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Beans and Flatulence: Fact or Fiction

Prepared by Julianne Curran, PhD

Dry beans and other pulses, like chickpeas and lentils, have tremendous nutritional benefits like fiber, protein, folate, and iron and they also promote good health. Some people experience bloating and gas as a result of eating beans and this is often said to be a reason why people do not consume beans more often.

However, recent evidence suggests that people may develop a tolerance to flatulence produced or gastrointestinal symptoms associated with consumption of pulses. In 2010, the Food Research International Journal reported the results of a study that looked at whether flatulence, abdominal comfort, bowel movements, and overall GI function improved over time as pulses were consumed every day for a one-month period.

Healthy adult males between the ages of 18 and 40 were given soups made from either chickpeas, lentils, or dry peas versus a potato control every day for a period of 28 days. They were asked about their GI symptoms at different times throughout the study using a questionnaire. Pulse consumption was not associated with significant changes in participants’ perception of the occurrence or severity of flatulence. There were also no significant differences in abdominal discomfort over time or between any of the treatments.

The primary flatulence-producing compounds in pulses are the oligosaccharides including raffinose and stachyose which are carbohydrate compounds that are not readily digested by humans because of their chemical structure.

Soaking and rinsing dry beans before cooking, as well as rinsing of canned beans, can reduce the levels of these hard to digest sugars. It is also important to note that gas production is a normal physiological process that, to some extent, aids in digestion by softening and helping to move stools through the colon.

About the Author: Dr. Julianne Curran is Director of Nutrition, Scientific, and Regulatory Affairs at Pulse Canada. She is also a member of the Bean Institute’s editorial board.

Reprinted with permission from the Dry Bean Quarterly, a health and nutrition publication sponsored by the Bean Institute and the Northarvest Bean Growers Association. For more information, visit www.beaninstitute.com.

Reviewed 2/26/2013