The Bothersome Bean
Beans are often linked to indigestion and autoimmune reactions. Personally, I have shied away from eating a significant amount of beans as a protein source for this exact reason. The more I learn about different proteins and their carbon footprint, the more I have attempted to incorporate non-animal protein into my diet to supplement the high quality beef, chicken, pork and seafood I consume during the week. One technique I have begun to use to help improve my digestion when eating legumes, nuts and seeds is sprouting.
Intestinal inflammation is due in part to the content of anti-nutrients, such as phytates (or phytic acid), in legumes, nuts, seeds and grains. Anti-nutrients are the plant’s natural protective component to make them less appealing to predators and therefore less likely to be eaten. Phytic acid is irritating to the digestive system, and also binds with calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. These nutrients are excreted without being absorbed, minimizing the nutrient content of grains, legumes and seeds. This becomes more problematic for vegetarians and vegans who often rely on beans and nuts for protein and iron.
Sprouting, soaking and heating beans and seeds can help break down the phytic acid content and render these foods more digestible. Sprouting also breaks down complex sugars in legumes, which are responsible for the gas we all associate with eating beans. Lectin, a type of protein that resists breakdown in the intestines, is also present in legumes and can make them difficult to digest.
Store-bought sprouted hummus can be significantly more expensive than regular hummus. Soaking and sprouting beans at home is simple and inexpensive. Here is my process for sprouting chickpeas.
1. Rinse 1-1.5 cups of chickpeas and place in a 32oz glass jar. Fill with water and cover with cheesecloth overnight.
2. After 8-12 hours, drain and rinse beans in a colander. Cover the colander with a plate and rinse twice a day for 2-3 days, until tails appear.
3. Cook in your preferred method— boil, stir fry, or bake.
If you’re making sprouted hummus (my favorite way to eat chickpeas), here is my recipe:
1.5 cups of sprouted chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
2-4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Water as needed
In a food processor, blend tahini, olive oil, and chickpeas until creamy. Add garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pulse to combine. If you like a smoother hummus, slowly add water until you reach your desired consistency.