Can I Eat Beans on a Low FODMAP Diet?
Beans are notorious for being gassy. If you are following a low FODMAP diet, you might think you should not eat them. But that’s not the case! True, your intake of beans, lentils, and chickpeas (also known as legumes) will be reduced while on the elimination phase. But that doesn’t means you should shun them completely. In fact, beans and other legumes are nutritional powerhouses. Let’s then talk about why they are so good for us.
Why eating beans and other legumes?
Legumes are the cheapest way (for your wallet and for the earth) to get protein in your diet. But if you think that they are “poor people’s” food, I am going to tell you that they are also “lucky people’s” food. In addition to the protein, they contain slow-digesting carbohydrates, and fiber (especially the soluble kind). They also come packaged with minerals (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium), vitamins (folic acid and other B vitamins), and phytochemicals.
There are numerous benefits of eating beans (and I won’t list them all here). For people with IBS – who tend to have irregular bowel movements – the fiber in beans and other legumes can help both with constipation and loose stool or diarrhea. All legumes are high in soluble fiber, which helps soften stools that are too dry and makes them easier to pass. And firm up stools that are too loose. A win-win for everyone!
Beans on a low FODMAP diet
But, you might think, beans are gassy! It might be: all legumes are rich in prebiotic fibers known as oligosaccharides (GOS and fructans). As humans don’t have the enzymes necessary to break these molecules down, they go through our GI tract unabsorbed. And end up in the large intestine, where our gut bacteria digest them and use them for energy. Unfortunately, the result of this fermentation process is gas. For people with IBS, it’s a lot of gas, and it can be painful and associated with bloating and distention.
For this reason, most beans, lentils, and dried peas (but not all!) are excluded during the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet. In fact, you can have small portions of some of them without getting bloated or gassy. For example, you can have small amounts of canned chickpeas, red kidney beans, and lentils; sprouted mung beans, and edamame. In the appropriate portions, these are considered low FODMAP. For the most updated list and portion sizes, check out the Monash FODMAP App.
After reintroducing GOS and fructans, you may be able to expand the variety of beans and other legumes you can eat. Most people find that they tolerate some or most legumes, either in smaller or even larger portions.
How to prepare beans to minimize gas production
- Start by reintroducing small amounts of other canned beans first, as the canning process drastically lowers the amounts of FODMAPs. Be sure to drain them and rinse them well.
- When you start cooking them yourself, soak them overnight. Then, discard the soaking water, and cook them in fresh water until they are very soft. A pressure cooker will do this best.
- Add spices like cumin and coriander, or the seaweed “kombu”, to the cooking water, to make them easier to digest.
- Finally, the enzyme supplement alpha-galactosidase can help you tolerate beans more easily.
Tips for cooking and eating beans
- Plan ahead: soak them the night before you intend to eat them. If you forget, stock your pantry with a few cans your favorite legumes to have some handy.
- If you don’t have the time to cook them when you set out to make lunch or dinner, prepare them ahead of time (for example during the weekend). Store them in airtight containers or even freeze them in the portions you know you will need for your favorite recipes.
- You can add beans or chickpeas to any salad for a complete meal; prepare a quinoa-tabbouleh and add some chickpeas.
- Eat them as a snack: try my Spiced Roasted Chickpeas Recipe.
- Replace part of the ground beef in your Bolognese sauce with canned lentils.
- Make your own hummus: You can use garlic-infused olive oil to replace the garlic and canned chickpeas. Blend in a mixer with some lemon juice, a little water, and salt to taste, then add cumin and paprika for additional flavor.
Put them in soups or stews. Just start with the smallest amount you know you can tolerate. Then, increase the portion slowly and find your threshold.
In sum, beans and other legumes can be part of the low FODMAP diet. There are several low-FODMAP beans and lentils you can enjoy as long as you pay attention to the portion sizes. Indeed, you should not avoid them altogether as they have several benefits and can even help you normalize your bowel movements.
If you are new to cooking beans and other legumes and don’t know where to start, look at the ethnic cuisines that have them as staples: India (dals and channa masala), Morocco (Harira), the Mediterranean (Italian Ribollita), Latin America (black bean soup or pozole), to name just a few. You will find a world of new flavors and start loving them.