If you’re like many people, you enjoy eating beans but often take a pass on them—because you worry that if you don’t, you’ll soon be passing something else. Yet it’s a shame that fear of flatulence makes people shy away from beans. These fiber-rich, protein-packed legumes have abundant health benefits, including reducing cholesterol, improving digestion, preventing constipation, controlling appetite, increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing chronic disease risk overall.
With so much to gain from eating beans, it’s great to learn about new research showing that the common reports on beans’ odiferous consequences have been grossly inflated. Here are the real facts on beans and gas…
In three separate studies, participants were asked to consume one-half cup per day of either pinto beans…navy beans…black-eyed peas…canned carrots…or chicken soup. (The carrot eaters and soup eaters served as control groups, since these foods do not contain any known gas-producing ingredients.) During the eight- to 12-week study periods, participants filled out weekly questionnaires indicating whether they had experienced any increase or decrease in flatulence or bloating and/or any changes in stool.
Results: In the first week, fewer than half of the pinto and navy bean eaters and only 19% of black-eyed pea eaters reported any increase in flatulence. By the third week, those numbers had fallen significantly…and by the eighth week, only 3% of bean eaters reported increased flatulence. As for bloating, 13% of bean eaters perceived an increase in week one…by week eight, only 2% reported this effect.
Bottom line: Beans get a bum rap they don’t really deserve—and their health benefits make them well worth learning to love. To minimize gassiness as your body adjusts to eating beans, start with varieties that are lower in fiber than other beans, such as black-eyed peas—at 4 g of fiber per half cup, they have twice the amount of fiber as a slice of whole-wheat toast. Then work your way up to higher-fiber varieties, such as pinto and navy beans (7 g of fiber per half cup). Check package labels for fiber content and experiment to see which types of beans your body handles best. Also, begin with quarter-cup servings, gradually increasing to half-cup or one-cup servings over several weeks.