Beans, beans the. . .

Phaseolous BeansCredit: wikimedia

Spilling the beans is one of those idiomatic phrases that probably started with the ancient Greeks. Unanimous votes were voted with white and black beans. The white were for, or positive, and the black were against, or negative. If the bean collector happened to "spill the beans" (like a container of bean votes tumbles) and a black bean was seen, then the vote was stopped. Of course that is just a story that has come to mean, to divulge a secret, either inadvertently or maliciously.  The spiller (one who divulges) may be full of beans himself. That has come to mean that he is not credible. Bean language has appeared in English for as long as beans have been eaten!

Perhaps the most famous bean language is the old children's rhyme:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit

The more you eat, the more you toot

The more you toot, the better you feel

So we have beans at every meal!

There are other versions that you may even be unconsciously repeating. The very funny thing about the verse is that beans are not a fruit, or even musical. The rhyme just reinforces the profound effect of beans on the digestive system. In short, flatulence or gas gives beans a funny aura and a bad smell. Why, one wonders, should I divulge in the beans tonite, or wait until I am dining alone?

The fartlore actually has some science along with the myth. Legumes contain a chemical called oligosaccharides. They are sugar molecules that are hard for humans to digest. By the time the undigested legumes hit the lower intestines the large bacterial population does the work that the upper intestines failed at. However, the process gives off various gases as waste products. Thus, the fartlore lives on. There is more to the science because some beans have a lower oligosaccharide content than others, yet they have a higher gas activity. Bummer, since navy and lima beans are the most trouble - peanuts the least. Yes, peanuts are types of legumes. The legumes list is plentiful, and shall be portrayed later in this article. Meanwhile, what to do about dismantling the explosive effects of bean eating.

Anti-Gas Tips

  • Cook legumes in earthenware because the clay absorbs the troublesome elements. Many countries use earthenware like; Spain, Italy, Mexico, Greece, and North Africa. Certainly the cooks know it works.
  • Cook the beans with alkaline ingredients like; spinach, dandelion, wild chicory or chard. Blanche, squeeze dry, and add during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
  • Add a small amount of baking soda to the water that the legumes are being cooked in.
  • Serve in moderation, and include fresh ginger to increase the digestive process.
  • Always soak beans in cold water for 4 hours at the least. If the water gets warm, change it with fresh cold water to help prevent fermentation. The longer the beans soak, the more oligosaccharides come out. Drain, rinse, and discard the water before cooking the beans.
  • Precook or blanche the common beans like; kidney, black beans, pinto, and cannellini. This can easily be accomplished by placing the beans in an earthenware pot (or a heavy pot), cover with cold water and a pinch of baking soda, bring to a boil, cook for 5 minutes, then rinse and drain with cold water. This preliminary step really helps dried beans to be more digestible and less flatulent. Actually it is a good thing to do with any dried beans. Continue to cook the beans per the recipe or freeze the beans for later use.

Not all cooks agree with soaking dried beans before cooking. There are charts for which beans to soak for how long, and even quick soak methods. Personally, I have found that soaking beans first is a lot better on the digestive tract than not soaking. One cook doesn't like that black beans get lighter in color when soaked. That is true, but I still like them just as well soaked first. Really, one must experiment for oneself to soak or not to soak.

A Legumes List

  1. lentils
  2. peasGreen Beans(99443)Credit: wikimedia
  3. pintos
  4. wax beans
  5. green beans
  6. black turtle beans
  7. snow peas
  8. sugar snap peas
  9. chickpeas
  10. favas
  11. soybeans
  12. black-eyed peas
  13. peanuts
  14. yellow split mung beans
  15. adzuki beans
  16. cranberry beans
  17. haricot verts
  18. rice beans
  19. asparagus beans
  20. cannellini

The above list of legumes is actually short for all the beans in this world. They have been a diet staple with humans forever. That is because they are easy to grow, store, are inexpensive, and do have some essential nutrients. Lentils are among the oldest known food, and have been cultivated for around 10,000 years in the Middle East. They are very easy to digest. A favorite lentil recipe is for lentil soup.

Lentil Soup Recipe for a good protein source and a delicious meal:
2 TB olive oil
1 diced onion
2 diced celery stalks
2 peeled and diced carrots
1 minced clove garlic
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (use low-sodium if you want)
1 16 oz bag of dried brown lentils - picked over, rinsed, and drained (remember use cold water)
1 ½ tsp curry powder
salt and pepper to taste

1) Heat olive oil in a soup pot. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring often until vegetables are soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
2) Stir in broth, lentils and curry powder. Increase heat to bring to a boil. Reduce heat to cook at a simmer until lentils are soft, 25 minutes or longer. If lentils were soaked and blanched before, then the cooking time will be less.
3) Transfer half the soup (or as much as you want) to a blender and puree. Return to soup pot, salt and pepper, and serve. Enjoy!

Bean BenefitsBeans on ToastCredit: wikimedia
Although beans are high in carbs, their high fiber content brings their net carbs to a moderate level. Fiber helps prevent some colon diseases and minimize cancer and diabetes risks. They are an excellent source of B vitamins, especially folate which is helpful in protecting against heart disease. They are higher in protein than any other plant food, and contain minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, and potassium). Plus, beans on toast are delightful.

So, follow the rhyme, and at least incorporate beans in a daily meal!