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Dear Clean Plates: How Can I Prepare Beans to Avoid Discomfort?

January 31, 2013
Beans are a superfood, but also super gassy. These three cooking tips are the best ways to eliminate the trouble-making saccharides.

Dear Clean Plates,

I recently read a study saying that women who ate four or more servings of beans per week were 33% less likely to develop colon cancer. The good news: I love beans! The bad news: I don’t love their, er, side effects. Is there any way for me to prepare legumes that won’t cause intestinal distress?

Bummed About Beans

Dear Bummed,

Not only do beans help prevent colon cancer, but they can also decrease the risk of heart disease. So yes, they’re important, but we understand your concern. Here are a few techniques to reduce the chances of post-legume discomfort:

Soak ’em. Beans should be cleaned, rinsed and soaked in cold or warm water during preparation—soaking helps release oligosaccharides, which cause gas. (Soaking also reduces cooking time, which preserves more nutrients.) Soaking times vary (chickpeas, for example, should be soaked overnight), but the beans should swell to at least double their size. Use a 1:3, bean:water ratio.

Cook ’em: Before cooking, strain the soaked beans and discard the used water, since it still contains some of the gas-inducing compounds. Cook the beans in fresh water, which will again loosen the skin and release gaseous chemicals. Simmer until tender.

Flavor ’em: Avoid salt while cooking (or beans won’t soften properly), but add spices to help reduce intestinal distress. Bay leaf, dill and cilantro have been known to help, as well as cinnamon, cumin, ginger, oregano, fennel and lemongrass.

Finally, drinking water helps aid digestion, as does regular exercise. If it’s been a while since you’ve eaten beans, your body may take some time to adjust. But follow these tips, and discomfort will be a has-bean.

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