To Soak or Not to Soak Beans
A little gas is normal, but let’s face it, no one wants more gas than is necessary. Many people avoid beans completely because they can’t stand the repercussions that inevitably follow a hearty bowl of beans. Because of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that are designed to keep the dormant beans dormant must be soaked and brought to life! When you soak the beans before you cook them and then pour the water out you have allowed the “coming to life” process to happen in the jar instead of in your stomach. The result is a soft, creamy, living source of protein that your body can easily assimilate.
Many of the leading food blog writers have stated that they no longer soak beans ahead. They don’t want the extra time tacked onto cooking with beans. Russ Parsons of the L.A. Times says that to soak beans does not improve their digestibility yet does drain away some of the color and flavor. Then J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT of Serious Eats said he tested himself the digestibility of beans by soaking some, not soaking others and hot water soaking others. He found the difference to be minimal if any improvements at all and noted that if Russ Parsons says you don’t have to soak beans, it must be true.
Soaking is Sprouting
I myself am more focused on what takes place within the bean when it is soaked. When you soak beans when they are dry and dormant it brings them to life. If you continued to rinse and drain them for several days they begin to send out little “tails”. You are no longer eating a bean, but a tiny little plant. Wendy Rudell, Raw Transformation states “Soaking will also help to diminish some of the fat content and will help convert the dense vegetable protein to simpler amino acids for easier digestion. The more complex carbohydrates in the foods will also start to break down into the simpler glucose molecules.”
The bean is designed with this powerful protection that keeps it in a dormant state until it is given water. For farmers this means that you can store beans until you get a chance to plant them. Even years later, dormant beans will spring into action when they are given water. Mother Nature knows what she is doing! For this reason I would never consider soaking beans in boiling water. It is counter-intuitive to do so. You might get softer beans faster, but you lost all the potential benefits from the sprouting process.
Planning Ahead to Soak Beans
When I teach my plan for Vegan Core Dishes I always soak the beans the night before. I know how many quarts of each bean or grain I need and I have them soaking for the class over night. But if new students come to a vegan cooking party to make their meals for the week, I don’t put the added pressure of soaking onto their early learning experience. The first task at hand is to gain confidence in completing the process of cooking the Healthy Meals for the Week. Then, in time, they can evaluate and decide for themselves whether they want the additional nutritional value that comes with sprouting their whole foods the night before.
If you are committed to soaking over night, you won’t be able to cook with beans at the spur of the moment. Soaking means a lot of planning. It also means that if you don’t plan ahead, you have to either wait until tomorrow to make your bean recipe or go without the health benefits of sprouting your beans this time around. Because it is a long process and because I want to have beans several times a week as my vegan protein source, I soak my beans for the week all at the same time. Then I only have to plan ahead once a week instead of every time I want to cook with beans.
If you have the weekend off you might try our production plan of “Saturday Soak, Sunday Simmer”. If you have a weekend work schedule, then you can pick your day off to be your “simmer” day and remember to soak your beans the night before. Take the course.