How to prepare legumes for maximum digestion & nutrient absorption

Legumes include beans, lentils and peanuts. All of them can cause…well…stinky gas. There’s a reason for this; they have components in them that make them hard to digest, causing gas, bloating and stomach cramps. (Hint: if a food gives you gas, it’s a sign your body is telling you that food isn’t being properly digested, and should either be removed from the diet or prepared to improve digestibility). Soaking legumes in water makes them more digestible because they break down the complex sugars the body usually cannot break down with its own enzymes (Fallon 60).

Soaking legumes in water with either an acidic or alkaline ingredient makes its nutrients more available for the body. It reduces the phytic acid that binds to minerals in the legumes, making the minerals less absorbable–minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It also reduces the enzyme inhibitors that prevent the digestive enzymes in our digestive tract from breaking down the nutrients in the legumes, thereby causing poor nutrient absorption and poor digestion.

What about canned beans?

Canned beans are not soaked and cooked for a long time to reduce their anti-nutrients. According to Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, the canning process does reduce phytic acid through heat and pressure. However, I personally find canned beans less digestible than those properly prepared at home.

How to prepare legumes

aduki, lima, navy, pinto or other kidney shaped bean, dried or split peas–2 cups

  1. Add just simmered filtered water to a bowl, pot or jar of beans with at least 2 inches to cover.
  2. Mix in a pinch of baking soda.
  3. Soak 18-24 hours (at least overnight. peas only need overnight) covered just to keep the water warm as along as possible.
  4. You can change out the water one time, adding new simmered water and baking soda.
  5. Drain and rinse. Place into a pot with a 2 inch strip of kombu. Cover with 2 inches filtered water. Kombu is dried kelp. You can buy in a package in the Asian section of the natural food store.
  6. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Reduce heat to low.
  7. Cover and cook 1 to 1½ hours until tender.

Black turtle beans–2 cups

  1. Add just simmered filtered water to a bowl, pot or jar of beans with at least 2 inches to cover.
  2. Mix in 2 T  whey, lemon juice or vinegar (like apple cider vinegar).
  3. Soak 18 to 24 hours (at least overnight) covered just to keep the water warm as along as possible.
  4. You can change out the water one time, adding new simmered water and acidic medium.
  5. Drain and rinse. Place into a pot with a 2 inch strip of kombu. Cover with 2 inches filtered water. Kombu is dried kelp. You can buy in a package in the Asian section of the natural food store.
  6. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Reduce heat to low.
  7. Cover and cook 1 to 1½ hours until tender.

Chickpeas–1 cup (makes 3 cups)

  1. Add just simmered filtered water to a bowl, pot or jar of beans with at least 2 inches to cover.
  2. Mix in 2 T  whey,* lemon juice or vinegar (like apple cider vinegar).
  3. Soak 24 to 48 hours.
  4. You can change out the water one time, adding new simmered water and acidic medium.
  5. Drain and rinse. Place into a pot covered with 2 inches filtered water.
  6. Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Reduce heat to low.
  7. Cover and cook 4 hours until tender.
  8. Place cooked chickpeas in a bowl of cold water. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins. Pour off the water and skins.

Lentils–2 cups

  • Add just simmered filtered water to a bowl, pot or jar of beans with at least 2 inches to cover.
  • Mix in 2 T  whey, lemon juice or vinegar (like apple cider vinegar).
  • Soak 10 to 12 hours (at least overnight).
  • Drain and rinse. Place into a pot covered with 3 cups filtered water.
  • Bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Reduce heat to low.
  • Cook uncovered for 40 minutes to an hour.

*How to make your own whey: strain some yogurt through a cheesecloth or nutmilk bag. The liquid that comes out is whey. The solid is yogurt cream cheese, or something like Greek yogurt.

You can purchase a beautifully designed chart created by traditional foods chef and instructor Monica Corrado of Simply Being Well to post on your fridge. The Preparing Whole Grains & Legumes for Ease of Digestion and Nutrient Availability chart lays out how to soak and cook most grains and legumes in an easy-to-read format.

How much will soaking reduce the anti-nutrients?

The general understanding is that soaking as outlined above does not reduce the phytic acid completely. In The Paleo Cure, Chris Kresser says it only reduces by 8 to 20% (Kresser 191). Sprouting reduces it even more, and fermenting reduces it almost completely. This applies to nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. I heard there are studies to prove this, but they were never quoted.

If you choose to eat legumes often, it would be best to prepare them by at least soaking them according to the above instructions to get more nutrition out of them.


Source: Fallon, Sally with Mary G. Enig. Nourishing Traditions: The cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Brandywine, MD: New Trends Publishing, 2001.

Kresser, Chris. The Paleo Cure. New York: Little Brown & Company, 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

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