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Improving Legume's Digestibility

Posted Oct 06 2009 10:02pm
Beans are supernatural foods. They are a good source of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Unfortunately, people are afraid to use them because of its sometimes nasty oligosaccharides, sugar molecules in beans that are responsible for flatulence. But there are ways to make more beans stomach friendly.

Soak the beans. Aside from speeding up the cooking process, soaking beans begin the sprouting process which removes the phytic acid that prevents minerals from being absorbed. Soaking improves digestibility because certain gas-causing enzymes and trisaccharides (are oligosaccharides composed of three monosaccharides with two glycosidic bonds connecting them - that's according to wikepidia) in legumes are released into the soak water. Although soaking removes vitamins, minerals and flavor especially if you discard the soaking water, it does improve digestibility and reduces the cooking time. For best results, change the water 1-2 times.

You can also add two teaspoons of whey, yogurt, buttermilk or kefir to the water with the beans to allow a little bit of fermentation This helps break down complex proteins and nutrients into their simpler, more digestible forms. Just make sure you don't over soak the beans.

Cook with herbs and spices. One of the healing benefits of herbs and spices is improved digestion. For instance fennel or cumin helps prevent gas. But it also depends on the cuisine. For example, Mexican cooks pair epazote with black beans while East Indian cooks add turmeric, ginger to dals and other dishes.

Use kombu or kelp. It improves flavor and digestion, increased nutrients and faster cooking. Kombu contains glutamic acid which helps soften the beans. Use about 1-inch piece dry kombu for every cup of dried beans.

Scoop off and discard foam. The foam is mainly consists of protein, caused by the agitation of the water. Scooping them out also reduces the gas-producing effects.

Cook beans slowly and gently. It may take long to cook but long, slow cooking breaks down beans’ carbohydrates into digestible sugars. They have to be soft and tender not crunchy.

Combine legumes with green or non-starchy vegetables and seaweeds. If you are suffering from poor digestion, combining legumes with heavy starch leads to disaster later on. So far, I’ve never encountered any problems with my own digestive system. Listening to your own body and heeding the signs is always the smartest move.

Add some acid. If gas persists, add a little bit of apple-cider, brown rice or white wine vinegar into the water in the last stages of cooking legumes.

Chew properly. People shove food into their mouth and swallow without chewing. Digestion starts in the mouth.

A little bit goes a long way. Too much can cause weak legs, a bulging stomach and gas pain.

Eat more. Eat small amounts frequently. Your digestive system will adjust to this new bean diet.

For Gout Sufferers:

There’s always a warning for gout sufferers to avoid beans. I couldn’t say which beans you should avoid because the only people who will know which foods to avoid are those are actually experiencing it. People react differently to different foods that contain purines. My brothers do react to certain foods but when they tried eating small amounts of beans, they never had a reaction. Adzuki beans are one of the beans that are actually good in discharging uric acid from the body. But always use with caution.

If you want to learn more on how to cook beans, check out Rouxbe Online Cooking School on How to Cook Dried Legumes. Cooking your own beans is absolutely great and you'll be glad you did.

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