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Soaking beans is an age-old practice followed by our grannies and moms. They always soaked beans before cooking them. But that system seems to be fading now in today's jet age. Are soaking beans really not required?

If you believe that beans are soaked just to ease cooking then you must read this post as there's much more to it. Let's see...

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Why Soak Beans?

Why Soak Beans And Other Legumes? Have you ever thought about it? Why cooking beans need preparation in terms of soaking these for 6 to 8 hours?

Soaking beans before cooking is a common practice everywhere. We soak these especially chickpeas, kidney beans, green grams, etc. as then these are cooked quickly. Remember how our grannies used to soak it overnight and it was a must. But in this jet age of 'Instant Cooking', this system too seems to be fading away. Is soaking beans really not required? Do you soak your grains?


Is Soaking Beans Necessary?

A few days back, while conversing with few family members there came up the topic of cooking and thus soaking beans. It was like while making kidney beans, chickpeas, etc, some planning is required in terms of soaking these for at least 4 to 5 hours if not more. Then one of my relatives countered it by saying that these can be cooked directly also without soaking, just that it would require little more time, but results would be perfect. Seeing this mindset I thought it deserves a post and here it is.

Before going into the reasons as to why or why not beans should be soaked, let us first understand what beans are.


What are Legumes?

Legumes include means beans, nuts, lentils, and peas. Beans include all the variety like garbanzo beans, kidney beans, Soya beans, Edamame and many others.

Legumes are the most nutritious foods. They are rich in protein, minerals (folate, iron, potassium, and magnesium ), low in fat and are cholesterol-free. Thus they are the perfect choice for vegetarians.


Do Beans Cause Bloating And Flatulence?

Beans are nutritious but it is also true that they are hard to digest and cause bloating and flatulence. Therefore, spices like asafoetida, bay leaves, ginger, etc are also added while cooking these as it combats digestion/gastric problems. But still, this is just on the periphery, the root cause is something else and that is what needs our attention.

Just recall that it is not advisable to eat beans during illness or postpartum (initial 40 days after childbirth) as per traditional wisdom.

These problems are due to the outer covering of beans which contain antinutrients like phytic acid, lectins and enzyme inhibitors. These are good till they are plants as they protect beans from radiations of sun, insects, virus, fungi etc. Also, we are able to store these for a long time without going bad due to this outer covering only. But when ingested then these antinutrients restrict the absorption of minerals in our body.


Do Soaking Beans Reduce Gas?

And the one-word answer is YES! To reduce flatulence and bloating caused by beans simply, do the following:

  • Soak the beans for 8 to 10 hours.
  • Do not use the water in which beans are soaked.
  • Add spices like asafoetida, bay leaves, garlic, ginger, etc while cooking beans.


Thus, the Benefits of Soaking Beans are:

  • Improves Digestion by neutralizing anti-nutrients and hard to digest carbs and protein.
  • Removes Indigestible sugars that cause flatulence.
  • Release highly beneficial nutrients.
  • Reduces cooking time.
  • Augments taste and flavour.
  • Well soaked beans sprout beautifully.

Soaking deactivates harmful antinutrients and activates the useful nutrients.


Does Soaking Beans Remove Nutrients? 

No, No, No! On the contrary, it increases its nutritional value by removing anti-nutrients from it. 


How To Soak Beans?

  • Wash them thoroughly and then soak in enough water, maybe 4 to 5 times the beans so that they remain submerged fully in water. This is because when soaked they swell and gets bigger in size. So, there should be enough water. Add more water, if the water is fully absorbed.
  • While soaking you must have seen that at times certain beans/peas/lentils float on the water. Right? These are not good and therefore discard them.
  • The time of soaking varies from beans to beans. Harder the beans, longer the soaking time. Follow the method that our ancestors followed for soaking beans. Like for use in the morning, soak them in the night and vice versa. However, for lentils, soaking for 4 to 6 hours is sufficient. You need not soak some soft legumes like split peas, black-eyed peas etc.
  • Always use filtered water for soaking. This is because beans do drink that water.
  • In tropical countries like India, water at room temperature is fine for soaking beans. However, if the temperature is too low, then you may use lukewarm water.


Can I Soak Beans In Hot Water?

Yes, you can soak the beans in hot water but it will only reduce the cooking time, and no other benefits will be availed. Anti-nutrients will still be there. So, do it only in case of utmost urgency otherwise avoid it.


Why Discard Water In Which Beans Are Soaked?

Once the beans are soaked, then? Should we use that water only for cooking them? Before you read further just wear your thinking caps. And now try to recall what your moms or grannies used to do. After soaking, they used to drain that water and then add fresh water for cooking. Right? So, you have to do the same thing.

This water is now full of anti-nutrients and gases which we wanted to get rid of. So, DO NOT CONSUME IT FOR COOKING.

Rinse the soaked beans in fresh water and then cook them.

Bean Soaking Water For Plants

However, you can use this water in your plants. The plants won't have flatulence and gastric problems:)-

That was on a lighter note. But seriously, plants love this water and thus you would enjoy the lush green plants in your garden/balcony. Therefore after soaking, reserve the water for your plants. Also, by doing so, you would be able to save water!

 Tips For Soaking Beans

Add salt while soaking. This shortens the cooking time.

As per Centre Of Disease Control And Prevention, To remove gas-producing starches, boil beans for two to three minutes, cover the pot and allow beans to soak overnight. This method removes 75 to 90 percent of the beans' indigestible starches.


Conclusion: Keeping It Simple

This topic is very detailed and involves a lot of science too, but I have shared this info with you for your day to day cooking and not for any lab experiments. Thus, have tried to keep it as simple as possible. In fact, this post is just a recap of what our wise ancestors did before cooking beans and other legumes. They may or may not have explained to us the exact reasons behind it but were wise enough to do so. I believe that logic and understanding improves adaptability.

Also, there is a lot of controversy in respect of soaking and people have different views about it, but I am a firm believer in the traditional practices of cooking and would endorse it for various reasons discussed above.

Hope from now on you will take special care in soaking your beans and other legumes. Do not forget to share your feedback. Your feedback fuels my enthusiasm to post more good content.

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Stay Fit… Stay Healthy…

The above information is at a very basic level. If you want to read in detail about this then please refer the links shared below. Also, my heartfelt thanks to the following links which have helped frame this post.

References / Source