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How To Make Beans Not Make You Fart

Updated on May 13, 2010

Make Peace With Beans With These Easy Tricks

We've all laughed at the sly jokes about chili night and sang along to the "beans, beans the magical fruit" song...but the sad truth is beans really do cause gas, and no one is immune to their powers. It's happened to the best of us, but it doesn't have to happen again. You CAN enjoy a nice healthy bean salad or a hearty lentil stew without having to keep a gas mask handy. Here's how.

First of all, why do beans make you, if I may be so bold...fart? The truth is it is not the beans themselves who are responsible for the gas and odor. Actually, it has to do with your digestive system and the bacteria that call your digestive system home. Beans contain a type of natural sugar called oligosaccharides. These are hefty molecules that are too big to be absorbed through the lining of the small intestine. Normally, molecules too large to pass through this lining are broken down by enzymes in the body. Unfortunately, the human body does not produce an oligosaccharide enzyme.

So the oligosaccarides go on their merry way to the large intestine, where the hundreds of strains of bacteria colonizing this part of your body begin to eat them and break them down. The bacteria that lives in your large intestine are not harmful to you and help your body to break down insoluble plant fibers that can't be digested. But the "help" they give your body in digesting beans can have some odoriferous side effects. As the bacteria takes in the bean sugars, they release gas.

But beans are so good for you, so full of protein and fiber and so tasty when properly prepared, that it would really be a shame not to be able to eat them. Here's how you can enjoy beans without fear:

1. Soak the beans before you cook them. Soaking smooths the skin of the beans making them easier to digest and releases all those oligosaccharides into the water instead of into your belly. How long you soak depends on the variety of beans. Chickpeas, for instance, need to be soaked 24 hours. Lentils, on the other hand, are ready in an hour or two. you can tell the beans are ready when they are smooth on the surface and have doubled in size.

2. Cook the beans until they are soft. This also makes them easier to digest and releases any leftover oligosaccharides.

3. Your mom was right about this--chew your food slowly. Chewing any kind of too fast increases risks of gas since it lets air into your digestive tract--and beans are risky enough without this added gamble.

4. Eat most of your beans in soups and stews--the added liquid will continue to help breakdown the gas-causing elements.

5. Eat beans with your main meal so that the other food helps to temper them down.

6. If you really fear an embarrassing episode, try Beano. It's actually pretty interesting how they make Beano--they extract the ant-oligosaccharide enzyme alpha-galactosidase from a mold called Aspergillus niger which produces plenty of it. And then sell it to you as Beano.

Finally, remember that you have to give your body time to make the adjustment to new dietary changes. If you were never a big bean eater and then go on a health kick and start loading up on the lentils, your digestive system will need some time to acclimate to the extra fibers and sugars. You'll probably find that if you go slow and start with small servings of beans that over time you'll experience gas less and less often.

Did You Know?

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