Beans are a great source of inexpensive protein, and rather filling. But beans have a nasty side as some people can have some serious issues with beans. Yes, there is the potential for bloating, gas, indigestion and cramping, after eating bean. However, more of a problem is that beans contain a substance phytic acid that can strip your body of minerals.
It is the difficultly to digest beans that is the biggest problem. Even though older cultures have taught us to use slow cooking methods, to ferment and to soak beans to make them more digestible. Still, digesting beans are a problem.
To make things even more worse, kidney and navy beans has oligosaccharides, besides that they contain phytic acid. Oligosaccharides is a complex sugar that is impossible to digest without some assistance. This is since humans are not able to produce an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase, which is able to break these beans down. Without these enzymes, these complex sugars, oligosaccharides will reach the lower intestine in their solid form, and then combine with anaerobic bacteria to produce methane and carbon dioxide gases.
There are some things you can do to ensure better digestion.
Firstly, prepare your bean correctly. A few days prior to cooking them, sprout your lentils and garbanzo beans. For other types of legumes, you do not need to sprout them, but you can move directly to the second step, that of soaking the beans for at least 48 hours. Yep, 48 hours, and not just over night. This means that you should soak the beans, in one-part beans and three parts water, for up to three days, in alkaline and very warm water. In fact, the longer you soak them, the easier it would be to digest the beans. Also avoid hard water, rather use filter water if you are unsure what type of water you have. Either way, if you presoak your beans yourself instead of buying the canned versions of beans, you can save a lot of money and they will taste so much nicer. Also, to avoid cans you can cut out the risk of BPA lining from the cans getting into your food.
During the time, your beans are soaking, change the water regularly. Three time a day should do, as changing the water more often, allows you to discard any anti-nutrients leeched from the beans.
Then cook the beans slowly, and over a long period over a low heat in stock. You could use a slow cooker. By doing, this allows that the hard to digest fibers can be broken down.
Once your beans are ready to serve, add some fermented foods, like sauerkraut to your beans but you can also serve the beans with kombu. Kombo is a seaweed vegetable that contains the enzyme that can break down oligosaccharides, which helps to make beans digestible.
If you feel that pre-soaking the beans and then cooking those takes too long, and you want to go the canned route, then make sure the beans from the cans are rinsed thoroughly. The reason is since the juice in the cans, if left with the beans, could enhance the chances of flatulence. Therefore, if this is a side effect of you eating beans rinse and rinse some more to make it easily on yourself.
In addition, if you add-in other protein sources you will make the beans more digestible. Add your beans to quinoa, rice, or you could even add it to barley so you can digest them better. By adding them to another protein source, you are also making sure that you add the missing amino acids that beans lack, to form a complete protein.
You should not salt your beans when you are going to cook them. If you want to flavor the beans, then do that after you have prepared them. Sure, adding in salt will speed up the cooking times, but the texture will be tougher, and you will reduce the digestibility of the beans.
To add flavor, but also to help with digestion, you can add some spices to your beans. Ginger, asafetida and fennel for instance can help to change the enzymatic properties of beans, thereby making beans easier to break down and digest.
Alternatively, you could add your beans to a soup. The liquid and broth will absorb and then cook off the problematic oligosaccharides that will increase digestion.
Similar to oligosaccharides, but not really the same thing, is that beans are resistant starch, so it cannot be digested completely. This is actually a good thing, as resistant starches are fermented by intestinal bacterial into fatty acids, and this process has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer.
The way you prepare beans have an impact on you how you digest them. They are healthy and a cheaper form of protein and other minerals. Just take care on how you prepare them.