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Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit

April 6, 2016

Or is it musical?


Do you find you're gassy when you eat beans?  For some folks, there's a real food intolerance, or even allergy, but for most of us, that occasional gassy-ness can be easily avoided!


Two things I want to write about, about beans.  First thing: why do beans make some people gassy, or bloated?  Second thing: why do I love beans so much?


Why do beans make some folks gassy?  Typically this has to do with how the beans are prepared (or, rather, how the beans weren't prepared).  In brief, just like those grains we talked about a couple weeks ago, legumes are seeds!  That means they too contain enzyme inhibitors.  As with the grains, if those enzyme inhibitors are not deactivated in the beans when you eat them, then you're eating active enzyme inhibitors.  These enzyme inhibitors will continue to act in your body, impeding your body's natural digestive processes (they will inhibit your body's digestive enzymes); and, because these enzyme inhibitors are active, the seed (the bean, legume) is more difficult for your body to digest because it's still, technically, dormant.  All of this is causing stress on the digestive system - not to mention undigested bean parts - and the result?...gas!


So how do we deactivate these enzyme inhibitors in beans?  It's pretty simple, I'll say, but it's not quick.  Good things in life take time, don't they say?  The answer: soaking.


To properly prepare dried beans for meals, it is best to soak the beans in ample water (I usually soak at least 2 cups of beans at a time - you might want to soak more if you're feeding a family - in 4-6 cups of water) with an acidic medium - lime juice is best - for 24 hours (or at least a minimum of 12 hours).  If you have the time and the foresight, you might even rinse the beans once or twice in those 24 hours and replace with fresh water and fresh lime juice.  Not too difficult, right?  Once the beans have soaked for 24 hours, rinse them once again, replace with fresh water, and then cook on a simmer for 30-60 minutes, or until the beans are soft (I suggest such a long time range because different beans will cook at different rates...and all stove tops are different too; check the beans after 30 minutes to determine how soft they are.)


So what's the difference between re-hydrating my own beans and buying those already-cooked canned beans?


Truth is, probably not a whole lot.  With the canned beans it's more difficult to guarantee that the beans were soaked properly.  That's one major caveat.  The other is the typical sodium content of canned beans.  Salt has historically been a very common preservative, and continues to be today.  Not a problem, really, but just know that if you consume a lot of preserved, packaged, and prepared foods, you are likely taking in more sodium (salt) than you really need.  The recommended intake for the average, healthy person (what does that even mean!?) is 2400mg of sodium per day.  I'm not a numbers cruncher; instead I tend to stick with whole, fresh foods that contain minimal amounts of sodium; I then saltify my own foods using large-grain sea salt that I crack myself.  So, if you prefer to skip the bean soak, try the canned beans; BUT, be sure to buy low-sodium or sodium-free canned beans.  Better yet, try both, and keep a little food record - note your flatulence symptoms after eating canned beans compared to your flatulence symptoms after eating your own re-hydrated beans.  Does one work better for you?


Ah, yes, and one last piece.  Always there is the argument that "eating healthy" is so expensive.  Let me be the umpteenth person to say that dried beans are one of the cheapest, most nutritious foods available to us human creatures.  Canned beans are inevitably more expensive than dried beans.  But yes, soaking and cooking the beans inevitably takes more time than opening a can, even if you're the worst can opener in the world.  A little bit of planning can go a long way, literally!  So the choice is yours there.  What do I do?  I do a little bit of both.  I generally soak and cook my own beans, but sometimes when I'm in a pinch, I'll pick up a can of beans for a quick meal.


On to my second question: why do I love beans so much?  That one's a little harder t