All jokes about gaseous emissions aside, beans and legumes are a great source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also super versatile and can be found in foods of nearly every culinary tradition around the world. Beans make appearances in dishes like minestrone soup, black bean sauce, chili, hummus, falafels, burritos, dal, mung bean noodles, tofu, tempeh, or are eaten on their own as edamame, black-eyed peas, or red beans and rice.
Many people shy away from beans because of their famous after-effect: flatulence. But there are numerous things you can do to eliminate (or at least minimize) this effect:
- Rinse, soak, and rinse again. To cook dried beans, rinse your beans, soak them overnight (at least 8 hours) in twice the amount of water as the amount of beans. Then dump the soaking water, rinse the beans, and cook them in freshwater. If you’re using canned beans, drain off all of the liquid in the can and rinse the beans thoroughly before using them.
- Cook with kombu. When cooking dried beans, add a 2-inch piece of dried kombu to the pot. Kombu is a sea vegetable that contains glutamic acid. This helps tenderize the beans during cooking and also adds beneficial vitamins and minerals. Remove the kombu after cooking. Kombu can be found in the Asian food section of most grocery stores.
- Skim off the top. As your beans come to a boil, foamy bubbles will form on top of the water. Carefully skim this foam off the top and discard it. Removing these sugars makes the beans easier to digest.
- Cook beans thoroughly. A bean is done cooking when you can easily mash it on the roof of your mouth with your tongue. If they’re still firm, let them cook a bit longer. Small beans like lentils, may only take about 30 minutes on the stove top to cook through; big beans like kidney beans may take more like an hour. If you’d prefer to let your big beans cook overnight or while you’re at work, 8 hours on high in a slow cooker will also do the trick nicely.
- Add spices. Cumin, ginger, fennel, epazote, or winter savory added to the cooking liquid will help make beans more digestible. Adding these herbs and spices to the finished dish, like ginger and cumin added to Indian dal soup, helps further aid in easily digesting the beans.
- Add salt and/or acid. A little sea salt, miso, or soy sauce added at the end of cooking time not only contributes to flavor, but also helps make beans more digestible. Acidic foods like vinegar help out in a similar way; add a little vinegar to the cooking liquid at the end of cooking time, or marinate the beans in a vinaigrette dressing after rinsing off the cooking liquid. Or use acid in the final dish, like lemon juice in hummus.
- Eat more beans! As your body gets used to more beans and legumes in your diet, they’ll become easier to digest. Start with small amounts a couple of times a week and gradually increase the amount of beans in your diet.