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What You Should Know About Beans and the (Embarrassing) Gas They Cause

Beans and legumes make up an essential part of the Mediterranean diet. They protect your body against heart disease, cancer, dementia, and other chronic illnesses.

Beans have an issue with digesting their sugars because that usually creates a fragrant, musical byproduct, gas or flatulence.

Can you avoid such tooting horns and nasty odor?

Integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov, MD, says,  “No studies have yet shown that a particular method of soaking or cooking beans prevents flatulence,”

“But that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with different methods or different legumes.”

Consuming more legumes means consuming enough fiber

If your doctor instructs you to eat more beans, then that extra fiber you eat translates to gas.

“Beans, legumes and soy each contain 6 to 8 grams of fiber per half-cup,”. If you begin consuming 1 cup of beans each day, that’s a big increase.

Normally, gas levels will get back to normal once you start eating legumes on a regular basis.

Does the type of beans matter?

In a review of 3 studies, it was found that different legumes generate different amounts of gas.

Researchers made comparisons of the flatulence people reported after 8 weeks of eating one-half cup of beans in various combinations:

  • Pinto beans.
  • Black-eyed peas.
  • Vegetarian baked beans.
  • Canned carrots.

In week 1, black-eyed peas caused less flatulence than pinto beans and baked beans.

But after week 3 to 4, flatulence levels for all the beans became normal since people adjusted to the added fiber.

“People vary in their response to different legumes,” Dr Todorov says. “So if one type of bean gives you problems, switch to another to see if it gives you less gas.”

Even the control group, who ate baked carrots only, also reported gassiness. This is because carrots contain fiber as well. But gas levels subsequently returned to normal for them, too.

Soaking beans before cooking: Does it help?

Researchers in India examined 5 different ways of soaking beans:

  • Plain water for 6 hours.
  • Plain water for 6 hours.
  • Water plus baking soda (1/16 teaspoon per quart) for 6 hours.
  • Water plus baking soda for 12 hours.

For each experiment, they measured the levels of gas-producing substances that remained in the beans.

They found that the beans soaked for 12 hours had the fewest amounts of gas. It didn’t matter if they were soaked in plain water or water mixed with baking soda.

“But remember to avoid cooking the beans in the baking soda water,” says Dr Todorov. This may cause some of the vitamins in the beans to disappear.

What about adding herbs?

You may have been taught at home ( can be generational) to add one of the herbs below when boiling beans to render them more digestible:

  • Ginger
  • Peppermint
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Cumin seeds
  • Onion

Though with no scientific backing, “There is no harm in trying any of these methods,” says Dr Todorov.

Herbs such as these ones are part of the Mediterranean diet. They make your dish tasty and also help facilitate digestion.

 Why you shouldn’t give up on beans

Never avoid beans because of gassiness. They are delicious and nutritious soups, stews, chili and lots of other popular global dishes.

According to Dr Todorov, “In one seven-year study, legume consumption was the most important predictor of survival in people aged 70 and older,”

You may find that some beans digest easier than others. Find out the type of beans that suit you best, and keep enjoying them.


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