Fear of Flatulence

surprise gestureAre you still buying the childhood rhyme, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot”? You are not alone. Fear of flatulence is the number one reason people give for not making beans and legumes a regular part of their diet. However, what’s become common “wisdom” is, in most cases, wrong. Those not used to eating beans may briefly have excess gas, but research has shown that by sticking with a diet that includes legumes, this inconvenient side effect diminishes over time. People with IBS or other intestinal issues may find legumes particularly bothersome; however, for the majority, the health benefits of consuming beans outweighs any discomfort and embarrassment a temporary spike in gas may cause.

Lentils, black beans, soy beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans are just a few popular examples of the amazing legume. They are cheap, nutritious, delicious and powerful disease fighters. A 2004 study concluded that eating legumes was the “most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities.” The study found an 8% reduction in risk of death for every 20 grams increase in daily legumes intake. (Keep in mind a can of beans contains about 250 grams).

Here are a few things legumes have going for them:

  • An economical dietary source of good quality protein and are higher in protein than most other plant foods. Legumes have about twice the protein content of cereal grains.
  • Generally low in fat, virtually free of saturated fats and contain no cholesterol. Soybeans and peanuts are the exception, with significant levels of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid.
  • Rich in energy-giving carbohydrates, with a low GI rating for blood glucose control.beansonspoons
  • A good source of B-group vitamins (especially folate), iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium.
  • Low in sodium – sodium content of canned legumes can be reduced by up to 41% if the product is drained and rinsed.
  • Abundant in fiber, including both insoluble and soluble fiber, plus resistant starch for colonic health benefits.
  • Rich in phytonutrients (e.g. isoflavones, lignans, protease inhibitors). Soy beans are particularly high in phytoestrogens, with research over the last 20 years linking soy foods and/or phytoestrogens to a reduced risk of certain cancers including breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and problems associated with menopause
  • Gluten free – as such, legumes are suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.


Legumes and Nutrition – Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council / Australia

Increased Lifespan From Beans, Michael Greger, M.D.

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net


3 thoughts on “Fear of Flatulence

  1. While I appreciate the good intentions of this post, I can’t let you get away with saying something factually incorrect: there are some substances in legumes that the body simply cannot produce enzymes to digest.
    One of the articles you used as a source referenced research that showed some people expeirence more flatlence when eating legumes regularly. Levels of flatulence then decreased over time. However, the sample sizes for this study were small and some of those in the control groups also had more flatulence at the start of the trials that returned to normal. One could even argue that the study design was slightly flawed: it isn’t clear if the respondents were recording their increased flatulence from the previous week of the study or from that start.
    Leaving the study flaws aside and assuming the observations were an accurate reflection of the larger population, there was no evidence to support the fact that the subjects of the studies were producing new enzymes. It’s more likely that there are small changes in microflora causing the symptoms; this is borne out in other, larger studies.

    • Thank you, patientj, for your constructive feedback on this post. As a result, I’ve edited the end of the second paragraph to more accurately describe what Dr. Greger’s article concluded. Our digestive enzymes definitely have limitations as to what they can break down! I’m interested to read the studies on the changes diet may have on gut microflora. Please pass along any links you have. I enjoyed reading through your blog “Researching and living with excessive wind.” Thanks for reading mine and offering your input.

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