Okay, I can’t truly promise 100% gas-free beans. But how about a significant reduction?
We all know that beans are a “healthy” food, full of fiber, protein and antioxidants. They’re cheap and available almost everywhere. Best of all, dried beans are lightweight and easy to store.
So why don’t we eat beans all the time? For most of us, um, er, well, it’s the gas and bloating that beans can give us.
Dave and I love beans in all sorts of dishes — chili, soups, stews, dips and more. But it wasn’t until Jan (who writes CommuterCruiser and co-wrote The Boat Galley Cookbook with me) told me how to prepare “no-gas beans” that we began eating them four or five times a week.
It turns out that the gassiness is caused by indigestible carbohydrates in beans, with some varieties having more than others. The good news is that these carbohydrates are water soluble, so soaking and rinsing will make a noticeable difference. Cooking thoroughly also helps to break down the carbohydrates, and some spices will work to do the same thing. Combining all three of these methods will produce virtually “no-gas beans.”
Before going into details on these various items, note that if you go from rarely eating beans to eating them frequently, you need to make the change gradually. Beans are a very high fiber food, and making a sudden switch from a low fiber diet to a high fiber diet can cause constipation and/or diarrhea no matter how “gas-free” the preparation method. Slowly increasing your consumption over one to two months will make the transition much smoother.
Soak and Rinse
In general, the longer you soak dried beans, the more indigestible carbs will be leached out from the beans into the water. Discarding the soak water (actually, I use it to rinse and soak dirty dishes so it’s not wasted) can get rid of up to 90% of the indigestible carbs. But you have to plan ahead!
Use 4 to 5 times as much water as dried beans in a pan. No salt or anything else. Bring the beans to a boil for 3 minutes, then let them sit in the water overnight (no need to refrigerate). When you’re ready to cook the beans, discard this water, rinse the beans with a little more water, and then add the cooking water as specified in the recipe. If possible (depending on the recipe), discard the cooking water, too, before using the beans.
With canned beans, drain and rinse the beans before using them in a recipe. And if you have time to let them sit a few minutes in the “rinse water” before swishing it around and pouring it off, you’ll discard even more of the gas-producing carbs. An added benefit if you’re watching your sodium intake is that this removes quite a bit of salt — canned beans are loaded with it!
Thoroughly Cook Beans
Cooking the beans thoroughly further breaks down the indigestible carbs. Canned beans have already been cooked, and don’t need to be cooked further until they are added to the final dish.
Don’t add salt or baking soda to the cooking water — or, for that matter, anything that contains salt or sodium. Salt toughens the beans and considerably lengthens the cooking time.
Use about three times as much water as beans, or guesstimate and cover them by at least one inch, preferably two. Cook them until tender . . . not “almost” tender . . . to get rid of as much gas as possible.
Once again, discard the cooking water or save it to use in rinsing dishes. The beans are now ready to use in your final dish.
Add Gas-Reducing Spices
Adding any of the following spices to the finished dish will further help neutralize the gas-producing starches:
- epazote (it’s a Mexican spice, but very bitter and most people don’t like it)
Garlic and onion in the finished dish are reputed to increase gas, as they each can produce it on their own without the beans.
Some cooks swear that adding a touch of baking soda to the final dish helps but there is no scientific evidence to prove it and many say it does not help. I don’t like what it does to the texture of the beans.
Eating yogurt with live cultures definitely will help — learn how to make your own (it’s easy and delicious). You don’t have to eat it at the same meal — a serving a day increases the “good” enzymes and bacteria in your gut so you can better digest foods.
If you still have a problem, the commercial product Beano can help as it provides an enzyme that some people lack. Most people don’t need it, however, if the beans are given a good long soak (until at least doubled in size) and thoroughly cooked.