AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE ON BEANS-LEGUMES
The Musical Fruit
Beans could make your evening impolite. They are known as the "musical fruit" because they cause gas. A properly cooked bean, however, is easy to digest and less gaseous. Beans offer many nutritional and medicinal benefits. They are an essential source of vegetable proteins for vegetarians. Their high protein content helps rebuild muscle tissue.
Beans and legumes are plants in the pea family (Fabaceae). As with the feral varieties of many produce aisle vegetables, wild peas are generally poisonous. Slightly poisonous vegetables are economical; they are insect resistant and have a longer shelf life. A small amount of one type of poison, called saponins, are present in domesticated peas and beans. 'Sapon' means soap in French and gave name to the sudsy, gas-causing froth that appears on the surface of your pot of cooking beans. They are natural protein digestion inhibitors that protect the legume from invading insects. Saponins are on the chemicals responsible for making beans difficult to digest and thus, gassy. The saponins, however, can be removed using the process below. Beans are also rich in oligosaccharides, a starch that feeds the bacteria in your gut.
Since the primary site of protein digestion is the stomach, people who have gas after eating beans may also have an poor stomach function, and pancreatic deficiency.
Medicinal Qualities of Legumes
Beans & Water RetentionBeans are high in potassium. In Ayurvedic terms, potassium has dry quality and astringent taste. It's action is the opposite to sodium in our body, and relieves water retention. If you have trouble digesting beans or they are too dehydrating, add a bit of salt when cooking. Make sure you are hydrated before eating your meal of beans.
Beans for Fiber & CholesterolIf your body is not aggravated by dryness, and you can digest beans without gas, they are an essential food for cleansing in the spring. Not only reducing water weight, they are high in soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber is chickpeas is nearly 75% insoluble which remains undigested until it reaches the colon. Nothing beats a bean to bulk up stools for a satisfying morning elimination. As with many high fiber foods, beans have been shown to reduce cholesterol, perhaps because of its flushing effect on the gall bladder.
Beans are high in prurines which metabolize into uric acid, aggravating gout. Beans contain several toxins which degrade at boiling temperatures. The toxicity of beans increases if they are heated but never boiled.
Beans have anti-nutrients that prevent absorption of some vitamins and minerals. These anti-nutrients are reduced in the fermentation process. So, fermented beans (like tempeh or dosa mix) are easier to digest.
How to Make Beans Easier to Digest
Use Fewer BeansIn South Asian cuisine the preference is for thin soups called 'dal' instead of thick hearty soups like split pea. Thin bean soups are easier on the stomach. Think minestrone instead of split pea.
Soak, Strain, Cook, StrainSaponins are water soluble and thus easily removed. Soak beans overnight and strain in the morning. Removing sudsy froth (the saponins) while cooking. Repeatedly strain and change the water every half hour while cooking.
Cook Beans with SpicesBeans are generally cooling with the exception of peanuts, and can make digestion extra sluggish unless spiced. Hearty chili soups are popular across America and vary in their degree of spiciness. These spices, chilies, black pepper, ginger, cumin and others stimulate the blood flow to the stomach, the primary site of bean digestion. They balance the cooling, astringent qualities of the bean, assisting in the formidable task of digesting a bean.
South Asian cuisine also employs aromatic spices such as hing, fenugreek, and ajwain seeds. we suggest adding a combination of both aromatic spices as well as pungent spices, such as the combo hing + turmeric + ginger.
Add Salty & Sour TasteSoy sauce, seaweed, and salt add salty taste, which helps you stay hydrated throughout the digestive process. A bit of lime or lemon juice, or vinegar adds sour taste, which can aid curdling of bean proteins and improve enzyme output.
Canned BeansCanned food is generally contraindicated in Ayurveda because it is stale. Nevertheless, because canning companies recognize that gas affects their bottom line, they are invested in cooking methods that result in a fart-free product. Beans, including canned beans, should always be cooked until they are soft.
Other TipsWhen boiling your beans, add a bit of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to soften them up. Adding a small square of kombu or sea kelp to the beans can also improve digestibility. Kelp helps to break the beans down into smaller and easier to digest particles. Add a bit of sweet (raisins or raw sugar), sour (balsamic vinegar, lemon or lime), bitter (kale) and salty.
Enjoy Bean Cuisine from Around the World
ItalyBoil, strain, then fry white beans in olive oil. Garnish with parsley & celery. In Sicily use chickpea with olive oil, tomato, red wine, parsley, and anise seed.
MexicoRice with beans provides a complete protein and a staple food south of the border. Refried bean dishes employ pinto beans. Add cilantro and raw onions as a garnish. Spread only a thin amount on burritos or enchiladas to keep your dishes light! Beans are often cooked with epazote to improve digestion. Beans, squash, and corn are called the three sisters and are a staple in native American agriculture.
Middle EastBean salads from the Middle East use raw onion, garlic, parsley, and lemon juice. In Morocco use white beans with olive oil and cumin. In Syria, fried chickpeas with onions, garlic and a spice blend including sumac, cinnamon, allspice, and cayenne.
USASoutherners love chili which is based on beans, tomatoes and spices. Split pea soup for the North!
South AsiaDal is a thin, bright and yellow bean soup with turmeric, coconut, garam masala, cilantro, cumin, and ginger. Use of hing, fenugreek and ajwain is also common.
KoreaBean pastes which may be red hot or dark and slightly sweet.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda biocharacteristics. His approach to Ayurveda is clinical, yet exudes an ease which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda, offering professional clinical training in Ayurveda for over 15 years.
John's interest in Ayurveda and specialization in digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, as well as public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well. Outside of work, John enjoys spending time with his wife and 6 kids, and pursuing his love of theology, philosophy, and language.