Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat… Well, you know the rest. So why would someone with stomach woes eat legumes? Don’t they cause gas, bloating and discomfort? They can, but they don’t have to.

We’ve all walked by dried beans at the store. For years, I’d pick them up, thinking “they’re so inexpensive,” but I’d toss them back knowing that I’d have to soak them overnight. Couldn’t be bothered. I mean, to plan what I’m eating a day ahead. Absurd! So instead, I opted for convenience, buying tin after tin of canned beans. In a world of 30-minute meals, I needed the flexibility.

Until recently, I paid no heed to ingredients. Unlike their dehydrated counterparts, canned beans contain salt and additives like disodium EDTA and sodium bisulfite. If it sounds like chemistry, that’s because it is. It’s been years since I’ve taken a science class and even in the midst of my studies I don’t think I’d recognize these compounds.

So, what are these compounds and are they harmful? Let’s look at sodium bisulfite. It’s used to prevent browning (caused by oxidation) and to kill microbes. Alarmingly, some toilet bowl cleaners are almost 50 percent sodium bisulfite (“What’s In Your Food?”). How can a chemical that is used to kill the germs in your bathroom possibly be safe for consumption? It’s like the Saturday Night Live ad parody for Shimmer Floor Wax. “It’s a floor cleaner, it’s a dessert topping, it’s BOTH”

One could easily spend all day researching each compound. Hey, maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language. Or, you could just use dried beans. Now what’s more time consuming?!

Yes, there are a few more steps involved. You’ve got to sort for pebbles, soak the beans (time dependent on the type – see best method below) and then cook. It’s the soaking step that is essential. Not only does soaking rehydrate the beans making them suitable for cooking, but it removes most of the starches that cause an upset stomach. In fact, discarding the soaking liquid and rinsing the beans will further lesson the burden on digestion. I can’t promise that you’ll make less “music,” but it works for me.

Other benefits of using dried beans include texture, as they hold their form when slow cooking. They are also more wallet-friendly when you compare the yield of a one pound bag to a can of beans. Plus, when buying in bulk they’re more environmentally friendly.

Regardless of the form you buy them in, there are countless reasons to add beans to your menu. For me, it’s their versatility, taking on whatever seasoning you choose. You can travel the world through legumes, from Indian dal, to Cuban black beans, to Tuscan cannelloni stew. They’re also an alternative to meat, high in protein, inexpensive and leave you feeling full. These benefits have been crucial for me as my allergy-limited diet is spendy and often leaves me unsatiated.

Compared to meat, “beans are low in sugar, which prevents insulin in the bloodstream from spiking and causing hunger,” says Mark Brick, PhD a professor in the department of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University. Because beans contain a high level of fiber, they are digested slowly, keeping you satisfied longer.

So go ahead and try a new recipe today, like my Savory French Lentils.

Do you have some pointers when it comes to legume prep or recipes?
Share them here.

Best Method for Soaking Beans
According to The Bean Institute, place desired amount of beans in a large amount of boiling water (10 cups of water for every 2 cups of dry beans). Boil for 2-3 minutes, then cover and set aside for 4-24 hours. Rinse well and cook thoroughly.
If you can’t trust the Bean Institute for your bean soaking methods, who can you trust?

Note: If you are a strict adherent to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, not all legumes are considered “legal.” Legal options include navy beans, lima beans, black beans, peas, split peas, and lentils.