First off, beans are dirty. Washing them and soaking them mechanically cleans them. Next, beans are starchy and have oligosaccharides. People can’t break down these kinds of sugars. Instead the bacteria in the gut do the job, and they create gas while they’re at it. When you soak beans, the oligosaccharides leach into the water, making them more digestible. Beans also contain antinutrients like phytic acid, protease inhibitors, and toxins which are broken down by soaking.
Nutrients, on the other hand, do not leach out of the beans to the same extent, and are more accessible to your body when the beans are soaked, because they are more easily digested. After beans have been soaked, they require a shorter cook time, which also results in more of the protein staying in the beans when they are cooked. Shorter cook times have other benefits in the kitchen, too. Fast food! Cooked beans freeze well, so you can make large batches and store them for later if you wish.
Here’s how to prepare your beans
- Rinse about 2 cups of beans thoroughly, removing any stones that you find mixed in.
- Place the beans in a large glass bowl.
- Put about 8 cups of warm filtered water in the bowl.
- Cover with a cloth and let sit on the counter for 24 hours.
- Nasty white scum will form on the surface of the water, and the beans will expand. This is what’s supposed to happen. Skim off the scum, pour off the water, and rinse the beans.
- Cook the beans by simmering them in water or stock. White foam will form on top again, just skim it off. Different kinds of beans require different cook times. Do not boil or add salty or acidic seasonings until the beans are cooked (such as tomatoes in chili), since that will make the beans tough.