If you’ve dropped gluten and grains from your diet, or do not eat meat, beans and legumes can be a great replacement to bulk up meals and provide carbohydrates, fiber and protein. They can be used as a base for meals, and they can even be dried and ground up into flour to make healthy baked goods.
However, the nutritional benefits of beans and legumes are strongly countered by the possibility of embarrassing flatulence in the wake of their consumption.
The good news is, you don’t need to avoid eating that delicious lentil dhal, or hide in the bathroom for an hour after a Mexican dinner. Here are seven steps you can take to encourage comfortable (and silent) digestion of beans and legumes.
Rinse canned beans
If you choose to use canned beans or legumes, always rinse them well before using them in a recipe. Canned beans are usually bathed in a thick, starchy liquid, which is high in sodium and may further irritate your digestive system.
Have you noticed that the liquid bubbles when you rinse canned beans? If you leave them unrinsed, that bubbling and foaming is going to happen in your gut!
Soak and sprout dried beans
Dried beans and legumes are much more affordable than the canned varieties, even if you buy organic. They are also free of added sodium, preservatives and BPA.
The best way to prepare dried beans for digestive comfort is to soak them for at least eight hours in water with an added splash of raw apple cider vinegar. Then, before using the beans, rinse them several times in a colander to remove the extra starches and phytates that have dissolved into the soaking water.
Another even better option is to learn how to sprout beans and legumes. This unlocks the most nutrients from these foods and makes them easier to digest.
Add seaweed to bean dishes
If you are making a dish with cooked beans or legumes, try adding a few pieces of seaweed, such as kombu or kelp, for extra minerals and a digestive boost.
Consume with probiotic foods
The main reason that beans cause flatulence is their complex starch content. These starches are called oligosaccharides and they feed bacteria in the lower digestive system, which can cause gas. This effect is called “prebiotic” since it encourages the growth of gut bacteria.
However, studies show that consuming a balance of probiotic bacteria with the prebiotic starch helps to ease digestion and balance the gas-producing action in the lower gut.
Try drinking a glass of kombucha, pu’erh tea, or a little bit of kefir with your meal next time legumes are on the plate. Another option is to add plain yogurt or fermented vegetables as a condiment.
Increase the amount gradually
Eating a big plate of beans or legumes once in a while is bound to shock your digestive system and leave you with discomfort and flatulence. On the other hand, eating a small amount of beans each day has been shown to gradually build up the activity of good bacteria in your gut and reduce gas production.
One study published in The Nutrition Journal found that phasing in the consumption of beans daily over a period of eight to 12 weeks was successful in reducing any resulting digestive symptoms.
Use carminative spices or essential oils
Another option is to integrate carminative herbs and spices into your dish, or use carminative remedies before and after a meal. These help to inhibit gas production and also promote the expulsion of gas more comfortably.
For example, mixing basil, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, oregano or thyme into a dish is known to help with gas issues. Using essential oils such as caraway, peppermint or fennel rubbed on the abdomen or diffused into the room also has a carminative effect.
Avoid other distressing foods
The gas you experience could actually be a result of other foods irritating your gut. Gluten and dairy are the most common culprits, although other foods (especially meats and fats) can cause digestive upset if you have low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) or poor gallbladder function.
Try cutting out irritating foods, and upgrade your digestion by consuming stimulating supplements before eating. Apple cider vinegar is known to stimulate digestive juices, as is the herbal mixture known as Swedish Bitters.
Enjoy those beans and legumes as often as you like with these seven steps to a fart-free future. Learn more about how fiber-rich foods can improve cholesterol levels.
Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand.