Ah, the age-old question: Do beans make you fart? I am doing my PhD in beans, so you may well imagine that I have many a conversation about breaking wind. I am here to defend beans with the science! But first…
If you are not up-to-date on recent bean ballads (yes, it is a genre), then maybe you have not yet heard the Bean Song that Bush’s Beans commissioned Josh Groban to make as part of their delightful rebranding of beans as the beautiful food. For better or for worse – you decide after listening (although the answer is clearly going to be ‘better’) – Groban did indeed croon on about beans. But why do beans need to be rebranded when they are so perfect already, you are probably wondering? Well, that would be due at least in part to their reputation as the musical fruit.
Here is the thing though, the science suggests this concern is way overexaggerated! Feeding studies in people show inconsistent results that vary with factors such as the type of bean. Also, if folks are not used to a high fiber diet, it may take some time (a week or so, although it can vary between people) to adapt. This could happen even if the fiber is not coming from beans! And fiber is critical for so many functions in our bodies and can promote satiety (i.e., make us feel full). The high fiber profile of beans and other pulses is also linked to their benefits for gut health.
And here is something that made me chuckle – in the study by Winham and Hutchins (2011) referenced below, even a small percentage of people on a control diet (i.e. canned carrots instead of beans) reported increased flatulence. It’s high past time we stop blaming beans!
How to Have Less Gas from Beans
Still worried the musical fruit may make you sing? Honestly, my recommendation would be to enjoy beans and not worry too much about it – they are too delicious and beneficial for human and environmental health to let a little (perhaps unfounded) concern over flatulence stand in our way. I have noticed, though, that many people do not find this to be a particularly helpful recommendation. Fair enough! So, let’s dive a bit deeper.
First of all, like we said, a lot of people do not experience any discomfort. However, if you are one of those who does feel these symptoms, or are concerned you may, here are a few ideas:
- If you can, give your body a little time. Once you get used to a higher fiber diet rich in beans, any gassiness may dissipate like the wind.
- Work up to it. Start with smaller amounts and gradually add more pulses into your dietary pattern. Maybe a quarter-cup for a few days, then a half-cup for a few days, then one full cup, and so on – you get the idea. This is similar to the first recommendation but may help you avoid any discomfort to begin with.
- Try other beans/pulses. Do mung beans make you feel less than stellar? Maybe try some pinto beans. Please note: these are just two random types of pulses I picked, this is not a scientific recommendation of a flatulence reducing substitution (sorry).
- Wondering what pulses are, by the way? Check here.
- Discarding the soaking water may help. If you cook dry beans at home, consider discarding the soaking water and cooking in fresh water. Galactooligosaccharides, indigestible compounds in beans associated with flatulence, can leech into the soaking water. So, there may be less of those if you discard and cook in fresh water. The trade-off is that these very same compounds are also associated with health benefits. Nothing is ever black or white – bummer, huh?
- Gas in natural. This is not as much a tip as it is an important thing to recognize. Whether we like it or not, some level of flatulence is both natural and healthy.
In the comments, I would love to hear your thoughts! Do beans make you fart (rhetorical you here, I’m not asking for any details!)? Are these tips helpful? Any other lingering questions about beans and flatulence?