Tolerating beans

Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN

Q: I just switched to a plant-based diet and I am having a hard time tolerating beans is this normal?


It is quite common to react to beans and high quantities of fiber when first introduced. It is best to introduce high fiber foods like beans gradually. Beans contain indigestible carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. Humans lack the enzyme to break them down and once the undigested oligosaccharides hit the large intestine bacteria will start fermenting them and produce gas, this may result in uncomfortable symptoms like bloating and flatulence. Luckily there are ways to reduce oligosaccharides from beans/legumes.

One way of making beans and legumes more digestible is to:

  1. Pour them into a shallow pan and pick through them to remove any foreign objects.
  2. Rinse them in a colander.
  3. Soak them overnight in water, then discard the water (you will discard a lot of oligosaccharides with the water).
  4. Finally cook the beans in plenty of fresh water for 30 mins to 2 hours. They should be soft, but not mushy.

Note that legumes have a risk of cross-contact with gluten-containing grains, so always pick through them before soaking, even if they are labeled gluten-free. You can read more about cross-contact and legumes in this answer by Melinda Dennis MS, RDN, LDN here:


The Bean Institute. The traditional four-step method. The Bean Institute Website:

Accessed on September 2, 2019.

Note: This information is provided by NCA and Katarina Mollo MEd, RDN, LDN, NCA's Director of Education. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice or replace any medical advice provided directly to you by your health care provider. No liability is assumed by the NCA or Katarina Mollo, MEd, RDN, LDN by providing this information.

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