Stalking the Magical Bean

Since ancient times, many varieties of beans have been a part of the growth & survival of cultures worldwide. Ancient Greeks believed that Apollo was responsible for ripening the crops and honored him with an annual "bean feast". The Celts also had bean celebrations called "Beanos." Cuisines around the world have been enriched by the variety of beans that were cultivated for centuries by Native Americans. In more recent American tradition, "bean feast" refers to a dinner given by a crew's boss for the laborers.

Beans - raw, dried, canned, frozen or cooked - don't lose any of their usable fiber because they remain unrefined from the field to market to your table. The soluble fiber in beans is an aid to digestion and is of the type shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. They can be beneficial in controlling weight because their ratio of calories to usable protein is very low compared to meat and dairy products. Adding beans to the diet can also prevent overeating because they absorb moisture and increase their bulk as they move through the intestines.

Beans offer the same kind of energy as other high carbohydrate foods (breads, cereals, rice, etc.) but are a boon to diabetics and hypoglycemics: eating them does not trigger a rise in blood sugar or the need for insulin production that is caused by the other high carbohydrate foods.

"it's all right now, in fact it's a gas!"
It is unfortunate that along with the bean family's myriad good points comes the problem of gas. Beans and other legumes contain poly-saccharides that we can't digest but our gas-producing gut bacteria can. Several methods exist to reduce or eliminate intestinal gas from beans.
1) Soak the beans and replace the soak water with fresh water for cooking. The complex sugars tend to leach into the water.
2) Cook beans for as long as possible. Heat breaks down the complex sugars.
3) Cooking beans with the herb epazote also breaks down some of the complex sugars.
4) Kombu, a sea vegetable, added to both the soak water and the cook water also helps break down some of these complex sugars.
Bon Appetit!

Bean Soaking and Cooking Times
TypeSoaking (Hrs.) Cooking Time
Adzuki 41 hour
Black Beans41.5 hours
Lima Beans41 to 1.5 hours
Chick-peas42 to 2.5 hours
Brown Lentils none 35 minutes
Mung Beans4.75 to 1 hour
Split Peasnone30 minutes
Pinto Beans41 hour
Red Kidney Beans41 to 1.5 hours
White (Navy) Beans 42 hours
Soybeans123 to 3.5 hours

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This page built by Ray Neff andDavid ResSeguie Last update: May 23, 1996