Pulses such as beans, peas, and legumes are an indispensable part of Indian cuisine, and are considered extremely beneficial for health due to their rich protein and fibre content. But, many people experience symptoms like gas, bloating, cramping and indigestion after eating them. Ayurvedic expert Dr Dimple Jangda took to Instagram to share the reasons.
According to the expert, pulses contain:
*Large amounts of indigestible carbohydrates (fibres)
*Phytic acid, which is the primary way phosphorous is stored in beans, seeds and nuts
*Harder beans such as kidney and navy beans also contain oligosaccharides. “This complex sugar is difficult to digest without some help because humans do not produce the enzyme alpha-galactosidase needed to properly break it down,” she explained.
*When consumed, these oligosaccharides reach the lower intestine largely intact, and in the presence of anaerobic bacteria ferment and produce carbon dioxide and methane gases, and, in turn, bloating.
Agreeing, Dr Vidhi Dhingra, Senior Dietician, vHealth by Aetna said, “Pulses contain large amounts of indigestible carbohydrates which irritate the stomach lining & result in the formation of gas in GI tract.”
Due to these properties, pulses are harder to digest and need some special preparatory methods before consumption. “Traditional cultures ate beans for thousands of years and used slow-food type methods for making them more digestible. From fermenting to soaking to sprouting, we can learn a lot from these traditional cultures,” Dr Jangda said, sharing some simple tips to make your pulses more digestible.
The Ayurvedic expert mentioned that soaking beans helps eliminate some of the phytic acid present in them. “To maximise the amount of phytic acid lost, soak beans for a minimum of 12 hours, up to even 24 hours.”
Next, she suggested sprouting pulses such as lentils and garbanzo beans for 48 hours. The longer they are soaked, the easier they are to digest.
Sharing the most appropriate method of soaking pulses to make them gut-friendly, Dr Jangda said, “Soak in very warm, alkaline water. Squeeze some lemon in the water and ensure to change the water often. Drain off the water, cover the pulses in more water to rinse, drain, and then cover again with very warm water to soak. Changing the water often allows you to discard any anti-nutrients leeched from the bean.”
Cook them slowly
Another essential tip is to cook your pulses over low heat for a very long time as “it gives them time to break down those hard-to-digest fibres”.
She suggested adding “carminative spices” such as cumin, fennel, coriander, cardamom, clove, bay leaf, grated ginger, pepper, star anise and a pinch of asafoetida. “This aids the digestion process and removes excess gas from these beans,” she said.
Dr Dhinghra added that “it’s good to take a walk after eating lentils rather than sitting in one place”, adding that one can opt for lentils and split beans as they are comparatively easier to digest than chick peas, urad dal, kidney beans.