Soaking Legumes

Beans are an essential component to any plant-based diet. They’re loaded with protein and fiber and add heft and heartiness to any meal. Did you know that there are more than 800 varieties of beans? Holy abundance!

What you may not realize is that the more you eat beans, the better you feel. And there are many things you can do to make friends with this fibrous food if you find that they cause some digestive discomfort. (Get loads of tips here!) Since I’m such a huge fan of these thrifty, nourishing and tasty members of the plant family, I feel a little education on this pantry staple is in order. And I turned to my handy-dandy cookbook, Crazy Sexy Kitchen for some assistance…

Let’s start with the basics. How do you choose the best beans?

Dried or canned? 

Buy dried beans in bulk (saves money!) and store them in mason jars. But it’s always good to have a few cans around for those times when you haven’t soaked your beans and are in a rush. When buying canned beans look for BPA-free products without preservatives, such as calcium disodium EDTA. Also, try to use low-sodium varieties and make sure to rinse them well (no need to pickle yourself!). 

How to prep for ultimate pep!

First, let’s learn about enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. Beans, seeds, and legumes contain enzyme inhibitors, which delay germination (when a plant emerges from its seed and sings, “Hello, world!”). In nature, rain triggers germination. If we eat these foods before soaking, then it hasn’t “rained” yet and the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid are still intact. Who cares? Your belly!

Enzyme inhibitors block and bind with our digestive and metabolic enzymes. What are they? Digestive enzymes help to break down our food, while metabolic enzymes support every amazing function in our bodies. Bottom line, we don’t want to mess with them. Soaking beans triggers germination which neutralizes enzyme inhibitors.

Phytic acid in the body decreases our ability to absorb key minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals are crucial for peppy health. Soaking our beans until they germinate activates the chemical phytase, which is an enzyme that neutralizes phytic acid. Voilà!  Read more on phytic acid here

How to cook your beans

Step 1: Draw Your Beans A Bath

Place them into a bowl filled with water. Swish the little suckers around, strain, and repeat until the water is clear. This helps to remove dusty residue and the occasional dead bug (ew!), not to mention stones. Yup, from time to time you might find a little rock in your batch. Protect your choppers with a quick sift.

Step 2: Soak, Soak, Soak!

As we just mentioned, soaking your beans overnight will greatly reduce enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid, making them easier to digest (less toots!). Just be sure to use fresh water for cooking. Even if you can only soak them for a few hours, it helps and your body will thank you. And get this: soaking beans for around 18 hours can reduce phytic acid by 50 to 70 percent. Dang! Plus, soaking your beans first will reduce cooking time.

Bean Bonus: Adding a piece of kombu (seaweed) increases the effectiveness of this process.

Step 3: Boil, Baby!

Just about all dry beans have a similar cooking method. Start with cold water and beans in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cover the pot, leaving the lid tilted just enough to allow some steam to escape. Beans are done when they are tender and the skin is still intact.

Tip time: What’s Up With Salt?

Salt pulls moisture from beans, so wait until they’re almost tender then add salt to the cooking water. You’ll avoid adding too much sodium, which would just get lost during the cooking process.

Your Ultimate Bean Chart
Get your bean facts at a glance, plus cooking tips with your fun and fabulous Crazy Sexy Guide to Beans! See Kris Carr’s chart on this page.

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