Problem Free Bean and Legume Eating (A Complete Guide to Easy Digestion)

A big part of me so wanted to title this blog post beans without letting the gas off (that is the expression my 6 year old nephew gives to flatulence) wasn't sure how appropriate that was for a title though. This blog post is an important one as so many people struggle with digesting beans and there really are some very simple solutions to this. Learn all about easy bean digestion below and the recipe at the end is so delicious. Beans and legumes have come under attack lately because of low carbohydrate diets, many low carbohydrate diets suggest that beans and legumes convert to sugars. I know from personal experience I have tried the low carbohydrate diets and stayed clear of beans and legumes and after about three weeks I get intense cravings for beans and legumes. It is a healthy craving and when I listen in the craving is definitely coming from a space of my body needing their nourishment.

Once I let myself eat the beans again my body takes a big sigh of relief. Personally I know it is a case of moderation because if I really unleashed the greedy pig in me I could eat bowl after bowl of beans every night- but I do not allow myself this indulgence and therefore get to reap the benefits of eating beans and legumes. Casting those low carbohydrate diets aside for a minute and reading Healing with Wholefoods, Paul Pitchford suggests "The protein from legumes can help regulate sugar, water and other aspects of metabloism, as well as promote balanced sexual activity and proper growth and development of the body including the brain." He goes on to say that in Chinese herbal medicine beans and legumes are the food for kidneys and kidney adrenal function.

In an Ayurvedic diet they suggest that beans are great for most people but are considered drying foods so not always suitable for dry thin people. However if eaten with oily foods everyone can benefit. If you look at traditional diets, beans and legumes are often married with oily foods- for example hummos is mixed with oily tahini, in the Mediterranean and in Mexico beans are fried in oils and Indian dhals are cooked with copious amounts of ghee.

Why eat beans

For overall good health especially for kidney and adrenal function. They add variety to a vegetarian diet. They are a rich source of protein. Soy beans are a complete protein however all other beans are not. So in order to make them a complete protein you need to either eat them with grains or with nuts and seeds. They are a good source of iron, potassium, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C.

Why do people suffer from gas when eating legumes? 

  1. If you are usually a meat eater your body will not be used to digesting a lot of fibre and as beans are full of fibre you will initially suffer.
  2. You need to choose the right beans and legumes for you.
  3. The process of cooking beans and legumes may not be right.
  4. You may be combining beans and legumes with the wrong foods.

How to improve digesting beans.

  1. If you are normally a meat eater, start reducing your meat intake and increase more fibre into your diet. Eat beans initially in very small quantities.
  2. Choose the right beans for you. This was paramount for me. I have huge difficulty in digesting the larger legumes. Chickpeas are out (unless i eat a small amount of hummus) kidney beans, navy beans, fava beans and lima beans as well as whole lentils are also a no no. The best beans for me are split lentils, adzuki beans and mung beans. I worked this out by experimenting and being conscious of my body. When I ate chickpeas I got excess gas and bloating but noticed I was completely fine when I ate adzuki beans. If you are unsure just stick to the small beans and see how you go with them  or you could visit a kinesiologist to find out.  Paul Pitchford suggests that the small beans are more easily digestible for most people and can be eaten on a regular basis where as the larger beans are only to be eaten occasionally.  So even if you experience no difficulty with the larger beans still limit them to once or twice a month rather than once or twice a week.

Cooking Beans and food combining

Salty products like salt and miso and tamari need to be added towards the end of cooking, not at the beginning. This helps break the beans down better, aiding digestion. You can add seaweeds, cumin or fennel seeds when cooking to aid digestion. Steer clear of canned beans as you really don't know how they have been prepared. Soak beans for at least 12 hours and change the water regularly. Split lentils need less soaking time. Rinse the beans from their soaking water and cook in good filtered boiling water. Drain the first lot of water after it has come to a rolling boil and then add another lot of boiling water. Add salt in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Once the Beans have cooked drain off the water and cook again in fresh water. If the problem with gas persists after doing all of the above, sprout the beans instead. The body can digest sprouted beans and legumes much easier than cooked ones. You can also cook the sprouted legumes, these are delicious. They have a little bit of a bitter taste but you can easily get used to that.

Food combining

Eat with small amounts of grains or nuts and seeds to make a complete protein and don't combine them with starchy vegetables. Green veggies work best with beans. And a piece of advice from the lovely Thirak, "If you want to eat beans but haven't got a lifestyle where you can always plan to have beans ready, make a batch on your day off and freeze them in meal sized portions"

Now here to a unique bean recipe

Mexican Style Bake

I used black beans but best to try this with adzuki beans.

2 cups dried adzuki beans

3 bay leaves

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt or to taste

4 tomatoes diced finely

300g green beans cut in small pieces on an angle

2 carrots shredded

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

All optional grated cheese, sour cream or pecan mince

1 cup cooked millet

Cook the beans as above following the soaking and cooking method. In the second lot of water add the cumin and bay leaf, bring to the boil then let simmer until beans are cooked through. With adzuki beans this could take between 30 and 45 minutes depending on how old the beans are. When the beans are cooked strain them from the water and add them back to the saucepan with 1 to 2 cups fresh filtered water. Add the green beans and cook for 10 minutes, add the carrot and cook for a further 5 minutes.  Stir in the toasted sesame oil. Place the beans in a baking dish and add either cheese and sour cream or pecan mince. sprinkle with millet and then toast under the grill for 5 to 10 minutes. Note you can add chilli if you like.  

Resource Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods, Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, North Atlantic Books, California, USA, 1993, (page 506)

Categories:Mains Snacks/Sides

Tags:beans and legumes Bake

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