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Preparing legumes to maximise nutrition and minimise adverse effects

By Tamzyn Murphy

BSc Med(Hons) Human Nutrition and Dietetics, RD

 

Legumes (peas, beans, lentils and peanuts) contain pesky and destructive anti-nutrients, which bind to other nutrients in food, inhibiting their absorption. Anti-nutrients also irritate the gut-lining, causing stomach trouble and making the gut ‘leaky’ – allowing proteins and other-usually ‘banned’ components through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. This may result in immune system problems including inflammation and possibly even autoimmune diseases.

 

However, legumes (especially soya) are great proteins sources for vegetarians, and even more so for vegans. They’re also a good source of fibre, B vitamins and other micronutrients. In order to reap legumes’ nutritional rewards without incurring the destructive health effects wreaked by their anti-nutrients you have to prepare them right.

A. Soak, sprout, cook, grind and ferment: The best way to do away with pesky anti-nutrients.

  1. Soak:
    • Cover dry legumes with warm water, acidified with vinegar or lemon juice, in a glass jar.
    • Cover the jar’s opening with a clean cloth secured with a rubber band.
    • Place the jar in a warm location for 12-24 hours.
    • Drain water out through the cloth and then rinse the legumes and drain again.
  1. Sprout
    • Store the damp legumes in a dark place (e.g. cupboard). Ensure the jar is on its side. Elevate the base slightly using a rolled-up or folded dish cloth. Place paper towels or a dishcloth beneath the cloth-covered side of the jar to allow the remaining water to drain out.
    • Rinse and drain the legumes twice a day.
    • Allow them to sprout (germinate) for a total of 3-5 days.
  1. Cook (boil) (optional/preferable)
    • Place legumes in pot.
    • Cover with water.
    • Bring to the boil on high heat.
    • Once boiling, turn heat down to low and allow to simmer for at least one hour. Ideally you can leave them to cook all day in a slow cooker.
  1. Grind, mash or break (optional/preferable)
    • Use a blender or food processor or mash (if cooked)
  2. Ferment
    • Add a powdered starter culture (as directed) or kefir (about one tablespoon culture per one cup of legumes) to the damp legumes in the jar. Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid this time.
    • Allow the legumes to ferment for several days.
    • The jar needs to be ‘burped’ (briefly opened to release gases) daily. A protruding lid indicates that too much gas is building up, which needs releasing.

 

B. Soak properly and cook thoroughly: An abbreviated version that’s not as effective as the process above, but still inactivates most of the anti-nutrients.

  1. Soak:
    1. Soak dry legumes in warm water, acidified with vinegar or lemon juice, for 12 hours (preferably in a warm location)
  2. Drain legumes (discard water)
  3. Rinse legumes
  4. Repeat steps a, b and c twice (totalling 36 hours of soaking time)
  5. Boil legumes: Follow A.3. above
  6. Ferment (optional)
  7. Follow A.5. above. However, before fermenting it is essential to ensure that you break the skins by mashing or exerting enough downward pressure on the legumes to just break them.

 

References:

  1. Food & Wine. Step-by-step guide to Sprouting beans at home. http://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/sprouting-beans#!slide=4
  2. Cultures for health. Fermenting beans and legumes. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/fermenting-beans-legumes
  3. Guyenet S. Traditional preparation methods improve grains’ nutritive value. 4 May 2010 http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2010/05/traditional-preparation-methods-improve.html
  4. Nagel R. Living with phytic acid. The Weston A Price Foundation. 26 Mar 2010. http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/living-with-phytic-acid/