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The importance of soaking certain foods cannot be emphasized enough. In the past, I have written about soaking your grains and soaking your nuts and seeds. Now, it’s time to talk about soaking your legumes.

I think most people are familiar with the need to soak your dried beans. But, what they might not know is why it is important to prepare legumes in a certain way. Soaking your beans before cooking is something that has been handed down to us by traditional cultures. Legumes, also called pulses, have been feeding and nourishing humans for centuries. They are a great source of nutrition, especially in regions where other protein sources are scarce. Beans are a staple in some cultures’ diets. They are cheap, filling, last a long time, and packed full of nutrition.

The legume family includes beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, peanuts, soybeans, and cashews. Soybeans should not be consumed unless they have been fermented. Unfermented soy products are toxic and should be avoided. You can read more about the dangers of soy here and here.

Legumes are rich in protein and fiber. They are also a great source of various minerals and B vitamins. Research has show that they might contain anti-cancer properties. All legumes contain omega-3s and omega-6s. Depending on the type of bean, amounts will vary.

Beans have traditionally be soaked for very long periods of time before they are cooked. They are typically soaked, then drained, then rinsed, then perhaps soaked again, depending on the variety. Once you cook the beans, pay special attention to skim off any foam that rises to the surface. This foam contains impurities that should not be consumed. Sometimes, it is suggested that the water be changed halfway through cooking.

By taking the time to properly prepare legumes, we can ensure that they are digestible, which is probably the number one concern when consuming beans — intestinal discomfort. The process of soaking and cooking will neutralize the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that are in legumes. It also helps break down the complex sugars, which are the cause of the indigestion we have all experienced with beans.

When it comes down to it, soaking and preparing dried beans is not hard. It just takes a little bit of advanced planning and you’re good to go. Just follow these general guidelines:

  • 6-8 hours soaking time / 1-3 hours cooking time: lentils
  • 12-24 hours soaking time / 4-8 hours cooking time: black, kidney, pinto, white, or black-eyed peas
  • 24 hours soaking time / 6-8 hours cooking time: chickpeas 

NOTE: You may need to adjust the cooking times based on your elevation. I live in Denver, and if I am cooking legumes they take a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time unless I use a pressure cooker. It takes at least twice and sometimes three times as long here than at sea level.


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