Beans, beans, good for the heart
The more you eat them the more you fart
The more you fart the better you feel
So eat your beans for every meal!
Perhaps that was a touch childish, even for me, but that schoolyard rhyme is actually quite accurate. Apart from the fact that beans make you fart, which is a given, they actually are quite good for your heart as well, though indirectly.
Beans are full of dietary fiber, and eating plenty of it is associated with lower body weight and less cardiovascular disease, as it can lower blood cholesterol levels, hence being indirectly “good for the heart”. Beans also contain complex carbs and protein, and taken together these things help feeling fuller for longer. As to why beans also make you fart, I’ll leave that fun fact at the end, which will also include the reason why adding fiber to your diet by buying those powdery products to dissolve in your water is not really the best thing for you.
So, for this week’s healthy recipe, I’ll be making a very easy recipe that I learned when visiting my father in Bahia, a fresh and delicious salad made with black-eyed peas.
For this recipe, you will need:
250gr of dried black-eyed peas
3 large, ripe tomatoes
2 small sweet red onions
1 green bell pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt, to taste
Soak the black-eyed peas overnight, then boil them until they are tender. Add salt to the water half-way through the boiling, to give the beans flavor. Drain, and set aside.
Chop the vegetables into cubes roughly the size of the beans, then toss them all together, adding the lime, the oil and adjusting the salt to taste.
And that’s it! I have to admit that I usually dislike both raw peppers and raw onions, but I found that they mixed well in this recipe, and I ended up loving this bean salad. In Brazil they serve it with toasted spiced manioca flour, which is even more delicious though it does add quite a few calories to the meal. Still, if you want to try the recipe in its complete form, you can usually find toasted spiced manioca flour in stores which sell South American products.
And now, as promised, the reason why beans make you fart. If you don’t want to know, stop reading now.
To explain why beans make you fart, we first have to talk a little about dietary fiber. We have all heard that a diet high in fiber is a good thing, however, we often don’t hear that there are actually two kinds of dietary fiber. One is soluble fiber, and the other is insoluble.
Soluble fiber is, is the name suggests, soluble in water. It is this kind of fiber that is sold in powdered form as a health supplement to add to your water. Insoluble fiber is commonly known as “roughage”, it is not soluble in water, and it provides bulk in the large intestine, helping you poop. This is why consuming only the soluble kind mixed in your water in the morning might help you feel full, as it forms a kind of gelatinous lump in your digestive tract, but it will help very little (and actually might be counterproductive if you’re not also eating the insoluble kind) in your efforts to have more regular bowel movements.
Beans contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, making them an excellent source of dietary fiber in general, as both eaten together are what is really good for your health. However, some of this fiber is made up of oligosaccharides, which is a kind of carbohydrate chain. Other vegetables high in oligosaccharides include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and onions, all of which (except perhaps onions, as we tend to eat less of them) are famous fart-inducers.
You see, humans don’t produce the enzymes necessary to break up oligosaccharides, so they make it to the large intestine intact. There they encounter our gut bacteria, which do contain the necessary enzymes to break them up, which they do enthusiastically. One of the byproduct of the digestion of oligosaccharides is gas, so a meal rich in oligosaccharides results in a lot of gas in the large intestine, resulting in farts. This is not a bad thing, as a healthy and well-fed gut flora is great for the health of the human being, but too much can cause discomfort, and perhaps a little embarassment in front of company.
So, there you have it, a delicious recipe, a tearing down of a popular health supplement, and a funny science fact all rolled into one. Hope you had as much fun reading it as I had writing about it.