Updated: May 27, 2020
Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, navy beans... I love them all! In moderation, beans are an amazing source of soluble and insoluble fiber which helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut (aka prebiotic). Fiber also helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable, reduce triglycerides and can even help prevent insulin resistance.
Many beans also have a high antioxidant and flavonoid content that keeps your cells healthy and protected from free-radical damage. Beans also contain minerals that are used for essentially every function in your body, including nerve transmission, heart function and immune maintenance. I eat beans a few times a week - especially as a topping for my Cauliflower Rice Burrito Bowls.
But what about bloating?
There's a carbohydrate in beans that your body can't break down called oligosaccharides. Because your body can't break it down, it can cause bloating in your lower GI tract. Of course, bloating is not comfortable and we want to avoid it as much as possible - but then how do we get all of the benefits of beans without any of the bloat?
Old World Tips
Like I mentioned above, I really like beans. But I hated how I would feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating them! In 2013, I studied the Mediterranean Diet abroad in Italy where I researched the literature and learned authentic ways of cooking Mediterranean food. One of the tips that I brought back home with me from the little Italian village was how to properly cook beans. It turns out that the key to no bloating is to soak beans prior to cooking them. This reduces the amount of oligosaccharides in the beans so that you can eat them, bloat-free!
How to soak beans
So what does this mean? How do you soak beans? It's actually really simple, costs less than canned beans, is better for your health and tastes worlds better!
Note: This process takes 10 - 24 hours but requires minimal prep. I highly recommend trying this recipe if you have gut issues in regards to beans.
Step 1: Pick which bean you would like to cook. One of my favorites is chickpeas, but you can use any type of bean you like! A good rule of thumb is 1/4 cup dry beans = 3/4 cup cooked. You can make individual servings or a large amount to save for months at a time (See below for storing tips).
Step 2: Pour your beans in a large pot and add at least double the amount of water. So if you are using 1 cup dried beans, add at least 2 cups of water. Let sit for 8 hours or overnight.
Step 3: Drain the water and rinse the beans. Pour back into the large pot and add 3-4x the amount of water as you have beans ~ example, 4 cups water to 1 cup beans. Add about 1/2 tsp. salt and your favorite seasonings. For chickpeas, I love using 1 bunch fresh rosemary, 10 garlic cloves and 1 sliced lemon. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook for 2-4 hours, depending on how long you soaked the beans and which beans you picked.
*NOTE ~ You can also try sprouting your beans as well. This is an extra step that helps to get rid of even more of the oligosaccharides. After soaking your beans, you drain them and lay flat on a baking sheet. Rinse the beans with water every 4 hours. Allow to sit out for 24-48 hours. You'll see tiny sprouts form from the beans. After 24-48 hours, you can go back to step 3 for cooking them!
**PRO TIP ~ The easiest way to tell if beans are done cooking is by tasting them. They should be on the softer side, but still have a little bite to it (think al dente, like when you cook pasta).
***STORAGE TIP ~ I like to make a big batch and store the beans in individual glass containers in the freezer. You can make up to 6 months worth of beans at a time by storing them as individual serving sizes in your freezer!