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Why Soak Beans and Lentils Before Cooking?

Black Eyed Beans

Why Soak Beans and Lentils Before Cooking?

Beans and lentils are nutritional powerhouses. They are delicious to eat, but they have a bad reputation of being gaseous and hard-to-digest.

The root cause lies in their outer covering, which contain anti-nutrients (compounds that can interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients) such as lectins and phytic acids. These anti-nutrients are actually natural phytonutrients that seeds use as insecticides to protect themselves from the radiation of sun, insects, and invasions from fungi, viruses and bacteria. Also, this protective covering allows these foods to be stored for long periods without them turning rancid or going bad.

Why Soak Beans And Lentils ?

Soaking mimics the natural germination process and transforms the seed that is dormant and indigestible into the seed that is full of nutrients and full of digestibility. It works to neutralise these anti-nutrients, and encourage production of vital digestive enzymes. Soaking not only deactivate the harmful nutrients, it activate all the goodness of the seed and increases its nutritional value multifold. In addition, the process of soaking breaks down the difficult-to-digest carbohydrates and protein into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.

How to Soak Beans and Lentils

Traditionally all the beans and lentils were pre-soaked –

  • Firstly, to reduce their cooking time, as few decades ago people didn’t have abundant supply of gas or electricity for cooking, unlike today.
  • Secondly, traditional people were very wise in selecting and preparing the food. I have always seen my mother soak the beans and lentils, and even rice prior to cooking. With no degree in nutrition, she knows that doing so helps improve their digestibility and nutrition.

Pre-soaking doesn’t require elaborate techniques or equipment. It’s really very simple. All that is necessary is a bit of planning.

Soak the beans or lentils in cold water. I use filtered water. Soaking time varies between 8 to 24 hours, depending on the size and hardness of the seed. Large beans such as garbanzo (chickpeas), kidney beans, dried peas need 12 hours or more, where as small seeds like black eye beans, adzuki beans, brown or green lentils take less than 8 hours.

After soaking most of the seeds will almost double in size. Throw the excess water that is left over and rinse with fresh water (the soak water contains the anti-nutrients and gas causing enzymes). Then cook, or leave them to sprout. You can use the left over water from soaking to water your plants, and no these anti-nutrients doesn’t affect the plants. In fact this water is very nourishing for them.

Since I am a vegetarian (actually eggitarian), these wonderful tasting, nutrient dense foods are part of my daily diet. They are an excellent source of protein, iron, folic acid, dietary fiber, B vitamins, and many more nourishing nutrients. So my kitchen counter is always occupied with multicoloured, beautiful looking  beans and lentils, either left to soak or sprout. A very useful appliance to cook them is the pressure cooker. And if you want to make beans and lentils part of your every day diet, then this little gadget pressure cooker is a must have, as it will save you cooking time, and also retain the nutrients.

Happy Soaking!!


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