How to Cook Beans the Healthy South Asian Way

By on May 21st, 2012 0 Comments

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The “magical fruit” may not be a staple dish at polite get-togethers, but a properly balanced—and cooked—dish can be perfectly nutritional for your guests to enjoy.

Why so gassy? Beans contain small quantities of poisons called saponins, which produce a gas to act as a protein digestion inhibitor to help keep insects at bay. However, using the steps listed below, saponins can be removed to make beans easier to digest.

If you do have gas after eating beans, it may be due to an upper digestive tract deficiency. Annoying and uncomfortable as it may be, dealing with the gas might just be worth it. Beans are high in potassium and relieve water retention. Beans’ high fiber content also helps to reduce cholesterol.

Follow these steps to make your beans easier to digest.

  • Avoid the thick and go for the thin. When cooking dal, instead of making a hearty stew (i.e. haleem), aim for a thin soup (i.e. minestrone). Tip: Add some sea kelp to increase digestibility by creating easier to digest bean particles.
  • Strain and strain some more. Prepare the beans the day before and soak overnight. Strain in the morning, allowing for the saponin to froth while cooking. Repeatedly strain the froth away every half hour. Tip: When cooking canned beans, add baking soda to ensure bean softness.
  • Spice things up. Adding masala can help speed up digestion. Flavor-makers such as cumin, chilies, ginger, and other such ingredients increase the flow of blood to the stomach, assisting in digestion. The “cool” qualities of the beans are then balanced by the “heat” of the spices.

Try this recipe at your next get-together–polite or otherwise.

Munia Islam is a contributing food writer at


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