Should You Eat Beans on a Raw Food Diet?

Raw Beans and Other LegumesBeans and other legumes are usually viewed as a “good for you” food.

Kidney beans, black beans pinto beans, lima beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, black-eyed peas and other legumes are praised for being good sources of protein, low in fat and calories, and cholesterol-free.

But…all of these foods are eaten cooked, usually baked or boiled.

So then what about RAW beans? Can they be consumed when raw? Should they be?

Beans, Beans, The Musical Fruit

There are many versions of this schoolyard rhyme, but here’s the one I remember…

Beans, beans, the musical fruit

The more you eat, the more you toot

The more you toot, the better you feel

So eat your beans with every meal!

Poetry. Sheer poetry!

In all seriousness, this silly song speaks the toot…I mean, truth. ;)

Back when I ate a cooked vegan diet high in grains and legumes (hummus and falafel were two of my favorite snacks), I was pootin’ and tootin’ up a storm. And it definitely wasn’t music to my ears nor did it smell like roses. :roll:

But the big question is why? Why do beans and other legumes make us so gassy?

Many legumes contain oligosaccharides, a complex sugar. Because humans do not posses enough of the enzymes necessary to break down this sugar, these large molecules are able to pass through your digestive system mostly intact.

Once the sugars reach your large intestine, they ferment in the presence of bacteria there and cause gas.

Another reason beans are associated with tummy upset is actually not because of the beans themselves. Since beans are so bland and unappealing on their own, they are typically accompanied by condiments, oils, and other foods to add flavor and texture.

For instance, chili, hummus, and falafel all contain beans, but they are also high in fat (e.g. oils, meat, and cheese). In addition, these foods are typically consumed with high carbohydrate foods like bread, corn chips, crackers, etc.

This meal of cooked fat and sugar makes for a very poor food combination that will likely cause gas and bloating.

Finally, the presence of lectins in legumes can result in serious intestinal upset. But we’ll get to that in a minute…

Phytohemagglutinin, and Linamarin, and Hydrocyanic Acid! Oh My!

In addition to being difficult to digest, certain beans and many other legumes are also quite toxic.

For instance, kidney beans (particularly the red variety) contain phytohemagglutinin (PHA). PHA is an incredibly harmful lectin, a class of proteins that bind to certain sugars. Like all lectins, PHA is a naturally-occurring pesticide that protects the seed of the plant (i.e. the bean) from being eaten by predators.

So what does PHA do to you? It damages the lining of the intestinal tract. Your body’s response? Prolonged vomiting and diarrhea.

Yikes! :shock:

As a result, kidney beans MUST be boiled (which reduces the level of PHA they contain) to make them edible. And actually, according to Wikipedia, many other commonly consumed beans also contain this lectin, just in smaller amounts. Green beans and fava beans are two examples.

Lima beans, especially the darker varieties, are another particularly poisonous legume. They contain linamarin, a cyanogenic glucoside.

So what’s so bad about this cyanogenic whatever-you-call-it? According to Wikipedia:

Upon exposure to enzymes and gut flora in the human intestine, linamarin and its methylated relative lotaustralin can decompose to the toxic chemical hydrogen cyanide

What’s hydrogen cyanide? It’s an extremely poisonous chemical compound!

Finally, ALL legumes (like grains) contain lots of lectin. While not all lectins are as harmful as PHA, they can bind to the lining of your intestines and cause intestinal damage when consumed in high amounts.

This results in compromised absorption of any and all nutrients that pass through your intestines and can even lead to leaky gut syndrome.

The Bottom Line on Beans

Raw beans are not an ideal food. They are hard to digest, high in toxins, and completely unpleasant in their whole, raw state.

If you’re going to consume legumes, it’s best to cook them first. Actually, your best bet is to soak and sprout them first, as this process helps to decrease the amount of anti-nutrients in the beans and also increase bioavailability of certain nutrients. Cooking will further reduce toxins and make the beans even easier to digest.

Go raw and be bean-less,
Swayze

P.S. Some people think they can’t maintain a raw food diet of fresh fruits and veggies. They think that they won’t feel satisfied, won’t have any energy, will have massive cravings, and will have to turn to cooked complex carbs like grains and beans.

If this is you, you’re wrong.

If you can’t stay raw because you never feel satisfied after meals, you’re doing it wrong. If you can’t stay raw because of low-to-no energy, your doing it wrong. If you can’t stay raw because you have massive cravings for cooked foods, you’re doing it wrong.

On a healthy raw vegan diet done right, you should feel satisfied after every meal, have loads of energy, and be completely cravings-free.

Where can you learn how to go raw the right way and abolish your cravings for good? My cravings-crushing program How to Conquer Your Cooked Food Cravings Once and for All will teach you all that and more…

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12 Comments

  1. I have to disagree with a few points you made.

    “Beans are unappetizing in their unseasoned state.” — What a totally subjective statement. I have eaten several bowls of unseasoned beans, and I liked it. If your logic is, “unappetizing to me = indicator of an unhealthy food” then I can think of a lot of food that must not be healthy. If you sat a large plate of uncooked kale in front of me and said, “get to chewing” I would be kind of reluctant. However, large amounts of nutritional data will still indicate that it is indeed healthy, despite my thoughts about it.
    There is no need to slather them in fatty condiments either. Adding a small amount of fennel or cumin adds great flavor and has been used to aid in digestion for a long time. You can’t be telling me that the ancient Northern Indian way of cooking with legumes and spices is totally flawed.

    “Cooking means processing and processing on any level can’t be beneficial”– Let’s look at collard greens. The mastication of a few raw stalks of collard greens would be a long and daunting process that may not allow me to adsorb them optimally. The cellular walls of collards are especially tough and there is a good chance that some will pass straight through my body, if I take this route. That’s why I put them in a blender to make “green smoothies”. I’m sure you’re familiar with this form of consumption. Is this machine blending, like cooking, a form of processing that should be frowned upon? Is the ancient practice of making kimchi, kombucha or cheese by fermentation, a form of processing? I would assume that it falls into the definition of “processing.” I think you should do some deep thinking on this subject. We may have big brains capable of preforming preparatory functions for a reason. Maybe.

    “Beans are toxic!” — Sure they are. You’re going to get a little bit of toxin with any food. But are beans particularly toxic in comparison to other foods? As you mentioned, boiling and soaking helps to reduce the toxins and the oligosaccharides that cause gas. Some remain, but that’s life. One of the gas causing molecules, raffinose, is also present in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli. This same molecule is carried down the digestive tract and ultimately fermented in the lower intestine by the natural bacteria that reside there. That’s what those bacteria are there for. Butyric acid (oh no, not acid!!) is a product of this fermentation and research has shown it has substantial benefits to the colon; including a decrease risk of colon cancer.
    Also, lectins serve several purposes in the body; including immune system processes and others. The other compounds you mention could theoretically cause leaky gut syndrome if you ate enough, but when coupled with the benefits of beans (great amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, good amounts of protien, a high content of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients), and balancing factors of other healthy eating habits, this becomes little to worry about.

    -Andrew (some guy that put way too much time into this)

  2. I respect people’s food choices. Eating raw foods is a great way to prolong ones health. However, saying beans are toxic and should not be eaten is a little over the top in my opinion. People have been eating beans for as long as humanity. If they were toxic then stores would not be selling them to people. What about Rhubarb? That’s a plant that people eat and parts of it are poisonous while others parts are edible – So does that mean people need to STOP eating rhubarb? How about grapes? My niece ate a bowl of grapes and had such bad gas, tummy cramps and diarrhea that my sister and her husband had to take her to the hospital. Grapes are all natural and yet some times they can have negative effects – So does that mean people should stop eating grapes too? All I am trying to say is ‘if it ain’t, broke don’t fix it’. I eat beans all of the time in place of red meat (protein alternative) and I have lost 37 pounds and not once have I ever became ill from them. I make organic black bean, mushroom, and flax burgers and I have never had to make a trip to the bathroom once.

    You also said in one of your comments that Soymilk and Tofu are both toxic and should be avoided. I never had a problem eating these products.

    I do respect your opinion but I do not agree with you. I hope to hear from you, not as an argument, but because i am curious :)

    -Kelly

    Swayze Reply:

    In truth, all foods are toxic to some degree because all foods contain toxins, even tasty fruits and vegetables. The question is not whether the food contains toxins, but to what degree. Beans are simply too high in toxins to be considered an optimal food for humans. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a much better choice.

    Plus, beans cannot be consumed without being processed to some degree, even if it is just soaking. This makes it clear to me that legumes are not optimal foods.

    Soy milk and tofu are highly processed products and should be avoided or at least limited.

    Swayze

  3. are you saying soy beans are bad as well as soy milk and tofu

    Swayze Reply:

    Yes, ESPECIALLY soybeans. They are very high in phytates (blocks absorption of minerals), tripsin and other toxins that are only lessened via fermentation or cooking. Soy milk and tofu are highly processed products that should definitely be avoided.

  4. How about sprouted lentils and mung beans ? I like to add them to salads, raw. They really taste good on there own too. I sometimes eat cooked lentils, I cook them at low heat for a longer time, they also taste good with nothing on them. Or with a little lemon juice.

    Swayze Reply:

    Sprouted beans are still slightly acid-forming and toxic. If you still want to use sprouts, go for leafy sprouts like alfalfa instead.

  5. To my previous comment I wanted to add that the same goes for grains

  6. With all respect to raw food eaters, I think the article is not doing justice to beans and legumes. I am not a total raw food eater nor do I want to be…but again I totally respect those who are. The positive effects of beans and legumes surpass the negative. I believe it’s more a matter of food combining and of course the processed condiments that people often use that make beans and legumes heavy and unfit for our body. Also being aware of all that is said about beans, one could take the necessary steps before cooking the beans to avoid the negative effects, ex. soaking etc…and mainly everything has to be eaten in moderation. You really have to eat beans all day long and for a while to get all the negative effects that are described in the article. My point… everything in moderation to get the maximum benefits and the least negative effects.

    Swayze Reply:

    Eating everything in moderation is not optimal. There are some foods that should be consumed and some that should be avoided. Yes, beans contain some nutritional benefits, but they’re also toxic and difficult to digest. There’s nothing in beans that can’t be obtained from fresh fruits and vegetables. The same goes for grains.

  7. Yes… I second the above question… I love mung bean sprouts.

  8. Are any of these dangers averted by sprouting beans? Thanks for your insight.