Six tips for reducing gas from beans

pulses(Not the sexiest post title I’ve ever written, that’s for sure!)

Dried beans and legumes have a lot going for them nutritionally: They’re high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. People who eat more legumes generally have a higher overall diet quality, reduced risk factors for disease, and are more likely to be a healthy weight. That’s why eating more legumes is part of my 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade program.

Unfortunately, beans can also be the source of intense digestive discomfort. One breast-feeding mom in my 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade group found to her dismay that eating legumes even gave her baby gas pains! Not cool.

While attending this year’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Nashville, I had a chance to grill Jessie Hunter, the Director of Research for the American Pulse Association for her best advice.

Here are a few tips on how to reduce the uncomfortable side effects of eating beans–all of which should help reduce the effects on nursing babies, as well.

  1. Try lentils. The gas we experience after eating legumes is a by-product of the bacterial fermentation of certain large sugar molecules found in beans. But some types legumes are higher in these sugars than others. Chick peas are among the highest in gas-producing sugars; Lentils are among the lowest.
  2. Easy does it. Increase your intake of beans gradually, beginning with small amounts and increasing your serving sizes over time.
  3. Give it time. Although you may initially experience some additional gas when you add legumes to your diet, research has found that this effect diminishes dramatically if you continue to include them in your diet on a regular basis.
  4. Slow down and chew more thoroughly. Enzymes in your saliva along with the mechanical action of chewing helps break down carbohydrates more thoroughly before they reach your intestinal tract, resulting in less gas formation. When you eat quickly, you also tend to swallow more air, which ends up in your colon and has to get out somehow.
  5. Use an OTC enzyme supplement to help break down the gas-producing sugars in beans. Beano is one well-known brand but any supplement containing alpha-galactosidase will work.
  6. Rinse all canned beans before using them. This reduces the amount of gas-producing sugars. (It also cuts down on sodium.)
  7. Soak twice and discard the water. If you’re cooking beans from scratch, place them in hot water and allow to soak for several hours before cooking.  A second soak using fresh water can reduce the offending sugars even further. Discard the soaking water and use fresh water to cook the beans.

32 thoughts on “Six tips for reducing gas from beans

  1. Good tips. However, I’m confused. How would eating beans give your baby gas? If gas is a byproduct of bacterial fermentation, then gas is caused by the beans going into the digestive system, not the breast milk. Right? Isn’t this like saying drinking chocolate milk will make your breast milk brown?

    1. That’s funny. I had the exact same conversation with the Director of Research for the American Pulse Association. If some of these oligosaccharides are absorbed into the bloodstream from the small intestine, then they could potentially be passed to the baby in the breast milk, and then they end up in the baby’s intestines, where the microbes digest it and produce gas.

      1. doesn’t make much sense to me. These sugars are indigestibles, so they shouldn’t pass into the bloodstream. If they are broken down by bacterials and are absorbed, they become like all other digestible sugars and chemically indistinguishable from other sources. Probably a single anecdoctal report from a mom is not enough to make scientific evidence.

        1. “I had the exact same conversation with the Director of Research for the American Pulse Association” Imagine thinking you know better than the head scientist of an organization specifically devoted to the consumption of beans. I think you’re the one doing Facebook research.

          1. While the argument that undigested sugars cannot pass to bloodstream is incorrect, the response of “just listen to the expert” is not constructive, since A.experts can be wrong and B.without a plausible mechanism to explain absorption from the small intestine, we should not just take their response for granted.

    2. It is actually well established that eating foods like beans, onions, cabbage, peppers etc. will cause colic in breastfed babies. Anything that causes gas production in the mother can pass on to the baby via the milk. Thankfully there are things that can help, like drinking catmint tea. 🙂

  2. I think excess gas from beans should be seen as a signal that your body needs to “learn” to digest them. You need to change the gut microbiome so that it’s working to help you digest them. The going slow tip really does work. I have also found that canned beans create much more gas than the dried kind that I have soaked and discarded the water.

    1. For years, I have brought my prepped beans, covered with cold water then then add 1 table spoon apple cider vinegar. Bring the water JUST to a boil. Remove from heat and let completely cool.

      Strain all the liquid out and then rinse well. They will still be firm and not noticably soften.

      Now they are ready to use in the recipe of choice. I always add back a tablespoon of vinegar. My brother avoided beans because his gut always reacted, no matter what he did. This worked for him. Note: only bring to a rolling boil before removing from heat.

    2. Leaning to digest them is NOT a thing. I am almost 60 and eat black beans on the weekly because they are good for you. I go through excruciating GAS pain. I have tried the “learn to digest” guess what…doesn’t work. Try again. Remember that what works for one person doesn’t work with another.

  3. They say 12 to 24 hours prior cooking them…didn’t worked at all for me. will keep trying as I want to try a plant based diet on the term. Any tips are welcomed 😉

    1. You may try soaking in hot water and changing the water 2-3 times over 12 hours. Every new water being hot (60 deg Celsius should be OK).

      1. I have a lot of respect for canned beans of all types. The manufacturers have a ‘bean lab’ on site where they test batch by batch the doneness and other factors before canning. They store well, and do not outdate as dried beans will do (they become impossible to soften fully). I drain and rinse mine thoroughly before cooking in a sauce at a simmer for about 20min, with half stick of Kombu. Provides iodine and seem more digestable.

  4. I will try soaking the beans bf cooking them next time to reduce the offending sugars!
    FYI, I cooked my beans with a little sprinkled of salt in the Crock-Pot over night – Next morning I have tendered beans.

  5. In support of the comment about gas transferred to baby via breast milk, I can affirm this happened to me years ago. My young breastfed baby was being seen by a nurse and I happened to say that my baby had been passing gas at an extraordinary rate. The nurse asked if I’d eaten beans or corn the previous day and I said I had, and the nurse said that was no doubt what caused gas in my baby.

  6. Soak them with a small amt of baking soda and sprinkle a pinch of baking soda in them while they are cooking. You can see the gas bubbles! It does not change the taste and gas is greatly reduced.

  7. soak the beans for several months hours until you see bubbles in water,pour the water and rinse before boiling

  8. I still get severe, debilitating flatulence from beans and I have been eating beans for years and years. I have done the soaking, the baking soda, taking enzymes, proper food combining but no matter what, they make my gas intolerable. I guess I am the outlier. 🙁

    1. Some people really do have increased sensitivity. That’s too bad that you can’t enjoy them. Sounds like you’ve tried everything. How do you do with tofu?

    2. In Brazil they cook bay leaves with beans . I’ve found it does help with gas. My daughter, who lives in Brazil says asafoetida works too. Soaking important!

    3. When you cook your beans put in either 1/2 baking potato or a small potato. Discard the potato when you serve. This is an old family secret, you will never have gas from eating them

    1. I can’t imagine why the pressure would affect the oligosaccharides one way or the other. I think introducing beans and lentils gradually (small servings) and eating them consistently would probably be more helpful.

  9. I sprout my beans and lentils. It makes them much higher in nutrition and easier on the stomach. Obviously you can’t do this with canned beans.

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