The People's Perspective on Medicine

De-Gas Beans with Soft Drink

Q. Many years ago I started using a rather unusual method for de-gassing beans. When it is time to soak the beans overnight I use Sprite or its generic equivalent instead of water. I then rinse the beans with water prior to cooking.

This method virtually eliminates the gas problem and there is no difference in the taste. This is one way to enjoy a good bean soup and not have to worry about the after-effects.

A. You offer an interesting twist on a familiar practice. Indigestible sugars in the coating of the beans are responsible for most bean-related flatulence. To minimize these compounds, soak beans in water that has been brought just to the boil, then discard the soaking water. Your technique is a variation.

Another reader suggested a different approach: “Add a potato while cooking dried beans. This works for me every time.”

Several culinary traditions also have hints that may help. Mexican cooks add the herb epazote to black beans, both for the taste and the anti-gas effect. The spices hing (asafoetida) and ginger are used in India.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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The claim that the soaking method reduces beans’ colonic gas output so much has always sounded extremely suspicious to me.
Just imagine how many people who avoid beans (and those who eat them less often) would contribute additional revenue to the baked-bean industry if this product were offered.
Yet on store shelves packed with various baked beans, I’ve never even any gas-reduced ones.
A real gas-suppressed bean would not only expand the market, it could command a premium price.
Soaking does take time and money for a company, but at an industrial level the process can be optimized for best effectiveness and efficiency using lab instruments, vs the clueless home kitchen going on rumors and never making controlled comparisons.
Which reminds me:
It would be great if the Peoples’ Pharm would gently but persistently encourage their home writers to describe exactly what they compared their miracle solutions against, as none of the above folks did. It would make the comments a lot less un-useful to the many readers trying to glean some information and tell who is more credible.

I know you said this five years ago, but Good Gosh! Speaking of unuseful! OK. You want comparison? My mom made amazing beans and ham. My wife makes amazing chili. But, time and again, I found that if I cook beans like Mom and my wife did, i.e. wash the beans and throw them straight into the cooking pot, they make all of the diners into chair trumpeters within about an hour or two. Same result if I soak the beans and then cook the beans in the soaking water. Only slightly better if I use a pressure cooker – (by the way, pressure cooker manufactures strongly discourage cooking beans in them because the bean skins can plug the steam vent causing an explosion – something that never happened to me or anyone I know but it sounds kind of reasonable.)

What to do? Well, nothing is 100 percent but some methods can vastly reduce the unwanted effects. Here’s what I do: Clean, rinse, and then soak the beans over night. Rinse them VERY well in the morning. Then cook them (I like crock pots/ slow cookers.). Voila! No symphonies!

I can’t speak to the soda or bicarbonate of soda method. As I understand it, the bicarb thing is used without soaking. They just throw it with the dried-but-rinsed beans and start to cook them. I’ve used bicarb after soaking and I can’t say I saw any difference than not using it. But certainly, it caused no harm.

So to compare: I’ve cooked beans straight out of the bag many times with unpleasant results. Cooking in the soaking water is just as bad. But soaking overnight, rinsing, and then cooking makes for a much more pleasant experience and greatly reduces the fear of eating more beans. Use the bicarb if it floats your boat. One man’s opinion.

Just wondering if you wash the dried beans prior to freezing?

There is no need to soak the beans. After thoroughly washing them, bring them to a boil, and add club soda for white beans, and cola for pinto beans. The cola gives them a good, sweet flavor, but will not work well with white beans. However, if you do not want the sugar, etc. in the cola, just use the Club Soda for all.

I have always used the method of simply bringing them to a boil (after they’ve been sorted and rinsed) – then draining that water off and adding fresh, filtered water to cook. Works for me.
Had also heard of adding the bicarbonate soda… but never a soft drink. Seems like the soda would alter their taste.

Changing the water 3 times while soaking 24 hours does the trick for me. The water is used for plants.

I keep my beans in the freezer all the time so I can jump right to the cooking stage without soaking them overnight. I haven’t noticed any decrease in quality with this method so far.

Can you store the beans in the freezer for longer than 8 hours— say like a month or so??

I have found that carefully rinsing beans after an overnight soaking eliminates the gassiness — no need for any kind of pop. The freezing method sounds interesting.

Try a teaspoon of baking soda while cooking…don’t have to soak or anything.

Being from Northern New England where the usual Saturday night fare was baked beans, I remember that my mother used to parboil the beans with a tbsp of bicarbonate of soda, then drain and rinse before baking. worked great!

This is a very interesting idea. Does anyone know if it significantly changes the nutritional value of the beans? Of course, we will get more nutrition if we can digest them well and without side effects. Seems that as we age we can get away with less and less dietary indescretions. Thanks so much for this information. Also, storing in the freezer prolongs “shelf life”, though dried beans usually have a fairly long one. This could be a very great idea for people with the means to store beans in the freeze!

I recently heard that if you store dried beans in the freezer overnight (~8 hours), it breaks the insoluble fibers, eliminates the gassy element, and pre-soaking is unnecessary. I tried it and this method worked like a charm! I decided to store all my dried beans in the freezer after that. Not only is the gas-factor eliminated, but beans can be fixed in minimum time.

I wonder if plan club soda would be useful. I have pre-diabetes and would want to stay away from using so much sugar from the Sprite.

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