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. Healthy adults were asked to eat half a cup (75g cooked) of legumes (pinto beans, black-eyed peas or navy beans) or carrots each day for 8 – 12 weeks. Initially, 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 dissipated.
Rapidly increasing legumes in the diet may lead to gas as the body adapts 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.
For tips on cooking with legumes click here.
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