Just Good Food

Beans, Sugars & Gas


Throwing out the gas with the soaking water—Believe it or not, the jury is still out on the whole gas issue. Apparently science has bigger fish to fry that finding out precisely what causes our intestinal discomfort.

One thing seems pretty clear however: this business about throwing out the soaking water because it has gas-producing compounds is nonsense.

Here's the story. Many scientists (though not all) believe that gas is caused by certain sugars in beans that we find indigestible. Since we can't break them down, they ferment in our gut. So, in a couple studies, scientists did the obvious: they soaked some beans and measured how many of these indigestible sugars were in the soaking water. They only found miniscule amounts, not enough to matter flatulence-wise.

Actually, that makes sense if you think of beans as dormant seeds. Under the right conditions, beans soak up water and sprout. Those sugars are nutrients, and young growing beans need those nutrients to develop into big, healthy bean stalks. I mean, excuse me, beans aren't expecting to be cooked. Actually, if they knew what was going to happen, it might scare the sugars right out of them.

However, it's a different sugar story if the beans are dead. I found a study that measured the sugars in soaking water of beans that had been killed (quick soaked-boiled hard for a minute). As you might suspect, if dead beans are left in water, sugars, among other things, eventually float out into the water. The thing is, this migration takes several hours. So here's the irony: those quick soakers were on to something, but they were in too much of a hurry to find out.

All About Beans



John Ryan

Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.

Just Good Food Archive

This archived page created between 1994 and 2001. Modified August 2007