Beans and legumes are an excellent source of vegetarian protein and a staple of many vegetarian diets. On the other hand, legumes take long time to cook and may contribute to flatulence upon consumption. Flatulence is considered one of the most influential factors that deter consumers from eating more legume. But cooking with right technique can help to deal these problems effectively.
In order to reduce the cooking time we soak the beans, is what we know. Actually, purpose of soaking is not solely for reducing the cooking time, it has many other advantages too. Some of the main benefits of soaking are:
Reduces the flatulence:
The outer coatings of many varieties of beans contain sugars called oligosaccharides. When beans aren’t soaked, these sugars can bypass our stomach and small intestine without being fully digested. When these sugars enter large intestine, bacteria break them down, producing intestinal gas resulting in flatulence. Soaking dried legumes dissolves the membranes that cover beans and releases their oligosaccharides. Thus reduces the chances flatulence.
Improves the digestibility and nutrients absorption:
when we soak, some vitamins and minerals leach into the soaking water. The amount of nutrients lost during soaking is pretty negligible though. Interestingly, soaking actually increases the nutritional content of protein, fiber and a few nutrients, such as thiamin and calcium.
Decreases the Anti-Nutrients:
All legumes contain anti-nutrients (phytates and tannins), which reduce nutrient availability. Soaking deactivates these anti-nutrients and significantly improves the amount of magnesium, zinc, and iron absorption. Hence, keep in mind that while we might ingest more nutrients from unsoaked legumes, but might not necessarily absorb them.
After soaking, there are two choices, draining the soaked water and cooking with fresh water or cooking with the soaked water. The first reduces flatulence, while the second provides more nutrients.
Choice is ours !
Personally, I prefer draining the soaking liquid and cooking legumes in freshwater. Since soaking water contains elements that we were trying to eliminate. Yes, we will lose some desirable nutrients in negligible amount. Yes, we will lose some dark pigment. But we will also decrease flatulence and the potency of anti-nutrients found in legumes.
Just keeping in mind about reducing the cooking time of legumes we tend to soak only hard beans/legumes like rajma, peas, chickpeas etc. We do not bother to soak toor dal, moong dal etc which we almost use on daily basis. These dals too have flatulence causing substances, anti-nutrients in them. Minimum of three hours of soaking is necessary to gain the benefits of soaking. Ayurveda suggests roasting the dals with little amount of castor oil and then cooking helps in reducing the flatulence. So, it’s better to pick up a right technique and cook the dal daily, so as to get maximum benefits from the legumes.