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OK, so you’ve heard me (and others) talking about how beans and lentils are super healthy. And you’d love to eat them more often. There’s only one thing holding you back – the aftereffects. Gas. Bloating. Beans ‘musicality” if you will. You’re not alone. Read on to get how to make beans and lentils less gassy.
Adding lentils and beans to your diet is a great way to provide your body with protein, fibre, and micronutrients such as iron, folate, and other B vitamins, all at a minimal cost. They are versatile ingredients, fitting into many different dishes, are gluten-free, and have a low glycemic index to boot.
What’s not so great is later in the day when that hearty chili turns into uncomfortable gas or bloating. While an undesirable consequence of a delicious meal, it’s important to keep in mind that this is actually a sign that your digestive tract is healthy and functioning as it should!
The gas is caused by the good bacteria found in our gut. Beans and lentils contain specific types of carbohydrates, and particularly fibre, that our body doesn’t have the ability to digest. As a result, it passes through our digestive tract until it reaches the bacteria in our large intestine, which happily eat up what our bodies couldn’t, and in doing so produce gases. These gases build up until our body has to deal with it and, well, you know the rest. So while passing wind is a good indication of healthy gut bacteria, it’s not so good when Aunt Ruth is sitting beside you at the dinner table.
So to help you continue to cook without worry:
Tips to Make Beans and Lentils Less Gassy:
- Rinse before cooking. Rinsing canned beans and lentils helps reduce the amount of those indigestible carbohydrates, which are released into the water. As an added bonus, it also helps remove any excess sodium. Rinse your beans and lentils under cold water for at least 1 minute to reap these benefits.
- Even better, soak them overnight. If you’re using dried beans or lentils, soaking them in cold water does the same thing that rinsing does, but because they are dry and uncooked, it takes a little longer to get the same effect. Aim to soak your beans or lentils for at least 4 hours, and preferably overnight. Dump the soaking water (i.e. don’t use it to cook the beans). Then be sure to give your beans/lentils a good rinse before cooking to wash away those gas-producing carbohydrates.
- Introduce them slowly. This can be particularly helpful if you’re introducing beans or lentils to your kiddos, but it’s also helpful if you find they tend to make you particularly gassy. By using beans and lentils in small amounts first, it gives your gut bacteria time to adjust to their increase in food supply, instead of overwhelming them with the feast of their lives. Then slowly increase your consumption and you’ll find your body has a better time dealing with it, which means less flatulence for you!
- Call in the reinforcements. If all else seems to fail and you’re still struggling with an uncomfortable amount of gas, digestive enzymes can be called in to help. Sold over-the-counter, look for supplements that contain the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, which breaks up the indigestible carbohydrates and helps ease the digestive process. One brand name is Beano. All of us can use a little extra help from time to time.
Try these tips the next time you’re cooking with beans or lentils and see how they work for you. Happy bean and lentil eating!
Ready to give beans and lentils a try? Check out my recipes.
A BIG THANK YOU to guest co-author (and student) Tanya Ruscheinski!
I’m often asked my opinion about what vegetable is the healthiest. I also hear the “best-Mommy” contest that happens on the playground where each parent tries to one-up each other bragging about what weird & healthy veggie their child loves. It goes something like this:
“My Johnny loves carrots.”
“MY Suzie loves broccoli.”
“WELL, MY Nicolas loves kale.”
“Guess what. MY Olivia loves Brussels sprouts. Eats them like candy. Can’t get enough of them.”
You get the picture.
I understand why people ask me about veggies. And why parents feel pressured. The amazing powers of specific vegetables often are the subjects of headlines. It makes a great sound-bite. It’s a great way to sell newspapers & magazines.
But as is often the case, that which makes a great sound-bite isn’t always what’s true. Because it’s been pulled out of context, the sound-bite ends up being only partly-true.
Science’s understanding of exactly what it is in veggies that’s so good for us is crude. We’re constantly learning of new healthy nutrients. For example, when I was studying human nutrition as an undergraduate in the late 1990’s, I was taught that white veggies didn’t have any healthful substances. They may provide flavor and crunch, but they were nutritional zeros. However, we now know that onions, garlic, and their other cousins such as leeks, have healthful nutrients like antioxidants.
While science is constantly discovering new nutrients, what’s found again and again (and again) is that the people who eat the most veggies are the healthiest. Period.
I also like to balance current science with the tried-and-true. And, when I look at traditional diets around the world, I see that human beings have survived and thrived eating all sorts of plant foods.
Let me be clear. I’m not denying that dark green veggies (like kale) and brightly-coloured veggies (like carrots and purple cabbage) are really healthy. They’re fantastic choices! What I’m saying is to not consider veggies such as cucumber and celery as empty junk. While they’re today’s zeros, who knows if they will be tomorrow’s super-stars. And, they’re healthier than most processed foods which kids typically eat if they’re not eating veggies.
So don’t stress if your picky eater doesn’t like today’s super-star veggies.
When it comes to veggies, it’s about quantity. And, variety.
Instead of relying on the magic of any one vegetable (and trying to force your picky eater to eat it), enjoy a wide variety of veggies. Introduce your little one to many different veggies (and repeat those introductions, and repeat, and repeat…). Be a veggie variety role model yourself. Encourage your little one to enjoy the wide, wide world of veggies in all colours of the rainbow. Together explore all the different tastes and textures.
And celebrate when your little one eats ANY veggies - whether it’s kale chips or that French Breakfast radish that the Farmer convinced him to try at Saturday’s Farmers Market, or…
So, what’s my answer when I’m asked what’s the healthiest vegetable? Answer: The one that you’ll eat (because it doesn’t matter how healthy any veggie is – if you won’t eat it – it can’t do you any good).
Photo credit: Keenan Loo on Unsplash