Why do people avoid eating beans, legumes and pulses?
Because these foods cause gas. And most people don’t like that.
There are actually a few issues concerning pulses that need to be dealt with in order to reap the benefits of their nutrient content which I explain below.
Plants don’t have our nutritional needs in mind when producing their seeds. In fact, certain compounds in seeds prevent their break down in animal digestive tracts so that the seed can travel through intact and be ‘deposited’ in a distant location where a new plant can grow. There is no point in eating pulses and legumes if we can’t break them down.
Here is a summary of what are known as anti-nutrients in pulses:
Phytates: Phytic acid or phytates are the storage form of phosphorous in plants. The chemical structure of phytic acid causes it to bind with minerals preventing absorption in our digestive tract. Traditional cooking methods help to remove phytic acid from pulses so that minerals consumed in and with pulses are better absorbed.
Trypsin inhibitors: Trypsin is a critical enzyme in protein digestion in humans – in fact, it starts off the cascade of events that allows any and all proteins to be digested. Pulses contain trypsin inhibitors. These trypsin inhibitors prevent us from accessing the protein content of the bean. Protein is one of the main reasons we want to eat beans and pulses. Fortunately, just like plants have worked on outsmarting our digestive system, traditional cooking methods have helped humans circumvent this anti-nutrient.
Complex Oligosaccharides: Although we want the pulses in our diet for the fiber that feeds our microbiome, too much fiber of a certain type can result in excessive gas production. Excess gas, which can be embarrassing and painful, is probably the primary reason why many people avoid eating legumes and pulses. And we have all heard the advice about soaking to reduce gas – it just doesn’t work!
Well as it turns out, an over night soak is just not enough.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog on how to cook and eat pulses with minimal digestive upset!