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How to Cook Beans to Prevent an Upset Stomach

Written by: Sedra Jundi, MSc. RD. and Julia Hanna, MSc. RD, July 2020

Let's face it, we all know that beans make a great addition to our everyday meals but most of us hesitate to consume them because of the "not so pleasant" side-effects that come along. 

Here are some practical tips on how to prep your beans to minimize the chances of having an upset stomach. 

But First, Why Should We Consume Beans? 

Not only are they nutritionally rich in protein, fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium & iron, but they are also versatile and economically friendly. Adding dry edible beans, such as pinto, navy, kidney, pink and black beans to our diet can decrease the risk of developing heart diseases, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity [1,2,3]. 

Why May Beans Cause Discomfort to Some People? 

Introducing beans to our diet may result in unpleasant side effects, such as abdominal cramps, bloating and flatulence. Dried beans and peas contain complex sugars (fibers and oligosaccharides) that our bodies find hard to digest. Once these undigested sugars end up in the colon, our gut bacteria ferments them, causing gas. Good news, however, over time our gut bacteria adapts and can get better at digesting them; hence, reducing the occurrence of these undesirable side effects. That being said, if beans are new to you, give your body sometime to accept them.

What are Some Tips to Minimize the Discomfort ?

Soaking beans and throwing away the cooking water can remove some of the nondigestible carbohydrates responsible for the unpleasant digestive symptoms. Here are three different ways to properly soak your beans [4]. 

Traditional Soak

Hot Soak

Quick Soak

Steps

  1. Soak beans in cold water for 8 hours 
  2. Drain and discard soaked water 
  3. Rinse in fresh cold water 
  1. Place beans in a pot of boiling water
  2. Remove from heat,  let stand for 24 hours. 
  3. Drain and discard soaked water. 
  4. Rinse in cold water
  1. Place beans in a pot of boiling water. 
  2. Remove from heat and let stand for an hour. 
  3. Drain and discard soaked water. 
  4. Rinse in cold water. 

Advantages

No boiling needed


Most effective at reducing the gas-producing compounds 

Minimal cooking time 


Lowers the gas-producing compounds 


Softens the beans

Faster soaking time


Requires less planning

Disadvantages

Time consuming 




Time consuming 

Fermentation may take place if left in hot water for too long


Loss of some folate


Here are some additional tips to help you better adapt to having beans in your diet [5]:

  1. Introduce them gradually, start by having a few tablespoons and then slowly increase the amount. Giving time for your gut bacteria to adapt to their digestion. 
  2. Ensure you are drinking enough water. Foods high in fibers, such as beans induce digestion, hence they require adequate hydration to minimize abdominal cramping. 
  3. Make sure to change the water that is used to soak the beans to get rid of the gas-producing compounds. 
  4. When using canned beans, make sure to rinse and drain them to release the gas-producing compounds. 
  5. If you still experience major side-effects after consuming beans, consider an over the counter enzyme tablet that may help improve the digestion of the oligosaccharides present in beans. 

If you are looking for fun ways to include a great protein snack in your diet, try out Bean Bark’s dark chocolate made from beans. The best part is that the beans are soaked for a more joyful snacking experience! 

References:
  1. Winham DM, Hutchins AM, Johnston CS. Pinto bean consumption reduces biomarkers for heart disease risk. J Am Coll Nutr. 2007;26(3):243-249.
  2.  Hosseinpour-Niazi S, Mirmiran P, Sohrab G, Hosseini-Esfahani F, Azizi F. Inverse association between fruit, legume, and cereal fiber and the risk of metabolic syndrome: Tehran lipid and glucose study. Diabetes Res Clin Prac. 2011;94:276-283.
  3. Cunha DB, de Almeida RMVR, Sichieri R, Pereira RA. Association of dietary patterns with BMI and waist circumference in a low-income neighbourhood in Brazil. Br J Nutr. 2010;104:908-913.
  4. Rondini, E. A., Barrett, K. G., & Bennink, M. R. (2012). Nutrition and Human Health Benefits of Dry Beans and Pulses. Dry Beans and Pulses Production, Processing and Nutrition, 335-357. doi:10.1002/9781118448298.ch14

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