How to improve the digestion of legumes?

Some people feel bloated after eating legumes. This is because beans and other legumes are high in oligosaccharides (a type of dietary fibre). The bacteria in our gut digest these oligosaccharides and release many health-promoting compounds and some gas.

The good news is that it is possible to reduce bloating by following simple steps.

  • First, starting with small amounts of legumes is a good idea so that the gut bacteria slowly adapt to higher quantities of oligosaccharides. For example, sprinkle chickpeas on your stir-fried vegetables or lentils or beans on your salad.
  • Another helpful tip is to start with smaller legumes, such as lentils, as they have thinner and smaller skin (where most oligosaccharides are present). Shelled legumes such as orange or yellow lentils are also an excellent option as they contain fewer oligosaccharides.
  • Home-cook legumes. Soak your legumes overnight, change the water twice at least, and rinse them well before cooking. These will reduce the number of oligosaccharides ending in your plate.
  • Start cooking your beans by placing them in cool water. You can replace the water during cooking to further reduce the number of oligosaccharides.
  • Cook the beans until they are soft.
  • If you are using canned beans, remove the liquid in the can and rinse the beans in cool running water before consuming.
  • Grinding or pureeing legumes makes them more digestible. You can make a spread like hummus or soup.
  • Try different types of legumes.
  • Try tofu, which contains almost no oligosaccharides, and it is generally easy to digest.
  • Try adding spices such as cumin, fennel seeds, anise, or caraway to your legume-based dishes, as they can help digest legumes.
  • Adding a small piece of algae, such as kombu (kelp) or nori (seaweed), in the cooking water may help make legumes more digestible.
  • Try sprouted legumes. Cook them shortly before consuming them.

Legumes are an excellent source of plant protein. So make sure to give your body plenty of opportunities to consume them so that you and your gut bacteria can slowly adapt to their oligosaccharide content. Eating legumes regularly will change the composition of your gut microbiota, leading to many health benefits. So keep eating them!