Beans Beans the Musical Fruit

One of our viewers shuns those  humble beans because of (ahem) gas.  Flatulence (see movie) occurs.  For some – bloating.  There are some simple things one can do when preparing and eating beans which will help eliminate the oligosaccharides. These sugars can exit the small intestines unchanged, leaving the large intestines to deal with them and in the process creating carbon dioxide (breaking wind).

One of the first things to remember when cooking beans is the phrase – low and slow.  Beans like to be cooked at a fairly low simmer for a fairly long time.  “Hurry up” is not a part of easily-digestible bean cooking.

Here are more tips:
1. Soak beans overnight and replace the soaking water with fresh water for cooking. I can’t stress how important soaking beans is.  Six to eight hours.

2. Don’t add baking soda to soaking water.  It destroys nutrients, particularly thiamine, and imparts a slight acrid flavor and mealy texture.

3.  Par-boil beans as a pretreatment.  Bring beans to boil, scoop off and discard foam which accumulates on top before continuing cooking.  Those contain the oligosaccharides.

4. Cook beans with a piece of kombu seaweed.  Kombu contains glutamic acid which acts as a natural bean tenderizer.  The kombu also adds vitamins and minerals, especially trace minerals, to any dish it is cooked with.

5.  Two tablespoons of the herb winter savory or four tablespoons of the Mexican herb epazote added to beans as they cook will reduce the effects of oligosaccharides.  Other seasonings that help are cumin and fennel.

6. Let beans cook slowly for a long period of time so they are very tender.  Low and slow baby. Can you easily mash the bean on the roof of your mouth?

7. Use a salt seasoning – sea salt, miso, soy sauce – at the end of cooking time.  Foodies argue about this.  Some say it makes no difference when you add the salt.  I always found it’s better to add it at the end.

8. Eat more beans. You can expect a digestive adjustment for 6-9 months when beans are new or infrequent in the diet.  Eat small amounts every few days to allow the body to get used to digesting them.

9. Improve your overall digestion.  Chew foods slowly and thoroughly.  Avoid washing foods down with liquids.  Eat fewer kinds of foods at the same meal.  Make sure your diet includes raw, pickled, fermented and cultured foods so you are getting plenty of enzymes and probiotics.

10. For persistent gas – try pouring a little apple cider vinegar or brown rice vinegar into the cooking liquid during the last stages of cooking.  Vinegar softens legumes and breaks down the protein chains and other indigestible compounds.  Another option is to marinate the cooked beans in a solution of 2/3 vinegar and 1/3 olive oil creating a salad-type dish.  Marinate while still warm.

Do you all have other tips?  Let’s add to the list.

Excerpt from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books 2008)

4 thoughts on “Beans Beans the Musical Fruit

  1. I’ve read in several places (where? I don’t know) that the quick soak method is actually more effective at removing oligosaccharides. Even if it isn’t, I still always choose this method (bring clean, dry beans in cold water to boil, remove from heat, let stand for 1 hour, then cook) just because I’m really not very good a planning ahead. I use a pressure cooker, which reduces cooking time dramatically (a big bonus, in the hot summer), and I don’t even toss the soaking water. Then again, maybe I’m just more tolerant than other people.

    I do have to add that, besides being so delicious, beans are so cheap when purchased dry, and since you can cook up a giant batch and freeze meal-sized portions, they’re a great thing to have on hand.

    My beans from last night: black beans tossed with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes (canned, since fresh aren’t available yet), lemon juice, and lots of parsley, served with warm pita and cucumber salad. So yummy.

  2. I’ve never read anything about it, but my personal experience has been more positive with the quick-soak method than with soaking overnight – tender, less “gassy” beans. I do have a hard time remembering to put them to soak the night before, but the few times I have done it, I have been less happy with the finished product.

  3. I do not soak my beans, because it makes cooking and timing less complicated and the beans taste better. I eat 1/2 cup and my young boys eat 1/4 cup of cooked beans at lunch. I use a measuring cup and I eat them every day. My body has eventually adapted so I no longer get flatulence.

  4. My friend from New Orleans says they do the soak by adding boiling water to the beans. Let them soak 8 hours. That’s less work than parboiling and scooping off foam.

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