Hint: It has to do with farts.
I went to a restaurant with some friends over the weekend. Our server came by the table at the end of our meal and tried to get one of my friends to finish a vegetarian taco filled with black beans. He said something along the lines of, “I’m so full! Plus, beans don’t sit well with me.” Our server surprised us all when she said, “We add baking soda to our beans here, so they won’t make you gassy.” We kind of laughed it off, at first. But then, of course, we all took out our phones and Googled it. Turns out, she’s right! There’s truth behind the baking-soda-in-your-beans technique.
Here are three reasons you should be sprinkling a little baking soda into the soaking water for your beans.
It’ll Make You Less Gassy
If you love beans but can’t stand the way you feel after eating them (read: bloated, gassy), you’re definitely not alone. Beans are a particularly gas-inducing food because they contain oligosaccharides, a type of sugar our bodies can’t digest well. Oligosaccharides can make it all the way down to the large intestine before the body fully digests them, which can cause the production of gas and make us feel uncomfortable.
But, according to a study from 1985, adding a little baking soda to the water while soaking dried beans decreases the amount of gas-causing oligosaccharides in cooked beans. (Yes, you can cook beans in the same water they were soaked in. You’ll just have to add more water to account for the liquid that was absorbed by the legumes.)
Your Beans Will Cook Faster
Do you remember learning about basic, neutral and acidic substances in middle-school chemistry? Well, creating an alkaline (or basic) environment by adding a small amount (about 1 teaspoon per cup of dry beans) of baking soda to your soaking/cooking water can actually help your beans cook faster.
Here’s why: “It adds sodium ions that weaken the pectin, and more importantly, an alkaline environment causes the pectin molecules to break down into smaller molecules. That greatly weakens the pectin, causing the beans to soften much more rapidly. Beans cooked with a tiny amount of baking soda … cook in about half the time as beans cooked without,” Guy Crosby, Ph.D., of America’s Test Kitchen told The Bean Institute. (Yes, that’s a thing.)
If beans make you uncomfortably gassy, sprinkle a little baking soda into their soaking water. It will reduce the volume of gas produced by the legumes, plus, they will cook quicker.
If you’re even shorter on time, you may want to try some of our favorite recipes to make with a can of black beans.
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