Beans may seem like a pretty bland topic, but take a closer look— they’re refreshingly budget-friendly, loaded with the fiber we all need for detox, packed with protein + mood-supporting, slow burning complex carbs, and there are just so many delicious ways to prepare them. Yeah, beans are kind of the best. I also think they’re an absolute staple for anyone short on kitchen time or in need of a quick recipe idea.
But even with this long list of pros, I find that there’s a lot of questions and concerns about eating beans— aren’t they bad for the gut? Too hard to digest? Filled with anti-nutrients?
The short answer: uncooked or not fully cooked beans contain plenty of compounds that are hard on the gut and will bind to other nutrients (preventing you from absorbing them) if you eat them— but when do you eat uncooked or partially cooked beans? Soaking and cooking your beans (especially with a speedy method called pressure cooking) eliminates those concerns for you. If you frequently have trouble digesting beans, you’ll definitely want to double check that they’re soaked and well cooked— and you may also want to pair them with a digestive enzyme supplement for a time.
Here’s what you need to know for the most beautifying beans, plus an quick and addictive recipe for those days with little time:
Soaking. Here’s where you eliminate so many of the compounds that make beans notoriously hard to digest. All it takes is a little water and time. Say you’re up at 8am and you are thinking ahead to that night’s dinner— cover your dry beans in water and by the time you get home from work, they’re ready to cook (pop them in a pressure cooker for the speediest prep). Better yet, do your soaking and cooking during the weekend and keep already cooked, chilled beans in the fridge or freezer so you can grab them for salads, soups, etc. Soaking removes indigestible sugars by about 75%, and removes the majority of anti-nutrients that otherwise block your absorption of beans’ excellent nutrition. Pre-soaking also helps your beans come out whole and plump instead of split and broken.
Cooking. I love that the easiest way to cook beans also happens to be the best for your digestive health— I’m talking about pressure cooking. Pull out your instant pot, toss in your soaked, drained beans and additional water or broth (about 3/4 cup for every 1 cup of dried beans you originally used), kombu seaweed (great for furthering their digestibility), herbs and/or spices and you’ll have perfectly cooked beans in 15 mins or less, depending on the type of bean. This cooking method dramatically reduces lectins, the anti-nutrients that are found in uncooked beans.
Cooking on the stovetop takes longer and leaves higher levels of lectins in your cooked beans; but it’s also an excellent way to cook them if you aren’t pressed for time. For stovetop cooking, cover your soaked beans with about 2 inches of water and simmer, skimming off any foam that rises to the top.
Canned Beans. Choose carefully here— the best canned beans come in BPA-free cans and aren’t loaded with sodium (you can always add your own unrefined salts and spices for flavor later). Trader Joe’s offers organic BPA-free canned beans that I stock in my pantry for last minute dishes. In my mind, there’s always a last minute salad to be made with beans and veggies, cooked grains, leafy greens, or whatever ingredients you have on hand!
Favorite bean salad additions:
Chopped crunchy vegetables like cucumber, celery, colorful peppers
Flavor pops like kraut, capers, olives, sundried tomatoes, brined artichokes, pickled veggies
Pre-grilled veggies like zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, eggplant, asparagus
Whole grain mustard
Digestion-supporting spices like cumin and fennel
Simple Marinated Beans
Marinated beans are so satisfying with their combination of earthy beans, crunchy veggies, flavorful herbs, and acidic vinegar. Acetic acid in vinegar also helps slow the digestion of carbs in beans, keeping you full and your blood sugar stable. I serve this as a side salad, or a quick main mixed with fresh greens and healthy fats like avocado, olives, or wild salmon.
3 cups cooked beans (mix to your preference)
1 stalk organic celery, minced
Packed 1/4 cup fresh herbs (try parsley, dill, basil, or cilantro), finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar (try a mix of red wine and apple cider)
Salt to taste
In a serving bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or let flavors marinate up to 1 hour on the countertop, or longer in the refrigerator.
Text, images and recipes © Jolene Hart. All rights reserved.