Many people don’t eat legumes for fear they will experience an increase in gas and flatulence. Legumes do contain galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), small unabsorbed carbohydrates (fibres) that are rapidly fermented by the gut bacteria, causing gas. Rather than being an unhealthy side effect, emerging research indicates these fibres in legumes may be a good source of food for healthy gut bacteria.
In some people that are particularly sensitive, the gas production may be painful. However, a study from the USA suggests that not everyone is affected and most people adjust after just a few weeks. In the study healthy adults were asked to eat half a cup (75g cooked) of legumes each day for 8 – 12 weeks. Only half the people reported increased gas during the first week of the study and by the second week, 70% or more of the participants felt that any increase in gas had reduced to the point they didn’t notice it.
Adding a lot of legumes in the diet in a short space of time may lead to gas as the body isn’t used to the higher fibre intake. Gradually increasing intake, regular exercise and plenty of water will all help reduce the effects of increased fibre. Soaking and rinsing dry legumes before cooking, as well as rinsing of canned legumes, can also reduce the effects.
GLNC recommends Australian’s enjoy legumes at least 2 – 3 times per week.
For tips on cooking with legumes click here.