Given that there’s a silly schoolyard rhyme about beans’ — er — musical qualities, it’s no secret that many find legumes difficult to digest. Sure, you could just avoid them altogether or save their consumption for times when stretchy pants and other bloat-friendly clothes are acceptable attire, but that’s not really much of a solution. Missing out on this versatile, affordable, super healthy category of food is not the answer. Lucky for you, I’m here to help! Through research, trial, and error, I’ve found a few tricks that help make chickpeas, pinto beans, lentils, and other legumes easier on your digestive tract, and, in some cases, tastier too.

Here are five tricks that I swear by:

  1. Before cooking them, give that bag of beans a good soak. For therapeutic effect, soak them at least overnight, or even for 24 hours, rather than employing a quick-soak method. When you’re ready to cook the beans, discard the soaking water and proceed with your recipe as written. Not only does an overnight soak help the legumes cook up quickly and evenly (bye, blown-out mushy beans), but when you dump out that water, you’re also discarding some of the beans’ difficult-to-digest phytic acid. Yes, soaking requires advance planning, but if you’re someone who finds beans tricky to digest, this hands-off step will go a long way.
  2. At the start of cooking, bring the beans and cooking liquid up to a full boil, then boil for about one minute before reducing the heat to maintain a simmer. Skim off and discard as much of the frothy foam as you can manage (the foam contains tricky-to-digest compounds).
  3. Once simmering, add a piece of kombu to the pot. Kombu, a type of seaweed that’s integral to making dashi (a kind of broth that features heavily in Japanese cooking), lends savory flavor to the beans and also improves its digestibility thanks to enzymatic action. When the beans have finished cooking, discard the piece of kombu (some of it may have broken down into the bean broth; that’s okay). If you don’t have the time or inclination to cook beans from scratch, seek out canned beans that include kombu as an ingredient, like Eden Foods.
  4. If you still find that eating beans leaves you bloated, limit your consumption to about 1/2-3/4 cup of beans in a sitting. If you eat beans frequently (as in most days), you can try increasing the volume, but for occasional bean eaters, this is a good rule to follow, especially when consuming beans that haven’t been soaked.
  5. Likewise, consider supplementing with a digestive enzyme before you eat a bean-heavy meal (follow the directions on the bottle). One brand I particularly like is Klaire Labs.

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