"I am awed by the variety of information, recipes, tips etc. I am and will remain a regular visitor :)" - Steph S.
"Thanks for providing the healthiest of the vegetarian recipe options out there, & for choosing recipes that celebrate whole foods!" - Trish R.
"Your website is really cool. The articles are fantastic and the recipes are varied and not difficult. I can't wait to tell my friends about this site!" - Kathy C.
"Your site is quite wonderful. Thank you for helping us live in a sustainable, ethical and healthful way for all living things" - Erin L.
"I just found your website and love that many of the recipes are vegan! Thank you thank you! Love it! So stoked to find you." - Elaine E.
"Thank you for the great advice ... I'm sure your web site will answer all my questions. I'm very happy I found your web site ... thanks again" - Gailey M.
I started to become vegetarian (vegan, actually) about six months ago, and I've been eating mostly beans for vegetarian protein, because they're cheap and low fat. There's only one problem.
Beans give me terrible gastric distress, which is really embarrassing. I like being a vegetarian, and I need the protein, but how can I get rid of the gastric distress from eating beans? Thanks! - E. B.
Dear E. B.,
Lots of new and not-so-new vegetarians have this problem! There are four factors at work in your gastric distress:
Your digestive system: You haven't been a vegetarian very long, and I don't know your previous eating habits and state of digestion. But, when you make any kind of major dietary change, your digestion takes time to adapt.
Plus, when you become vegetarian, you're usually eating a lot more fiber, and fiber cleans out the years of accumulated garbage from your former carnivorous diet, tending to make you a public nuisance.
What kind of beans and how much? Some beans are easier to digest than others, but it's a very individual thing. Try different ones to see what agrees with you the best.
Pinto beans, black-eyed peas, black beans, mung beans and adzuki beans are relatively benign. Indian pulses, such as split mung beans (mung dhal), or red lentils (masoor dhal) are easy to digest.
Navy beans, soy beans, kidney beans, chick peas, green or yellow split peas, and some lentils may be more gaseous. As to how much beans to eat, they're nutrition powerhouses, and a little goes a long way. 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked is the average serving size.
Cooking Beans: In my experience, beans should always be cleaned, rinsed, then soaked, whether or not they are pressure cooked. Soaking loosens the skins, and releases the gas causing agent (oligosaccherides).
How long you soak depends on the bean, but they should double in size, and be smooth. Chick peas should be soaked overnight. Add nothing but water to the beans during soaking, no matter what anybody tells you.
Quick Soak: It speeds the so up to bring beans to a boil in unsalted water, skim the foam if any, then remove from heat, cover and soak for 1 - 2 hours before cooking. In my opinion, this method doesn't work as well as long soaking for reducing gas, or for thorough cooking of the beans, but it beats no soaking!
When cooking beans, discard the soaking water, and use fresh. Bring to a boil, skim the foam, and boil ten minutes uncovered. Again, this loosens the skins, and releases gaseous chemicals (oligosaccherides).
Don't add salt or baking soda to beans when cooking, but you can add a few fennel seeds, a slice of ginger, a bay leaf, or a strip of kombu (sea vegetable). These make beans more digestible. Cover and simmer until very soft, adding more water if needed.
Note about canned beans: Always drain and rinse them before eating because the liquid is very salty. Canned beans are more likely to cause gastric distress than those you cook yourself, because they're not cooked the same, and they're not fresh.
Foods combined with beans: Beans go down better combined with other foods to complete the protein - like whole grains and sometimes dairy. An example is burritos with whole wheat tortillas, refried beans, shredded cheesem. Rice and wheat with beans is a good trio.
Spicing makes beans much easier to digest. That's because herbs and spices are packed with vitamins, trace minerals, and natural pharmaceuticals which alter the chemistry of food. Good ones for beans and lentils are fennel, coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric (for chick peas, and Indian dhals), paprika, asoefetida, cayenne, black pepper, and salt. Herbs such as thyme, bay leaf, basil, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, and cinnamon stick are also good. Consult recipes for proportions. Or experiment, but go easy until you hit on agreeable combinations and amounts.
1. Drink lots of water, especially first thing in the morning, also herbal teas, fruit juice, plus eat plenty of sweet, juicy fresh fruit to help clean your digestive tract.
2. Exercise regularly. Yoga is wonderful for digestion. So are walking, bicycling, and swimming.
3. Eat beans only with your main meal, which should be lunch because that's when your digestion is strongest. Have something light for supper, and try not to eat late, to give your digestion a rest.
4. Eat beans in soups and stews. The additional liquid seems to help.
5. When you're a new vegetarian, your digestion may not be able to keep up with your vegetarian ideals. If you're having severe distress, give yourself a break. Have an egg or cottage cheese or a few nuts, instead of beans. If you need to, have chicken or fish a few times a week for a while.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian