Cooking Beans and Lentils

By Kim Banting,

Earlier this week, I had just suggested that beans and lentils are a really great plant based protein for vegetarians, and then someone in the group asked me about….GAS!  So here I am to give some tips and much needed pointers about how certain cooking methods may help to alleviate this unfortunate problem.

Beans and lentils belong to the legume family, which includes beans, lentils, soy and peanuts.  Legumes contain starches that are referred to as galactans which are short chain fermentable carbohydrates or FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharies Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols).  Quite the mouthful!  Let’s just call them legumes and understand that they contain starches that can cause bloating and flatulence.

The good news is that there are cooking methods that will help break down these starches, making them much easier to digest.

1.  Try buying sprouted lentils and beans.  You can find them in many grocery stores now, although only a few varieties are available.  However, you can sprout your own by buying ORGANIC beans and soaking them overnight in water.  After soaking for 12 hours, drain and leave them in a mason jar or sprouting tray.  Every 12 hours, soak them again and drain until you see small tails sprouting from them.  This usually takes about 3 days.  At this point, you can now cook the legumes.  You have cut the cooking time in half by soaking for so long.  For example, green lentils which normally take 25 minutes to cook, will now cook in 10 minutes!

2.  If you haven’t planned 3 days ahead, worry not, because you can still soak your beans for 8-12 hours and you will still break down some of the starches that cause bloating.  Be sure to drain and rinse well, then add to a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then drain and rinse well again.  One last time, add to a pot and cover with 3 inches of water.  Add one or two pieces of seaweed like kombu or dulse.  Seaweeds contain all 56 essential minerals and during the cooking time, they will dissolve and enrich the beans.  Bring the beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender.  This time is different for all beans and lentils.  Lentils cook quicker; between 15-40 minutes and beans anywhere between 1-2 1/2 hours.

For some people, lentils are easier to digest than dense beans.  However, for some people, no amount of careful cooking will make them comfortable to digest and they should be avoided.  Don’t worry if you are a vegetarian though, because there are plenty of plant based protein foods to choose from: hemp hearts, quinoa, wild rice, brown rice and leafy green veggies are just a few of my favorites.