Why Do Beans Cause Gas?

Why do beans make you fart? Why do beans cause flatulence? Why do beans make you bloat? Sharon’s answering all of your GI questions about beans.

“Beans give me gas. They make me bloat. I just can’t tolerate them.” I hear this all the time! I get so many questions about how to prevent gas, bloating, and flatulence that occurs with eating beans. Indeed, what causes bloating after eating beans or other pulses, like dried lentils or peas? What can you do about gastrointestinal distress after eating beans and pulses? I’m answering your top questions so you can enjoy healthy beans, lentils and peas without the distressing gas.

This recipe for Italian Zucchini Boats with Vegan Pesto has lentils can be enjoyed healthfully.

Sadly, gastrointestinal intolerance (bloating, cramping, gas) is one of the main reasons people avoid one of the healthiest foods on the planet—pulses, a group of foods that includes dried beans, lentils, and peas. Learn more about pulses here. But when it comes to gastrointestinal side effects caused by eating pulses, there are some tricks to enjoying them comfortably. Have no fear—you really CAN eat beans! I’m answering your top questions on how to eat beans and pulses with minimal gastrointestinal distress today on the blog.

You can enjoy more foods like Jackfruit Black Bean and Quinoa Tacos with these tips!

Why do Beans Cause Gas?

Question:

How can I enjoy eating beans without gas, bloating, and flatulence?

Sharon’s Answer:

That is such a great question! And it’s one that I get all of the time. Some people experience gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and stomach cramps when they eat pulses, like dried beans, lentils, and peas. That’s because pulses contain large amounts of indigestible carbohydrates (fibers) that are fermented in the GI tract, resulting in the formation of gas. In fact, the process of fermentation of fiber in the gut brings about positive health benefits. And fiber is what feeds your gut microflora, which we now know is so important for digestive and immune health and beyond. Learn more about feeding your gut with fiber here. Gas is a normal function of a healthy body, and many people on typical Western diets—notoriously deficient in fiber—may not be in touch with an appropriate level of gas in healthy human functioning. A recent study found that people’s concerns about flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated; actual results of increased flatulence related to eating beans was small.

You can still enjoy recipes like Creamy Artichoke White Bean Dip

What Are Pulses?

Fiber queens, pulses are healthy, whole plant foods that are rich in protein, essential vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals. They are part of the legume food group, which also includes soybeans, and fresh beans, like green beans and sweet peas. Pulses are specifically the dried bean, peas, and lentil category of foods, such as black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, split peas, and the many types of lentils, such as red, black, brown and green. Pulses are linked with multiple health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

Check out one of my videos featuring my one of my favorite pulse recipes for French Lentil Salad here.

Natural body functions aside, there are a few things you can do to help tolerate pulses better. And remember, don’t give up on pulses just because you think you “can’t tolerate” them. These plant foods are linked with multiple benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even a lower carbon footprint! So, try these tips:

  • Start out slow. If you are currently eating a low-fiber diet, piling up on pulses right out of the gate can cause problems for some. Some studies suggest that gradual exposure to pulses helps reduce potential symptoms. Start with a few ½ cup cooked servings per week and build from there.
  • Drink lots of water. High intakes of fiber without water can cause GI concerns, such as constipation. Remember to hydrate throughout the day.
  • Soak your beans. Soaking your pulses in water, then draining off the water and adding fresh water for cooking can help reduce compounds in the beans that may cause GI distress.
  • Sprout your pulses. Limited research suggests that sprouting pulses (see my blog on how to sprout pulses here) may make their carbohydrates more digestible.
  • Don’t overdo. The current recommendation for fiber is 25 grams per day for women and 38 for men. If you are eating a lot of fiber-rich plant foods you can easily double that amount or more! It’s good to eat a lot of fiber, but at some point (which varies for people on an individual basis) you may start experiencing GI symptoms. Pulses are one of the richest sources of fiber on the planet, followed by whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. If you are experiencing problems, you may want to limit your pulse intake to no more than 1 cup of cooked beans, lentils, or dried peas per day, and rely on other sources of plant proteins, such as soy foods, peanuts, nuts, and seeds to provide protein in your diet.d

 

Learn how to enjoy beans the healthy way—try this recipe for Chipotle Black Bean Quinoa Veggie-Burgers

 

Check out other nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:

What to Put in a Salad To Make it Healthy?
How Do I Get Vegan Calcium Sources?
What are Common Nutrition Issues for Plant-Based Diets?
What are the Best Supplements for a Vegan Diet?
Are There Benefits for the AIP Diet?
Are There Benefits for a Vegan Flexitarian Meal Plan?
What Are the Health Benefits and Risks for Nightshades?

Try some of my favorite pulses here:

Grow Your Own Food Toolkit from Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

Challenge yourself to go vegan in just 30 days with this free vegan toolkit.

Image: BEST Vegetarian Refried Beans, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN

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