by Vesanto Melina and Mio Lainchbury and Arooj Hayat,
Moving towards a plant-based diet can initially raise questions about whether you’re getting enough protein—especially if you’re not up on the science. If you’ve been on a plant-based journey for some time, you’re already aware of the many rich protein sources available, especially legumes (beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, and soyfoods). These also are also high in fibre, iron, zinc, and B vitamins.
What if you struggle with less welcome effect of beans… gas and bloating? Here are tips that can help you enjoy these power-packed plant foods.
What causes bloating?
Some discomfort and bloating is caused by small pockets of gas that are produced by gut bacteria, when they feast on indigestible fibre (known as oligosaccharides) found in beans. Though gas production is both normal and healthy, getting too much may push against your intestinal walls, causing an annoying, achy feeling.
Seven Simple Steps to Avoid the Gas Crisis
- Start with the smaller varieties: lentils and mung beans. Also, tofu has had oligosaccharides removed, so it’s an excellent choice. (Tofu can reduce risk of breast cancer for girls and women and prostate cancer for guys. Ignore those past and unfounded rumors that discredited soyfoods!)
- Increase your bean consumption gradually, so your body can adapt by allowing more of the right gut bacteria to grow.
- Try a variety of beans and lentils. Some may be more easily digested by your body.
- When you cook dried beans, add any salt after cooking. Salt can cause the outer lining to harden, making digestion difficult. Cook until beans are soft enough to mash on the roof of your mouth with your tongue. Then season.
- Chew food thoroughly to break down cell walls before they enter the stomach. Chew soft foods 5-10 times and harder foods 30 times, before swallowing. Note that much intestinal gas is the result of gulped air.
- Move around! Physical activity massages your insides; air bubbles break up, then travel through your intestine and are released easily.
- Remember that passing some gas free is completely natural. In fact medical journals discuss the healthful nature of passing some intestinal gas 12 to 25 times a day.
What if you can’t eat beans?
Allergies are a possibility. But note that a test may indicate “allergic to beans” when only 2 or 3 of the 20 types normally consumed have been tested, and many others may be fine for you. (By the way, how many types can you name? Do your best to write down a list of the legumes you know, then look below for a list of 20 legumes.)
Abundant Plant Protein
All plant foods contain protein; some are particularly rich sources. Examples are seeds, nuts, mushrooms, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens such as kale. Half the world’s protein comes from grains. To further boost your intake, you might add vegan protein powders (based on hemp, pumpkin, rice, soy) to a smoothie.
If you haven’t strolled by the natural foods freezer sections in your favorite supermarket, check out the vast array of new vegetarian alternatives for meat, chicken, and various sea foods.
Enjoying a variety of plant based foods, including some legumes, will ensure that you get more than enough protein to live an active healthy lifestyle.
Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver Dietitian, www.becomingvegan.ca and www.nutrispeak.com. Mio Lainchbury and Arooj Hayat are third year dietetic students at the University of British Columbia.
How many types can you name? Here are 20 legumes.
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Cannellini beans
- Navy beans
- White beans
- Red beans
- Adzuki beans
- Mung beans
- Fava beans/Broad beans
- Green beans
- Wax/yellow beans