Quite a number of opinions exist as to why we should soak beans before cooking. Many persons practice soaking their beans without having any idea why. They just saw their mothers or grandmothers doing it and continued the tradition.
As with many other traditions, there exists very good reasons why this is usually done.
Here are 6 reasons why you should soak your beans before cooking.
1. To remove some of those indigestible sugars that cause flatulence.
Beans cause gas because they contain a particular sugar, called an oligosaccharide which cannot be broken down fully in the body and absorbed like other sugars. These sugars make their way undigested into the large intestines where they are broken down by bacteria in the gut forming unwanted excess gas. Soaking your beans before cooking will help to remove some of these culprit, gas forming sugars.
2. To remove dirt
This is a pretty obvious one. The soaking will actually help to remove the dirt from off the beans. It cleans them more thoroughly since beans cannot be washed before being sold or they can turn moldy.
3. Soaking can reduce cooking time considerably.
This might be one of the biggest advantages. With some beans, the difference in time is minimal, there is not much difference whether you soak or not. But with tougher beans that take longer to cook (e.g.,garbanzo beans and black beans), soaking can reduce cooking time significantly, particularly if the beans are a little older and more dried out.
4. Beans hold their shape better.
Because soaked beans take a lot less time to cook, they tend to hold their shape better. I suppose that is not such an important issue if you will be using the beans in recipes that require you to mash them such as when you are making bean burgers or using them in soups.
5. Lower energy bill.
I can see your eyebrows raising over that one. How did energy bill get into the middle of our beans discussion? Very easily. If your soaked beans cook in an hour or less and your unsoaked beans take 3 to 4 hours, can you see that if you cooked unsoaked beans 3 times for the week you will be using up approximately 9 hours more of energy. You might not have thought about it much while you were cooking but it will surely show up on your energy bill.
6. Decreases phytic acid
Phytic acid is a substance that can be found in certain foods including beans. It is considered an antinutrient because it impairs the absorption of the minerals iron, zinc and calcium. When these minerals bind to phytic acid, they form insoluble precipitates and are far less absorbable in the intestines. So if we are ingesting the phytic acid (antinutrient) then we are not absorbing necessary nutrients, are we?
This process can therefore contribute to iron and zinc deficiencies in people whose diets rely on these foods for their mineral intake. Since most antinutrient is found in the skin of the legumes, simply soaking your beans before cooking will cause the phytic acid present to dissolve out into the water.
Quick soaking methods for beans
Good news! If you do not have enough time for the long soak, there is a quick method. You put the beans in the water, bring to a boil then turn off the stove and let the beans sit in the hot water for about 1 hour.
Disadvantages to soaking
There are not many disadvantages to pre-soaking and the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages but here are two.
- Dark skinned beans will lose colour. But no need to panic. There will still be colour left.
- Soaking may removes some nutrients. – One of the main reasons cited for soaking your beans is to prevent flatulence, and the recommendation is that you should not cook the beans in the same water you soaked them in. Because you are instructed to throw out the soaking water, there is the concern that you will also throw out nutrients as well. But not to worry. Even if you do lose some, there is a lot more remaining to fulfill your nutritional needs.
So now you know why your mother and grandmother used to soak beans before cooking. There was a good reason behind it after all.
The reasons listed confirm that we should continue soaking our beans…or if we haven’t been doing it we definitely should consider starting.
But what if you didn’t get a chance to soak your beans and you really need to prepare them for dinner later. Well don’t despair. All is not lost. You can still have your beans for dinner. It might take a little bit longer to prepare……so what?
You can still prepare delicious, nutritious menus from beans that were never soaked. Just cook slowly, starting in cold water and slowly bring up to a simmer. Cook until you achieve the desired softness.
What are you waiting for? Grab that pack of beans from the pantry and start cooking.
How do you normally prepare your beans for cooking?
Share your tips with us in the comments section below.