12 Myths About Beans, Debunked! (Lectins, Flatulence, and More)

Beans are one of those foods that people get confused about, regardless of how much information exists. If you’re confused about how to cook beans, what nutritional properties beans have, and if you should eat them, you’re not alone.

Several myths about beans exist in people’s minds today, such as salted beans need longer cooking times, beans are high in carbs, and the protein in beans is incomplete and needs to be combined with other food. The number one myth that is not entirely true is that beans cause flatulence.

Beans are nutritious and are simple to prepare. Hungry for more? Keep reading!

These are 12 myths about beans (debunked).

1. Dry Beans Need to Be Soaked Before Cooking.

There is a long-held idea that beans need to be soaked before cooking to take less time to prepare and turn out creamy and of the right consistency. The other reason for soaking, according to legend, is that it may remove the phytic acid that prevents mineral absorption. 

However, when cooked side by side, the soaked beans were finished cooking a full 10 minutes sooner than the unsoaked beans. Soaking beans overnight does not give that much of an advantage over the cooking time. 

As for the phytic acid, soaking beans only reduces that by about 20%. Phytic acid is actually beneficial for lowering the risk of diseases, such as cancer and diabetes

2. Salted Beans Take Longer to Cook.

Many bean recipes advise against adding salt until the end of cooking, as it will create a longer cooking time. If salt is added initially, it could cause the outer shell to burst before they have a chance to get soft. 

Well, the opposite is true. Adding salt at the beginning of cooking time allows the inner bean to swell, which helps the cooking water to get in sooner. The salt speeds up cooking time.

3. Salt Added to Beans While Cooking Makes Them Tough.

Another myth is that if you add salt at the beginning of cooking, they will toughen up and never get tender. Salt breaks open the skins too soon, making the inner bean tough.

However, like the cooking time, beans soften better when salt is added at the beginning. You may have tough beans no matter how long you cook them because they might be too old or you have hard water. 

If neither of those situations applies to you, you may have added an acidic component such as lemon juice or tomatoes. Acids cause beans to be tough, so if you want to make a dish with tomatoes, add them after the beans are cooked.

4. Cook Beans With the Lid On.

If you cook beans with the lid on, your beans will be more tender, or so the myth says. All that steam will make the beans soft and creamy.  

While cooking beans with the lid on does help them cook faster to the tune of 15 minutes, they don’t get any more tender than if you cook them without a cover. According to the cooks at Epicurious, the flavor of the beans cooked with a lid on was not as good as with the top off during cooking time. They believe the reason has something to do with more water evaporation. It creates a bean broth that coats the beans better and makes a more flavorful bean.

5. The Lectins in Beans Are Anti-Nutrients.

The myth that lectins found in beans are anti-nutrients started with the Paleo diet movement, where people try to eat how the Paleolithic cavemen ate to achieve better health. They say that lectins are anti-nutrients that block the absorption of minerals and vitamins in the body from the foods they eat.

However, while some lectins are harmful, most harmful ones can be eliminated by proper cooking methods. 

6. Beans Are High in Carbs.

Along with the Paleo movement, the low-carb community has denounced beans because they are higher in carbohydrates than other protein sources. While this may be true, most of the carbs found in beans come from fiber

Fiber is an indigestible nutrient that fills the stomach space, making you feel fuller longer. It is passed through the intestines without being used for anything, so the net carbs of beans are lower than the total carbs.

7. Beans and Rice Are Necessary To Make a Complete Protein.

Meat has all the essential amino acids the body needs to form the building blocks for muscles, hair, skin, and teeth. Vegetarians, who don’t eat meat, need to be especially careful to get all the essential amino acids to stay healthy.

Some vegetarians claim that the protein found in beans contains only a partial amount of essential amino acids, and must be eaten with rice to form a complete protein. But according to Eating Well, as long as you eat a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods throughout the day, you will hit your target for essential amino acids. 

8. Beans Cause Flatulence.

The common myth that beans cause gas is so ingrained in the culture that it has become known as a fact. However, this may not be entirely accurate. While beans may be partially to blame for causing gas, most carbohydrate foods can cause flatulence to some extent.

Sometimes, your stomach can’t handle certain carbs in foods, and what it can’t handle, will go to the intestine where bacteria will digest them further. The process can create gas. But it’s not just beans that get the blame.

9. Soaking Beans Will Make Them More Digestible.

When you soak your beans and discard the water, you get rid of some of that phytic acid that can slow mineral absorption. However, phytic acid may be beneficial to human health, as it helps absorb nutrients like iron and zinc.

10. Cook Dry Beans in Fresh Water

The myth of cooking beans in freshwater comes from people who think soaking beans overnight is best. They would drain the beans, then start with fresh water

You don’t need to worry about cooking your beans in freshwater if you start cooking the beans from a dry state. But if you do soak your beans, you don’t need to start over with clean cooking water. Use the soaking water to cook with, and you will have a more flavorful bean.

11. Phytates in Beans Slow Mineral Absorption

Phytates are blamed for several processes in the body, including blocking the exact minerals needed for health. 

But a study on rats showed that food high in phytic acid kept weight gain to a minimum, and it helped absorb more nutrients than without the phytic acid.

12. Flavor Comes From Soaking the Beans Overnight.

People have often soaked their beans overnight to draw more flavor from them. However, that may not be necessary. The folks at Epicurious tested this myth and found that the quick-soak method was better at producing more flavor than soaking overnight. 

Here is how they did it: they covered the beans with water, brought them to a quick boil, then turned off the heat and let sit for an hour before cooking. Soaking the beans in this way brought out a better flavor.

On a Final Note

Beans can be part of a balanced diet that adds a healthy and flavorful component to your meals. But you don’t need to go through the extra steps to cook them, as they are unnecessary to making delicious and tender beans. 

To get the most flavor out of your beans, add salt at the beginning, plus any favorite herbs and spices, depending on your meal. Cook with the lid off, and don’t worry about soaking them, which will cut down on your prep time. 

Perhaps you’ll find that beans are an indispensable part of your meal plan from now on. 

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.