Beans belong to a group of plant foods known as legumes. Beans is the most popular indigenous legume in Africa. They come in different varieties such as chickpeas, cowpeas, black peas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans, navy beans, Adzuki beans, soybeans, Edamame, etc.
They are not only delicious but nutrient dense and healthy as well. They are excellent source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Beans also contain iron, vitamins, minerals and amino- acids which the body uses to heal and make new tissues. People like eating beans but most times they are deterred by the fact that it gives them flatulence.
In this article, I will highlight what happens when beans are soaked in water and how it helps reduce the cooking time and makes the beans less gassy.
Does this sound like something you are interested in? Let’s get into it.
So, what happens when beans are soaked in water?
When beans are soaked in water, they absorb water, expand and make cooking easier. They are easily digested and the oligosaccharide content reduces thereby making it less gassy. Again, the naturally occurring toxin, lectin, present in raw beans go into the water and can easily be washed away since they are water-soluble.
Soaking beans in water before cooking it has been a long standing practice imbibed by our mothers to reduce both the cooking time and cost of firewood/gas by at least 50%. When dry beans are soaked in water, they increase in size by absorbing the water and becomes softer and ready to cook faster and more evenly. However, the Nigerian variety of the black-eyed peas called the honey beans or Nigerian brown beans does not require long hours of soaking as it cooks faster than other varieties.
Soaking dry beans in water makes digestion and absorption of those nutrients found in this rich food easier. It is important to soak beans and indeed other seeds in the legume family before cooking because it helps decrease the presence of anti-nutrients. The presence of anti-nutrients almost makes it difficult to absorb the nutrients that beans provide.
Antinutrients are naturally occurring compounds found in beans and other whole plant foods. They inhibit the digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals and proteins from these foods. Examples are oxalates, lectins and phytate. Lectins are common in bean varieties but the concentration is more in red kidney beans. However, high temperatures can denature them, so it is safe to consume beans when prepared adequately.
Either soaking beans in water for at least 8-12 hours and discarding the water or parboiling with soaking before cooking in fresh water is a good way of removing these antinutrients since they are located on the skin and are equally water soluble. This process can also reduce the oligosaccharide content of beans that causes bloating and gas.
Read also: What Happens If You Don’t Soak Beans Before Cooking?
Why discard bean soaking water?
After soaking beans in water, the soaking water now contains most of the anti-nutrients and oligosaccharide content that we have been trying to remove from the beans by soaking them originally. So it’s important that the soaking water is discarded and the beans cooked with fresh water to get the nutritional benefits.
I personally parboil my dry beans for 5-10 minutes after removing stones and bad ones. After which I drain the water, rinse and then soak in fresh water for 1-2 hours, before I eventually cook it. These steps are necessary because you don’t know the processes and stages of handling that these beans came into contact with before you bought them from the stores/market. They may have been exposed to insecticide spray or pesticides which farmers in developing countries like Nigeria use in order to preserve and protect the beans from weevils invasion.
You cannot also rule out the possibility of the beans being moved off the floor where rats ran over them, urinated or defecated on them or where rat poison has been placed before they were eventually put into sacks ready to be distributed to different locations. So you see why your beans should be properly rinsed and cooked after soaking them.
When you soak your beans, there is always dirt, bad ones coming to the top, and pieces of bean shells in the water. You don’t want to cook your beans with all of those. Again , you may also notice some white foam on top of the water used in soaking your beans as a result of the presence of starch. So its necessary to discard the bean soaking water that contains all of these together with the anti-nutrients so that the nutrients in beans will be better absorbed.
Beans has several health benefits. Studies show that they contain antioxidants that helps the body remove free radicals. they improve heart health, reduce the risk of cancer, regulate blood sugar levels among others. To cook your beans safely, US Food and Drug Administration, recommends that you boil your beans for 30 minutes to ensure they reach a sufficient temperature long enough to completely destroy the toxin. For dry beans, they also recommend an initial soak of at least 5 hours in water which should then be discarded.
According to Wikipedia, cooking beans without bringing them to a boil, in a slow cooker at a temperature well below boiling may not destroy toxins. Infact, undercooked beans may be more harmful than raw beans.
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