Beans 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.
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.
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,
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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