The People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Prepare No-Gas Beans

Pre-soaking beans and discarding the water is one approach to making no-gas beans. This can allow you to enjoy the benefits of legumes without the downside.

You may have heard about the benefits of dietary fiber, but such diets have one drawback: flatulence. That’s why our readers get excited about no-gas beans.

How Fiber Helps the Heart:

People who consume diets rich in fiber are less susceptible to heart problems, especially after a heart attack. Harvard epidemiologists analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (Li et al, BMJ, online April 29, 2014). The investigators reviewed dietary information from approximately 4,000 men and women who had survived a heart attack. Total daily fiber intake was calculated and the volunteers were followed for nine years.

Those who consumed the most dietary fiber were 15% less likely to die during the study. Beans and legumes have lots of fiber and provided protection. Fiber from grain, such as wheat bran, was even more effective, dropping the risk of death by 28% for those who ate the most. Those who increased their fiber intake after suffering a heart attack were able to boost their chances of survival.

Beans for the Heart:

Previous research has shown that beans contribute to a heart-healthy diet. Many organizations recommend that people with diabetes limit their consumption of fat. As a result, the diet tends to be rather high in carbohydrates. Some experts believe that this dietary pattern increases insulin resistance and makes control of type 2 diabetes more challenging.

A randomized study of 120 individuals with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that a low glycemic-index diet containing a cup of beans, chickpeas or lentils daily helped lower blood pressure, modestly improved blood sugar control and reduced risk factors for heart disease (Archives of Internal Medicine, Nov.26. 2012). The volunteers followed a diet containing a cup of beans daily or a diet containing a number of whole-grain foods such as breakfast cereal, whole wheat bread or brown rice. After three months, those on the bean diet had lowered their HbA1c and their blood pressure more than those on the whole-grain diet. The authors concluded that adding beans to a low G-I diet might be a relatively easy way for people with diabetes to reduce their likelihood of heart disease.

You may not find that whole grains such as steel-cut oats or bulgur wheat cause digestive distress. But plenty of people have problems with gas after they eat a big helping of beans. One reader came to the rescue with instructions.

How Can You Fix No-Gas Beans?

Q. You recently wrote about how to prepare no-gas beans. You did not share my strategy. It never fails!

Cover beans with water and bring to a boil. Add one teaspoon of baking soda and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. Pour off the water. Add new water and seasonings and cook until done. You will have no-gas beans.

A. Thank you for your suggestion. Others have suggested a slightly different strategy. Use nine parts water to one-part beans. Bring beans to a boil and cook for three minutes. Allow the beans to cool for four hours and discard the water. Add fresh water and heat for half an hour. Once again, discard the cooking water. Finally, add more fresh water, cook until the beans are done and discard the water the last time.

Some people find that Beano is also helpful in counteracting gas production. This product contains alpha-galactosidase which breaks down the complex sugars in beans (oligosaccharides) that give rise to flatulence.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I also have flatulence with beans, but this is how I successfully eliminate it (pun intended!)
I always discard the soak water before cooking the beans,
I cook the beans with about 1 T of chopped dried Kombu seaweed. My understanding is that it binds the sulfur that creates gas in the gut. I also use 1 t baking soda, but in my cook water. I find it helps the beans get soft. I prefer them soft through, rather than al dente.

Since there is talk about avoiding lectins from foods especially from beans I understand the soaking and pouring the water off greatly reduces lectins.

I have found that Beano was only mildly effective so I tried Gas-X to see if it made a difference. It did. I eat a high fiber cereal in the morning and at dinner time I have lentils and to vary my diet I switch to barley–precooked variety. I am not happy that I have added another pill to take but under the circumstances I will continue to take the pill. I did read that eventually the body can adjust to the diet and the flatulence will abate on its own. I hope so.

I always make no gas beans, I cook the beans for 30-min then I rinse the beans in clear water put them back in the pot add herbs and spices cook until tender, I like your suggestion of baking soda I’ll try it, Thank you.

How about adding also the herb, epazote. This is a traditional method used in Mexico, where, believe me, they eat lots of beans! Epazote gives a specific Mexican flavor to the beans, as well as relieving the gas problem somewhat.

I have also been told that adding vinegar OR Ginger will also reduce gas

In reading your article on “no-gas beans,” I had to wonder if, in fact, flatulence plays a role in good digestion. It seems the air would make bowel movements easier and potentially less dense? And perhaps flatulence is a sign of healthy bacteria in the gut?

Many yrs ago my mother in law told her daughter to poke a hole in each bean to let the gas out. She was teasing of course but the look on my sister-in-law’s face was priceless.

I have to wonder if soaking, pre-cooking, and discarding the water from beans several times means discarding vitamins and nutrients as well. Has anyone looked into that?

I have always rinsed canned beans under cold running water until the bubbles disappear. Helps cut down on the gas problem.

I’ve used the same baking soda method described in your article (adding a tsp of baking soda, cooking, disposing of water, add fresh water and continue cooking) and can testify it always works. Plus, the more frequently you eat beans, seems the more likely your system gets used to them, and the threat of flatulence tapers off over time; you won’t need any special cooking methods.

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