If you're suddenly eating more dried or canned beans than usual, you've probably discovered two things. One, they can seriously elevate your meals, and two, they can lead to less than desirable bloating and gas. So how can you reduce bloat without completely removing beans from your diet?
To make your nutritious bean-filled meals a little easier on your stomach, mindbodygreen reached out to the top experts for their best tips on managing bean-induced bloat:
Rinse before eating.
Salt is often used as a preservative for many canned foods, which can decrease hydration and lead to bloating. "Rinse canned beans before eating or cooking with them," registered dietitian Abby Cannon, J.D., R.D., CDN, recommends. Along with removing excess salt, Ali Miller, R.D., L.D., CDE, says rinsing "can reduce the phytic acid and gaseous polysaccharides on the beans."
Bonus: It also removes any metallic flavor that may have soaked in.
Take probiotic supplements.
Functional medicine doctor Amy Shah, M.D., tells mbg bloating is typically "caused by an imbalance of good-to-bad bacteria in your gut." Probiotic foods and supplements can help manage bloat by introducing healthy bacteria to the gut and supporting a healthy balance in the microbiome.*
While not all strains are effective at doing this job, Miller says, "a good blend of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains can aid in breaking down resistant starches and reducing gas."*
Soften your beans.
High in fiber, resistant starches, and complex sugars, beans can be difficult to digest. To break down those hard-to-digest components, Cannon suggests buying pre-soaked canned beans. If you opt for dried beans, she recommends soaking them overnight. According to Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D., soaking the beans "leaches out the sugars in beans that are responsible for gas production."
If you're short on time, holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque says, "pressure cooking dried beans is a fast and easy alternative to soaking that can decrease unwanted gas."
Drinking plenty of water after eating high-fiber foods, like beans, can aid in digestion and help reduce bloating. "It may sound counterintuitive, but staying hydrated discourages water retention because your body isn't struggling to hold on to the water it has," Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., CDN, says.
However, "too much fluid can dilute your digestive chemicals needed to break down the starch," Miller says. So she recommends taking small sips at mealtime, while Cannon suggests omitting hydrating during a meal, and instead drinking water 30 minutes before and after. Test both options out to see what works best for your body. Regardless, prioritize staying hydrated throughout your day, not just around mealtime.
Move your body.
Physically moving your body after a meal helps food travel more quickly through your digestive system, which allows you to avoid that heavy, bloated feeling, Cannon says.
"A short walk after a meal that includes beans—or any other food, really—supports optimal digestion," Cannon says. Or try these yoga poses, which may help stimulate digestion.
If you're struggling with uncomfortable gas and bloat as a result of eating beans, it might not seem worth it. But keep in mind, beans are an inexpensive, versatile staple loaded with nutrients. So rather than discounting them altogether, try those five expert-approved tips to help manage digestive issues.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.