A concern that I often hear from people when it comes to going vegan, or eating a more plant-based lifestyle, is that beans make them gassy. Yeah, ew, but it’s a totally legit complication!
Beans are a huge staple in a plant-based diet, definitely the primary source of protein in my, and many other vegans’ diets. I love beans of all kinds, and use them in just about all of my lunches and dinners. It hasn’t always been all fun and games, and I’ve definitely learned some tips and tricks along my journey.
Beans are deserving of the lovely nickname “the musical fruit”, because they contain a certain type of carbohydrate, called ogliosaccharides. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t break them down completely in our small intestines, like they do with most carbohydrates (our bodies lack the proper enzymes.) So, instead of being absorbed into the body, these guys move on to the large intestine, where our gut bacteria munches down. The bacteria ingests the undigested ogliosaccharides, then emit a lovely gas, that accumulates in the gut, just waiting to be released in a smelly, embarrassing manner. Thanks, ogliosaccharides!
Besides ogliosaccharides, beans also contain a large amount of fiber. When you eat a large amount of fiber, especially if you’re new to a plant-based diet, the fiber acts as a broom inside your GI tract, clearing out all the old gunk (read: rancid meat and cheese) that have been lingering in there. This doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture either.
You’re never going to be able to 100% rid yourself of gas, because a certain amount of gas is a healthy, natural thing. However, excessive, painful, bloating gas caused by eating an increased amount of beans can be severely eased with a few simple tips.
Add beans to your diet a little bit at a time. Don’t go adding a cup of beans to every meal you eat right off the bat. Ease into bean eating, and allow your body time to adjust.
Rinse your beans before you eat them. If you’re eating beans out of a can, throw them in the colander and give them a give rinse under the faucet. If you’re cooking your own beans, toss the cooking/soaking water, and, again, give them a good rinse off with fresh water. A lot of the ogliosaccharides will get washed away.
Chew well, or just process your beans beforehand. Processing beans, as in refried beans and hummus, breaks down the fiber in the beans, making it easier to digest. Chewing basically does the same thing as processing. Not to mention, carbohydrate digestion begins in the mouth, so the longer you chew, the better everything is broken down.
Soak your beans with a piece of kombu seaweed. For those of you cooking your own beans, take a tip from the Japanese, and throw a piece of kombu seaweed in while your beans soak. This seaweed actually contains the enzyme needed to break down the ogliosaccharides! Wakame can also be used.
Cook your beans for a longer amount of time. Again, this breaks them down a bit more, so your body doesn’t have to. The softer, the better.
Eat slowly. If you eat quickly, you’re likely to be swallowing air, as well as food. This has nothing to do with the beans specifically, but will help with gas in general.
Drink plenty of water. Drinking water helps reduce gas.
Exercise. Working out regularly can also help beat the bloat.
I hope you can make good use of these tips! Just remember that every time you choose beans over meat, you’re not only benefiting your body, but also reducing your carbon footprint, water usage, and fossil fuel consumption! You win, and so does the rest of the world!
Have a splendid day, everyone!