Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot. The lyrics to the classic childhood song may be silly but, as anyone who’s over-indulged in the bean dip knows, those words can be embarrassingly accurate. However, what’s considered impolite is actually a sign your digestion is on track.
“Beans have soluble fiber, insoluble fiber and amino acids,” says Gretchen George, RD and professor at San Francisco State University. “We need these for healthy balance in our gut and amino acids for protein building.”
We know that beans are so good for you. The real question is: Why do they make you fart so much?
“Flatulence often occurs for two reasons,” explains George. “First, a person is not used to eating fiber.” In this case, George suggests adding it to a diet more regularly and gradually increasing the amount over time.
“Second, the diversity of the microbes in the gut may be low. Eating more probiotics to populate the gut and more prebiotics to feed the microbes in the gut will help.”
Think of these microbes as a microscopic farting factory in the human digestive system. Everyone has naturally occurring microbes in their intestines. When carbohydrates come down the pipe by eating high-fiber foods, like beans (a natural prebiotic), the microbes feed on those carbs and it’s that feeding that creates the gas. The gas then allows our bodies to absorb the nutrients in the food.
To all the people following the latest diet trend to avoid beans (yes, Paleo-people, this means you) you’re missing out on some seriously health-inducing farts.
When you crunch the numbers, beans add up to be about as caloric as lean meat. The difference is that beans are mostly water and fiber, which makes you feel full longer. One cup of pinto beans has 15 grams of fiber (about 62% of your RDA) and 245 calories. The same portion of lean chicken breast has 231 calories and lean tri-tip has a whopping 970 calories, but both provide zero fiber.
“The bulking component of fiber can make a person feel more full and also metabolically have more stability with blood glucose,” says George. “This aides in control of hunger, thus helping with weight loss.”
Losing weight is obviously the goal for many, but that’s only one of the tootin’ benefits of a bean-heavy diet. While good for the waistline, beans may also help in decreasing your chances of serious diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease since being overweight increases the likelihood of developing these diseases. It’s also been proven to lower cholesterol.
Beans are good for you because they make you fart and farting is really good for you. However, does anyone really want to be breaking wind with every step, shimmy and squat? Unless you’re a caveman, the answer is likely no. So there’s a few things you can do about it:
1. COOK THE BEANS YOURSELF
While canned beans are convenient, you have zero control over the amount of gas-producing starch in them. Try buying good-quality dried beans and then soaking and cooking them yourself.
2. CHANGE THE WATER
Ideally, beans need to soak before cooking, preferably overnight, so they can absorb water and soften. By changing the water a couple of times while they soak, you help remove the excess starch. Then simmer them (using another round of clean water) until tender. Most beans won’t need more than 20 minutes to half an hour if they’re well hydrated, so most of the effort is the ‘set it and forget it’ type.
3. ADD GINGER OR ORANGES
Some people think adding a bit of raw ginger or eating oranges before you eat the beans helps, too. We’re not sure about this, but it’s an old wives’ tale so why not try it? In the end, everyone’s gut is different and will have different reactions. So try both and see how it works for you.
Above all, the next time you’re out and about and feel the need to let one go, don’t be shy. Like a burp is a compliment to the chef, your booty is just ripping you a big message of thanks for giving it the good stuff.
Thanks to Amy Machnak and the myfitnesspal blog for this great article. I’m so glad to have a good reason to talk about farts.