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.


13 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.

    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.

  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 😉

  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.

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