and inspiring. Thanks a lot! – Theresa

  3. Alex

    Victoria- My favourite comment! Love knowing that I can teach people something to take away with them- even if it’s just a yummy chocolate recipe!

    Theresa- Sure I remember! Glad you like the blog! Hopefully you found the spiced nuts recipes! If not, here it is: http://openendedquestion.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/men-love-their-nuts-and-so-do-women/ Hope you’re well! :)

  4. Mari

    Hey, Alex! I just wanted to say “thank you” for all the information here. I love beans, actually, but lately I’ve been eating too much of them (of the canned variety) and BOY has my body been feeling it… So yeah, I’m going to try your cooking method (sans the seaweed which I haven’t looked for yet, but I know it’s available around here) and I have good expectations! Thanks again. :)

    I’m actually very surprised that this got so few responses, because I feel like more people should be as excited as I am about this post. :P

    • Alex

      Hey Mari,

      Thanks! I feel pretty excited about it too, but I’m heavily biased…Hope the tips help! I bet whoever shares your living space hopes so too ;)

      Take care!
      Alex

  5. Victoria

    I’m developing a serious addiction to these bars!! I made them again and in two days, I’ve eaten nearly the whole thing by myself. Good thing I used the antioxidant-rich cacao. Helps me not feel so guilty. The next dish on my agenda: your coconut dal. Thanks again for all these fantastic recipes!

  6. Mary F. marvin

    Thank you for the recipes for beans and the information about the way beans are cooked in the can and the plastic and gasses in the cans. Also, it is exciting knowing how to use the kombu.

    I have digestion issues and painful stomach-aches most of the time and was told that beans are good for diverticulosis. However, I watched a cooking show on HGTV and the cook said it was ok to use canned beans. For me, it was not a good idea because the pain has been going on and on for days.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am very grateful!

    Mary Frances

  7. Nicole

    There is a quicker way to cook beans. A pressure cooker will soften them in about 20 minutes, but one needs to be careful in handling that. I eat beans about 4-5 times a week since it’s a staple food of my culture, and I guess since I’m used to them, I never have “gas” problems haha.

    Good post :)

  8. Amira

    Hi Alex. I love your title How to cook eat beans and fart less. I grew up eating a little bit of beans at least once a day but they were in some sort of soup and had no gaz issues. My digestion is now less good and I have been too careful these days but will be incorporating bean soups. Thank you for the recipes…I am planning to make the mung bean dal dosa as it is gluten free. I’ll take anything tasty as long it is gluten free. Thank you.

  9. Robin Galyan

    I heard that a pinch of soda in the wash’s (rinses) would also do it, but have not tested that yet. Tnx for tip on Kombu !!

  10. Adeola

    Rinsing the beans after soaking for hours makes the beans to break into pieces. Is that ok?

  11. I love beans and have been cooking a great deal of them lately…you can imagine what led me to google and brought me to your blog…yep. I look forward to trying out some of these tips. Thank you :)

  12. Lizzy

    Yeah. Anyone who searched for this must be feeling a need for some relief. :) I love beans. I eat them almost every day, mostly dals, but my children do not like me to be around so much in the days that follow eating them. I wonder why?! I will definitely try to kombu with some of those heartier bean varieties that give me the most trouble. I’m wondering if that whole enzymatic soaking fad might be beneficial for pre-digesting those bean sugars.

  13. omon

    thanks for a fantastic article. I am diabetic and i know the blood sugar stabilising characteristic of beans but just could not eat because of the smell i get when i fart. I guess i should try these out.

  14. Hazel Vargas

    I laughed out loud reading your article on how not to terrorize your friends and love your beans. You are so funny. I think I’ll bookmark this page and pass it on to my vegan/vegetarian friends. I found another hint somewhere that adding cloves to the boiling water also does the trick. Another blogger said to add baking soda. Will try all that next and smell what happens. Today, I found a bag of red lentils in my pantry and will soak that for 3 hours following your advice before cooking it tonight — I love the Indian dhal recipes especially with curry and coconut milk (or yogurt). I got hooked on lentils after partaking of a wonderful lentil curry served at The Bombay Club in Washington, DC years ago. But it seems there are many conflicting advice out there regarding the matter — to soak or not to soak, that is the question. I, too, want to smell like a wild rose.

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