Eat Beans Without Getting the Toots!
This Moroccan Mint Bean Salad tastes great on a hot day, and it's a fantastic way to feed your microbiome! That's right, the beneficial bacteria in your gut actually feed upon the fiber in beans, so eating them helps restore health to the digestive system, and in turn the whole body and brain!
But what about this old jingle?
"Beans, beans the magical fruit. The more you eat the more you toot!"
Alas, it's true that for many people beans and legumes can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating–and no one wants that at the summer pool party!
In fact, I avoided beans for years because of this problem. While this may have been necessary for my gut repair process at the time, I've learned a few tricks of the trade to help me digest beans and legumes happily.
Check out these tips for how to approach and prepare beans for a delicious, "toot-free" experience!
1. Start low and slow.
The human digestive system can't break down certain bean fibers on it's own, but the good news is that they are digestible by good bacteria that live in the lower intestine. However, if there's a deficiency of these good bacteria in your gut, then there won't be enough of them to break down that bean fiber–and this can cause gas.
So how do you become no longer deficient in those healthy bacteria? How do you have a robust healthy level of them in your gut so they will happily eat up that bean fiber–and you won't get the farts? The answer, ironically, is to feed them beans!
But, just a little at a time.
Maybe just one or two bites a day for a while. This way you can avoid an excessively gaseous reaction, but slowly rebuild the healthy bacteria in the colon. Once that bacteria is more plentiful, it will do a great job breaking down the bean fiber for you, and you should be free of gas and bloating. Over time you can slowly increase your bean intake and eat larger portions comfortably.
2. Choose the beans and legumes that are easiest on digestion.
Not all beans are created equal and some are gentler on the gut than others. Here's a list of great "starter" beans and legumes that you may find less gas inducing than others:
- Red lentils
- Black eyed peas
- Adzuki beans
- Great Northern beans
- Mung beans
- And anasazi beans
Pinto beans and black beans don't make it onto this easy-to-digest list but they are easier on the gut than kidney beans and soy beans, which are known to be troublesome to digestion.
2. Cook and prepare your beans to be toot-free!
How you cook and prep your beans makes all the difference in how easily they go down. Here's a few pointers:
- Use dried beans rather than canned. It's cheaper, plus you can easily follow the steps below to prepare them well, for an experience of digestive ease.
- Soak your beans and legumes–for a long time. I recommend soaking them for at least 12 hours, but you can even go as long as a day or two. (I put them in the fridge after they've sat out overnight, so they stay fresh.) When you soak beans for an extended time, some of the hard to digest compounds release from them into the water. You'll want to make sure you also then:
- Drain and rinse them really well. I spend about a minute running water over my beans in a colander, to fully wash away those difficult-to-digest compounds.
- Cook them really well, until they are very soft and tender. (Yummy.) Cooking times vary for different beans, but if the recommended time is say, an hour–like with pinto beans–I'd cook them for two or three, on a low simmer. Crock pots work well, and the Instant Pot (an electric pressure cooker) is especially good for beans and legumes. It de-activates even more of the difficult-to-digest compounds found in beans.
- And another trick: cook your beans with bay leaf and/or cumin, two herbs that have gas reducing properties.
Now you're ready to go forth and enjoy beans, toot-free! And you can enjoy them happily, knowing you are feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut. Those that help repair digestive health, strengthen your immune system, and nourish your brain and mood.
Want to give my Moroccan Mint Bean Salad a try? Here's what I put in there:
- Great Northern Beans
- Chopped Mint
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- Ras El Hanout Seasoning Blend (you can find it here)
- Cherry Tomatoes
Served on a bed of romaine lettuce with diced avocado. Because of the vinegar, the beans marinate, and keep well in the fridge. An easy, healthy lunch to have on hand on a summer day!