Pulses, Legumes & Beans : why and why not (1/2)

Shelley Paul @ Unsplash

Sooner or later a pedestrian is bound to ask. “Why can’t you live off beans and rice? And live like everybody else?”

My answer: “I follow my own gut instinct, thank you.” .

Here are my thoughts, constituting not mere weeks, but year(s) of recall.

My Stance & rationale behind this writeup.

In this first of two part feature article I’ll start with the conclusion ~ my stance, brief context, and finally practical reminders.

As anyone suspect coming from traditional against-the-grain low-carbohydrate, and now – Cyclical Keto + Intermittent Fasting – I lean towards the cautionary camp.

Once in a while / a meal every few weeks occasion? Not a problem. Every weekend refeed? Somewhat tolerable. Every single day? Not so tolerable.

Beans and legumes, no matter how seemingly “well cooked” still in some likelihood produce an adverse reaction. For bit of trivia the longest preparation I’ve done ~ from soaking, cooking to storage span three (3) entire days. Firstly ~ two (2) days worth of soaking with apple cider vinegar. Then with pressure, not stove ~ cooking for almost three hours total. Not just one, but on two (2) separate sessions. Despite all that, I still experience reactions.

What sort exactly? Not life threatening. Inflammation? No. Collateral discomforts? Yes. Does it affect my motivation to eat? Absolutely. I remembered not one but repeateed occassion/s were bad enough. Black beans (canned as far as I remembered, re-washed) with rice ~ completely detracts me from eating altogether the next few hours. Not mere discomfort, but real, actual stabbing pain – in the stomach and lower backs. Imagine the pain bad enough it detracts one from completely enjoying food. And that was supposedly a refeed day after a week of of deficit + training.

Agree or disagree, everyone should has a right to stand on their own experience. This article is aimed for individual imploring just how important for us all to take calculated and most importantly self-journalled ~ experimentations. Granted with self research, patience and introspection ~ nothing else matters as much as your own experience.

Fava Beans
Fava Beans


So “what” are the things we’re actually concerned with? FODMAPs  ~ the indigestible carbohydrates found in many fibrous foods, and also commercial dairy, fruits and condiments. Specifically in this write up we are referring to entire families of “pulses” ~  beans,  chickpeas and legumes. Although dairy, fruits, condiments and other herbs and spices are also subject to their own FODMAPs concern, I decided not to cover them here in order to keep the length of this article reasonable.

In summary ~ “FODMAPs” is one (1) set of acronyms representing short-chain fermentable macromolecules, as follows:

  • F – Fermentable (as the beginning of phrase ~ to indicate sugars and fibers that are fermentable <type of macromolecules below>
  • O – Oligosaccharides (this group is our primary concern here in this writeup)
    • Fructans (Inulin & Fructo-oligosaccharides or shortened as FOS)
    • Galacto-Oligosaccharides (shortened as GOS)
    • Usual suspect: Inulin, Maltodextrin (Arnold AR, 2018.).
  • D – disaccharides
    • “Di” ~ meaning two sugars – usual suspect: lactose.
  • M – monosaccharides
    • “Mono” single string sugar ~ usually suspect: free form Fructose.
  • A – [(And) / Ampersand to connect with the final group below]
  • P ~ polyols / polysaccarides
    • poly (“more than one” molecule) Sugar Alcohols. ~ suspects:  Sorbit-ol, Mannit-ol, Xylit-ol, Errithryt-ol
      (there may be others for simplicity sake only the commonly-known basics are mentinoed here).

Once arrived in the colon FODMAPs generally escape digestion due to our absence of enzymes needed for their digestion. Consequently, the “bolus” (predigested / chewed food) continues their  transit partially or worse, undigested. Inevitably fermentation occurs in the large intestine leading to a number of undesired implications:

  1. Luminal (intestinal) Distension or simply swelling throughout the small and large intestines as the entire digestion proceeds.
  2. Then the potential Diarrhoea, this is due to FODMAP’s inherently osmotic (water-attracting) characteristic (Gibson P. 2013 ~ watch @ 36 minute mark).
  3. And of course we should also not forget. The-silent-but-deadly exits. No citation needed. 

If left untreated we may have a potentially warranted case,  or diagnosis as IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Implications are broad enough affecting multiple systems, to name a few ~the Central Nervous system (Gibson P. 2013) psychology (Mikocka-Walus A et al. 2008)(Asahina S et al. 2006) and endocrinology + auto immunity conditions (Abbott DR 2019. et al).

Of course as with all things in nutritional science, everything is a shade of grey. The Oligosaccharides “FOS” and “GOS” nonetheless appears to be well-received in public as “good” for their pre-biotic quality. Apparently a study suggests its positive effect on metabolic health in women (Dall’Oligio F. et al 2018) although another study on mixed-gender adults found the opposite  (Liu F et al. 2017)  . Further, undergoing  prolonged FODMAP restriction, despite its evident efficacy across general population (O’Keefe, et al. 2018) – there appears to be some observational concern towards an overall shift of gut microbiota to less favourable (Save, K. 2018), with an interesting highlight that calcium intake and/or possibly its absorption may be impaired as a result.

Once again, this writeup is meant to practically inform but only to a certain pointindepth. Due to time constraint, we cannot go too far as that of Self-Meta level. Otherwise that will easily require month(s) worth of writing.

Disclaimer. This first of two feature article is definitely not meant to discount, or permissively dismiss readers from further reading at their own end. For those undergoing strict FODMAPs elimination, and reintroduction protocol they should remain well advised to follow their dieticians order. The following information are only suggestive advices subject for individual’s own trials and experiences, however they certainly do not constitute as prescriptive overrides. Please therefore exercise your own indemnity before proceeding.


The Reminders.

So, here are the points worth considering  for anyone thinking of including, or cautiously introducing ~ any type of pulse – beans, legume, peas or lentils in however amounts they’re comfortable with, subject to revision and/or tinkering/adjustment at their own end.

1. Research, and portion to individual tolerance. Adjust until a response is noted. Increase, decrease, or eliminate.

From therapeutic practice, one source (Scott A & Baker J. 2020) suggests the following being rated as safe or “green” amounts for those officially undergoing a Low FODMAP protocol:

  1. 1/3 cup canned cannellini beans
  2. 1/3 cup canned red kidney beans
  3. 1/4 cup canned chickpeas
  4. 1/4 cup canned lentils
  5. 1/4 cup boiled lentils (green or red)
  6. 1/4 cup canned butter beans
  7. 1/4 cup boiled lima beans
  8. 2 tbsp black beans

Loosely speaking ~ 1/3 cup of beans, presumably cooked ~ constitute anywhere between 10 – 14 grams of carbohydrates, but only 5-8 grams of protein. 70-80kcals give or take.

A coach or dietitian may only advise so much on the quantification. But what or how does “low”, “moderate” and “high”, after all, means? How does one qualifies as such? That can only be experienced through biological experience. That ~ is where individual self-Journalling  comes in.

The initial step here is to try surveying + documenting our baseline” account or baseline experience as thoroughly possible. The following provides only a crude guide, although not for immediate prescriptive use for everyone, right away without some perpetual adjustments beyond this entire concept initiative’s indemnity :

  1. Batch prepare / cook the beans as usual. You can either follow the manufacturer or Youtube® instructionals, or refer down to Points #4 (Soaking) and #5 (Pressure Cooking).
  2. Assuming whoever currently reading this have no prior experience to dieting or food manipulation ~ schedule and prepare your meals as usual on exact same timing as usual.
  3. For your solid feature meal ~ make the majority of this meal to compose primarily of the suspecting FODMAP. Eg.If you are used to having mixed protein sources, you must conciously and re-arrange your meal composition so that the largest portion of this must feature the beans/legumes/peas.
  4. Keep using other accessory(s) or condiments typically accompanied on this exact same meal, and on this exact same timing as before.
  5. Eat until you are full, as per your usual satiety.  Journal your satiety, and digestion comfort levels (not just immediately after, but at least an hour after this feature meal).
  6. Your first initial / first ever written down passage = represent your baseline experience. 

On your next day, on the exact same feeding window and/or time, depending on how you feel ~ either decrease or increase your portion of the suspecting food. Reassess. No problems? Jack it up next day. Somewhat not good? Decrease or eliminate.From hereonwards, update your journalling and compare these from your baseline. Revise, reflect, repeat.

The aim here is to keep documenting, until you find or experience a reaction.

Nonetheless, a notable finding as accordingly to this research review (Lacovou M et al. 2015) suggests that a so called “greatest” improvement for FODMAP symptoms-relief ~ appear to be at seventh day of strict avoidance protocol. This however, may not translate to everyone whom are not accustomed, or yet familiar with elimination experiences. Hence the old adage YMMV ~ certainly applies.

2. Be patient. Very patient.

It takes anywhere from 6 to 24 hours (Baker, J. 2017), depending on gut health, and/or conditions ~ before any food start to arrive in the colon and commence  fermentation. In other words, any symptoms or signs associated with fermentable sugars or FODMAPs, will likely manifest at this point. So be sure to take note anywhere around 24 hour mark, after you have eaten that meal containing the suspected beans. Do not calculate based from just the very last bite of food you eat prior to fasting window. Unless of course that very last bite of food do contain suspecting FODMAPs.

As bit of reminder, food digestion “priority” go analogously in terms of “layers”; depending on:

  1. Solidity of the food. Obviously, more = the slower the overall motility/movement/peristalsis thus slower digestion.
  2. Liquidity of the food. Obviously, more = the faster overall motility/movement/peristlasis thus faster digestion.

Irrespective, digestion takes time.

Even if you do not feel anything at even 10-12 hour mark of fasting, wait until you introduce lots of moderate movements. This I am referring to exercise where and when the abdominals are subject to moderate amounts of movement, but not necessarily so at an exertion level. Be prepared that around this point is when any distress symptoms will likely unfold. I certainly had my “occasions”, embarassingly so at times ~ DURING training. 15 minutes down the drain.

So, what common symptoms to look out for?

  • (Obviously) ~ prolonged “clenching” of the abdominals, to withstand gas production.
  • Sudden urge or bloated pains ~ signalling very large to uncomfortably painful ~ bowel movements including diarrhoea.
  • More noticeable thirst, leading to water retention. Reminder that FODMAPs are generally osmotic, or highly attractant with water (Gibson P. 2013 ~ watch @ 36 minute mark).
  • Unexplainable or unexpected heaviness, out of ordinary inbetween meal post-prandial (after meals) sensation.

3. Buy and keep dry in the pantry.

Dry beans are likely more long-and-value-lasting than canned beans. Obviously, anything that is water-based may not last as long.

Legumes, beans and pulses, so long as they bought dry ~ are quite hardy. They generally keep well under most dry conditions for at least a year if not more, as suggested by a source here (eatbydate.com) .

On a more very interesting claim, provided if there is indeed a serious food insecurity ~ anywhere between 25-30 years of storage is reportedly safe to eat. But the source suggests that pressure-cooking times may need to be lengthened and that additional treatment with baking soda seemed widely suggested.

At the very least, until there are more source(s) or references to replicate this finding, when in doubt – do not eat it.

Fava Beans
Soak at least 24 hours

4. To prepare: soak for at least 16 hours.

Rewashing, draining, and cooking ~ canned beans are still not enough at removing the two prime sub-suspect(s) of FODMAPs (Catsos, P. 2020).  Namely GOS “galacto-oligosaccharides” and FOS “Fructo Oligosaccharides”.

Hence, for peace of mind by default I’d choose dry whole beans. That way I can soak them myself.

I tend to use tablespoons worth of ACV and 1/2 tsp of baking soda into 300g to 400g (what I usually make a time) with boiling water. Once it has soaked after about 12 hour mark. Drain and reboil the water and continue re-soaking for another, although optional ~ 12 hours.

The longest soaking time I infrequently tried occasionally on record was around 48 hours, this include draining and resoaking every 12 hours.

5. Use a pressure cooker (highly recommended).

The most indispensible cookware, other than authentic stainless steel pan, is a pressure cooker. Choosing the right one however is an expensive trial and error. My first was a budget <$AUD 70 electrical ones at Kmart, and was supremely disappointed on how overhyped it is. Firstly the WARMING up time plus the cooking time is actually not much improvement than stove top cooking.  And the inner pot is the inferior PTFE non stick coating, which I should have known all the more better though a few months too late.

And that leaves us with only two choices. Either the overpriced Instantpot®, or the IKEA® 365. IKEA®, love or hate them ~ is the winner. For the first time, we have a product that actually works as advertised. An actual “pressure” cooker.

  1. Soak the beans first, obviously and ideally 16+ hours.
  2. Wash and drain under running water. Transfer to the pressure cooker and level with water just when everything is covered, roughly. Close the lid as accordingly to the instruction manual.
  3. Pre-heat (assuming readers are using a on-the-stove pressure cooker, stainless steel) using highest heat on your stove.
  4. For about 10 minutes, the pressure valve lifts up completely, indicating  the pressure has built up exactly as we wanted it.
  5. Now lower the heat to lowest setting. If the pressure valve drops again, it might be worthwhile use somewhere between lowest and low heat level.
  6. For as long as the pressure valve remain lifted ~ the actual pressure cooking begins (and continues).
  7. After 30 minutes ~ telease the valve by flipping the release pressure lever with a point instrument. Warning: be prepared to witness large bursts of steam pressure.
  8. Wait until it releases all the excess steam, once the valve has dropped ~ it is now safe to open the lid.
  9. Assess doneness. If cooking fava beans (or broad beans); we need to de-shell the beans manually (see next subhead).
  10. Add any other accessory ingredients. Mash.
  11. Done.

The above is for a pressure cooker.

For stove top, the goal here is to keep everything at a simmer but not overly, and keep adding water whenever it dries up. This entire process takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Stove Top Method
Stove Top Method ~ Chickpeas

Fava/Broad beans need to manually de-shelled.

After pressure cooking, unfortunately we still need to manually remove the shell. The only way to do this is to run through cold water and manually peel the beans. This obviously will take some time. So expect peeling time anywhere up to 30 minutes depending on the size of the batch.

The pictures below showed what a realistic final edible output, starting off with 300g dry amount, 36+ hours soak with apple cider vinegar which usually doubles to around 600-700g. Then the pressure cook batch, and finally the manual shelling process.

Approx 300-325g as edible output. Approx 400g of the tough shells.

I should firmly note from my however few experience thus far – Fava beans may actually have been the next worst (next black beans) on my thus-far own self experimentations in terms of distress symptoms.

I shall also obligate a clear medical warning. Do not consume this ~ if you or anyone that you are caring for ~ are suspect or diagnosed to have Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase Deficiency. Symptoms are quite serious enough that one may run into severe iron anemia / deficiency conditions to the point of kidney damage or worse ~ death. A quick Google search should prompt everyone this much needed public-awareness. 


“Beans, legumes, pulses as bulk foods?”

I’d still prefer vegetables, for their actual micronutrient insurance both water and fat solubles.

As what I previously wrote on 3-part feature on vegetarianism   I still submit ~ that the cost per gram, despite its however (in)complete nutrition profiling – is the most economical to have a meal that simply caters for “volume”, for the sake of “bulk“.

However, to simply equate bulk with “satiety” is in my humble opinion a misguided take-away comfort. I am no gastroenterologist, but feeling “full” just for the anticipation for “it”, that is, any food to “remain” in our tract  is something I do not entirely subscribe as “benign”, or “beneficial”. I believe, if I may remind to all is that any prime goal/s of “nutrition” ~ is to nurture our selves, with given ration (or “food”), in the path of least resistance. More on this in our part two.

Otherwise, so long as we don’t live in world akin to Soylent Green, then I am happy.

Conclusion & Part two coming soon.

That concludes first of the two part.  I shall elaborate my thoughts alongside reserved ambivalence(s) together with references and citations wherever possible.



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