White beans vary from the small, round navy beans used for Boston baked beans to extra-large Greek gigantes. But the most common white bean variety is the Italian cannellini bean, used to make pasta i fagioli and to enhance dishes such as minestrone. They are quite high in fibre and protein, and also deliver a healthy portion of your daily iron needs. Unfortunately, beans' high fibre content is exactly what contributes to what bean expert Steve Sando calls "the flatulence factor." There are a few strategies you can utilise to minimise the gaseous effects of bean-eating.
Soak your beans. This helps loosen and soften the skins and facilitates the release of gas-causing compounds. Some people advocate throwing out the soaking liquid and cooking the beans in a fresh change of water to further reduce intestinal gas symptoms, but bean expert Steve Sando, author of "Heirloom Beans," concurs with food scientists who say this makes little, if any difference.
Cook thoroughly. Undercooked beans cause more gas than well-cooked beans. Allow plenty of time to cook dry white beans, even pre-soaked ones. At least two hours is a good rule-of-thumb.
Add digestion-friendly seasonings. A number of seasonings and flavourings are reputed to aid bean digestion and minimise gas. Which ones you choose to use will depend on how you'd like your finished dish to taste. Garlic, fennel and ginger can all be utilised in this fashion.
Consume probiotics. You can either take a commercial probiotic supplement or simply eat a cup of yoghurt with natural cultures. The probiotics aid digestion, balance your intestinal flora and reduce flatulence.
Take an enzyme supplement. There are a handful of these products on the market. The leading brands are Beano and Bean-zyme. These tablets or chewables deliver an enzyme that specifically targets some of the gas-producing compounds found in beans and help break them down into more digestible forms.
Eat more beans. Sando says, "The only thing you can do to prevent gas is to eat beans more often, and your body will learn how to digest them." You'll adjust to a higher-fibre diet and find that the "flatulence factor" gradually dissipates over time.
Don't add salt or baking soda to your beans while they cook--this slows down the cooking time significantly and can lead to an undercooked, gas-causing pot of beans.