How to Soak Beans and Legumes for Better Digestion

by Miriam Jacobson, MS, RD, CNS

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Miriam Jacobson, MS, RD, CNS teaches us how to soak beans, grains, and seeds for both digestive and nutritional benefits.

Want to add more plant-based sources of protein, complex carbs, and fiber to your diet—but hope to avoid bloating and gas? Your best bet is to soak them first. Here’s why soaking beans and other legumes can be beneficial for digestion and your overall health.

Benefits of Soaking Beans

Wondering if you have to soak beans before cooking them? Simply put, you’ll be better off if you do.

Beans are notoriously difficult to digest, and as we all know, they can make you gassy.

Beans contain a type of fiber called oligosaccharides. Humans can’t digest them since our bodies don’t produce the necessary enzyme, alpha-galactosidase. Although we can’t digest these specific fibers, our gut bacteria can. However, the issue is that the bacteria produce gas as a result.

Thankfully, soaking your beans in water can help. Some of the indigestible fibers will leach out and transfer to the water, which leaves the remaining beans easier to digest.

Next, soaking has an additional benefit for beans as well as grains, nuts, and seeds. These foods all contain phytic acid, which blocks our bodies from absorbing minerals such as iron and zinc. Soaking reduces the amount of phytic acid, which then allows our bodies to better absorb nutrients.

Lastly, be sure to drain the water to avoid consuming phytic acid and hard-to-digest fibers.

The Best Way to Soak Beans

If you want to go a step further, add kombu for soaking. This type of seaweed contains the enzyme required to break down oligosaccharides, thus making the remaining fiber easier to digest.

How to Soak and Cook Beans

How to Soak and Cook Beans

How to Soak and Cook Beans

You can follow these steps to soak grains and seeds as well. However, note that you should add kombu to beans only, and not grains, nuts, or seeds.

PREP
24 hours
COOK
20 min
SERVES
2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup dry beans
  • Filtered water
  • 1 strip kombu

SUPPLIES

  • 32 oz mason jar
  • Pressure cooker

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pour dried beans into a mason jar and fill the remaining space with filtered water. Add a strip of kombu and cover. Let sit for 12-24 hours.
  2. Drain and discard the soaking water. Set the kombu aside.
  3. Cook the beans with kombu. I recommend using a pressure cooker if you have one, since it only takes 20 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, drain any excess cooking liquid and discard the kombu. Your beans should keep fresh in the fridge for up to a week.

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