Find out how to take legumes from one of the most undigestible foods we could eat to a living, enzyme-rich, nutritional powerhouse!
The magical fruit.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say they don’t eat beans because they cause gas. You know, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat, the more you….” (ahem) I confess, I used to say the same thing. Well, let me share with you a little “bean of truth” I discovered:
Beans are not the real culprit.
The fiber in beans is a major binder. Unlike the digestive fluid that the liver makes (a.k.a., bile), fiber can’t be reabsorbed into the liver because it can’t break through the intestinal barrier. The fact that 90-95% of a person’s bile is reabsorbed and returns to the liver means that the majority of us have a mound of undigestible trash in our livers. (And remember, the liver is what cleans your blood. . . . definitely not a place you want filled with junk!) But beans, with their fiber, latch on to the nastiness and take it out with them. This is where the gas comes from – the beans are cleaning you out!
Now, while you can see that eating beans is necessary for a clean liver and intestines, they do have their “bad” side. Pretty much any grain, seed, or legume you can think of contains enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. Enzyme inhibitors are what keep the beans dry and dormant until they are soaked and start to sprout. Phytic acid (also known as inositol hexaphosphate [IP6], or phytate) binds to minerals, metals, and anything else found in your liver and intestines and takes them out of the body with it. While phytic acid can be a powerful antioxidant and helps rid our organs of heavy metals and other toxins, eating too many grains, seeds, or beans that have not been sprouted or soaked (and are thus mostly undigestible) can lead to serious mineral deficiencies and even bone loss.
Soaking grains, seeds, and beans neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors and starts the production of many beneficial digestive enzymes, such as lactobacilli and other helpful organisms. These enzymes and organisms break down and neutralize the phytic acid, making your beans (and grains and seeds) digestible.
A living food.
Now, if you think soaking beans is helpful, sprouting them is even more so! Sprouts are an all-natural, living food, rich in enzymes and low in calories. Sprouting beans causes their vitamin A content to double, some of their B group vitamins to multiply 5 to 10 times higher, and their vitamin C content to increase similarly. Soaking and sprouting beans will make available significant amounts of calcium, iron, and zinc and will also make their protein content easily digestible.
In short, sprouting beans not only makes them into a basically pre-digested food, but also one of the most enzyme-rich and nutritious foods we have!
So, without further ado, here’s the process of sprouting beans:
Step 1: Remove Damaged Beans
Pretty self explanatory. Most people say to remove split beans, but I usually don’t bother. Just take out the ones that are a strange color, moldy, or have weird spots or crinkly skins.
Step 2: Soak
Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water. Since beans will double in size when soaked, it’s a good idea to use about twice as much water as you have dried beans. For instance, if I measured out 3 cups of beans, then I would cover them with 6 cups of water. Cover with a cheesecloth/paper towel/old t-shirt and place out of direct sunlight. Soak the beans over night, or for at least 8-24 hours, depending on what you’re soaking. The beans should about double in size, soaking up almost all of the water.
- lentils need to soak for 6-8 hours
- beans (black, kidney, pinto, white, or black-eyed peas) need to soak for 12-24 hours
- chickpeas need to soak 24 hours
Step 3: Rinse and Drain
Whenever your soaking time is up, drain off the soaking water and rinse the beans with clean, lukewarm water. Drain well and replace in bowl or pot. Make sure the pot you place them in allows for air flow. Replace paper towel and set beans back out of direct sunlight.
Step 4: Sprout…
Let the beans sit in the bowl, out of direct sunlight for 2-3 days, or until the sprouts are about 1/4 inch long. Make sure to rinse the beans at least twice a day (or every 12 hours). If you live in a hot and humid climate, rinse them 3 times a day, just to make sure they don’t get moldy. After rinsing the beans, drain them well, place them back into the pot, recover with paper towel, and place back out of direct sunlight. You should be able to see little tails by the end of the first day. But remember – some beans take a little longer to sprout than others, so be patient!
Step 4: Cook!
Even though sprouting beans increases their nutrients and digestibility, they are still basically raw and eating raw beans is not recommended. Most raw sprouts contain something called hemagglutinins, which inhibit the absorption of proteins and fats. These are destroyed by cooking.
A Few Helpful Hints
1 – Every time you rinse and drain the beans, sort through them again, removing any that may have gone bad while sprouting.
2 – Some beans, like great northerns, seem to go bad the easiest when sprouting, so rinse and drain them more frequently and watch them carefully.
3 – It’s best to use the beans as soon to day 3 of sprouting as possible so they don’t go bad. If you still haven’t been able to use them by day 5, just boil the rest of them and freeze until you can find a use.
4 – When sprouted, beans about triple in volume. So remember: when soaking 3 cups of beans, you’ll end up with about 9 cups of sprouted ones!
My favorite place to buy beans and legumes is Azure Standard. It’s an online health food co-op, and their food is not only wonderful quality (organic/non-GMO) but also not very expensive!
12 Gluten-Free Recipes for Sprouted Beans
If you made it this far and haven’t been scared away from properly preparing beans, here are a few delicious gluten-free recipes you can make with your freshly sprouted legumes! Please note, these recipes don’t all necessarily call for sprouted beans, or even soaked ones, but the point is that you can use sprouted cooked beans for any recipe!
White Chicken Chili in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker from Raia’s Recipes (pictured)