Beans, beans and more beans

beans and rice

“Beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat ….”

Well, you know the rest right? And sadly right now, so do I.

So, here I sit at 1 a.m. in the basement, so tired I’m crock – I mean, cross-eyed, but unable to relax what with the rumbling in my belly, frequently interrupted with rude toots from down below. (Solitude does have its assets)

All this could have been avoided if I’d have just remembered my number one rule before cooking beans: SOAK THEM FIRST!

my new crock pot

But I was excited! My new crockpot came today! A big old 15-quart, burgandy Hamilton Beach monster that takes up way too much space on my little counter, but was definitely a welcome addition.

You ever cooked your meals in a crock pot? For all you carnivores out there who want Sunday dinners of elaborate roast beef and potato dishes or chicken and dumplings on the week day, a crock pot would save you a lot of time. But it’s a great little piece of machinery for us vegetarian folk too. Especially if you eat beans like I do.

I’m a designated bean queen. Love them all: kidney beans, lima beans, northern beans, black beans, even lentils and my absolute favorite: chick peas because they make great hummus! I eat lots of beans because I’m a vegetarian. If you want to break it down, I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, meaning (for those who don’t know) that I have some dairy and eggs in my diet. But no where near enough to satisfy my protein needs. And with the big 5-0 about to catch me, I can’t afford to skimp on nutrition. So, happy that I’ve got a reputable means of getting my protein,  I’m knocking back the beans like an alcoholic knocks back beer! But unfortunately, there’s a catch.

The Gas Factor

Yep there it is; the ultimate x-factor: gas. When you ingest beans like I do, there’s the inevitable opportunity for a whole lot of tootin’ to be  going on. Funny though. No matter how many vegetables I eat, they will move on through my digestive system and exit out on the other side re-formed without so much as a bubble of attention. (Still don’t understand that corn thing) Why can’t beans do that? Just get the heck out right? But no; they’ve got to fill up my belly with air and then sing their own praises! Even has to give all that foolishness a fancy name: flatulence.

And you want to hear another fancy name? Oligosaccharides. Those are the sugars present in beans (mercy, is it possible to have one food that doesn’t have sugars in it?) that clash with our body’s break-down mechanism. Our bodies simply don’t have the enzymes to do it. So the sugars sail along happily through our small intestines, then large intestines with barely any resistance. Until bacteria turns them into air bombs of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. You can read more about that here.

Ok, so our bodies can’t break down the sugars in the beans. Does that mean I have to stop eating them?

Solutions

I know it would be easier for some of you to give them up. And who can blame you? You’ve got your meats and extra dairy to give you the protein you need so why put yourself through all that physical distress? But, I don’t have that though. For me, no beans means no protein, or very little. So I need another plan to rid my life of flatulence (Mercy, even the word sounds gassy!))

Now I tried Beano. But it didn’t work for me even though it’s touted to have the digestive agent needed to break down the sugars. Maybe I didn’t follow the directions to the letter. (Thought I did) I’ll probably try again one day. (One more pill and my daughter’s threatening to buy me one of those pill compartments – thanks age)

my first dish in the new crock: beans and rice

However for now, what has worked well for me is soaking the beans. Tried and true; my Dad’s way of preparing them. Soak them overnight, rinse them and then cook them. Even rinsing the canned beans is supposed to help get rid of the sugars. I’ve never tried that with the canned because I always cook my beans the old-fashioned way. But I do know that soaking and rinsing dry beans works great for creating a delicious dish to eat, and I don’t have to endure minor blowouts when I’m done.

So, next time I pull out my crock pot, I’ll remember this moment and soak the beans. I can’t very well live out my life gassed up in the basement now can I?

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