Does Adding Baking soda to soaking beans reduce raffinose

Image Credit: Grongar / Flickr

Does adding baking soda to soaking beans reduce gas?

I recently heard that the reason humans produce gas after eating beans is because they contain raffinose which is a starch that is poorly digested due to a lack of the enzyme galactosidase. The MD claimed that adding baking soda to the soaking liquid reduced the raffinose. Have you heard anything about this?

Vegan Epicurean / Originally posted on Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air


Yes indeed, research dating back more than 25 years (“Effect of Processing on Flatus-Producing Factors in Legumes“) found that adding baking soda to the soak water of dried beans before cooking (about 1/16 teaspoon per quart) significantly decreases the content of the raffinose family of sugars.

The study I profile here in Beans and Gas: Clearing the Air that concluded “People’s concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated” used canned beans, though, which I find to be much more convenient. If you have the time, though, it’s hard to imagine a better nutritional bargain than dried beans, peas, and lentils.

For more on the most nutrition you can squeeze out of a dollar see:

Image Credit: Grongar / Flickr



Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

35 responses to “Does adding baking soda to soaking beans reduce gas?

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  1. Recently my friend gave me a jar of Asafoetida. Using a very small sprinkling when soaking the beans apparently reduces the flatulence effect of the beans. The local Indian store may have it labeled as Hing.

    Wikipedia states this:
    Asafoetida reduces the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut, reducing flatulence.
    ^ S. K. Garg, A. C. Banerjea, J. Verma and M. J. Abraham, “Effect of Various
    Treatments of Pulses on in Vitro Gas Production by Selected Intestinal
    Clostridia”. Journal of Food Science, Volume 45, Issue 6 (p. 1601–1602).

    There is one catch, This herb is also called Devils Dung for a good reason.
    It Stinks! hoo man, it stinks. However, using a very small sprinkling and cooking the herb reduces the smell and changes it a bit. I found my self salivating when cooking the beans.

    I made up a big batch of Humus and it tasted great. No hint of the Devils dung in the
    flavor, and I must say I’m not as gassy from eating the humus.

  2. I found long ago that taking one Pantothenic Acid vitamins with Vitamin B and C-Complex also removed gas from various sources, including beans.
    What also works at reducing flatulence is soaking the beans over night and then cooking them in a slow cooker all day for the next meal.

    But, I’ll also store the baking soda idea in my brain.

  3. I’ve read that the lectin content in beans and other legumes makes all people intolerant to these foods and that they are inflammatory to the gut. Is this true?

    1. Lectin and other antinutrients found in beans are eliminated with cooking. Most people consume cooked beans so this is a non issue.

      1. I would be interested to hear Dr. Greger’s opinion on the theory that the lectins in beans/legumes build up in the system and are what is behind the pain and discomfort that some people (including me) have experienced when eating them on a weekly (or even daily) basis.

  4. I find canned beans to be MORE gas producing than my own pressure cooked ones. If you soak them 8-12 hours in water, drain and rinse well, then keep them in covered container so they don’t dry out and rinse twice a day until they grow little tails (about same length as the original bean is good)(couple days depending on bean and temperature) much less gas, much easier to digest, less calories, more nutrients.

  5. Okay here is my secret for reduced-gas beans. I soak them in distilled water for 24 hours and then let them drain, covered with a towel in a colander for 2 days, rinsing them in clean water twice a day. After three days of being damp, the beans should be sprouting anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Something about sprouting the beans before cooking them seems to reduce the amount of gas they create after you eat them. Not all distilled waters are created equal. I have found Ozarka distilled water more effective than grocery store brand distilled water. Could be the distilling process that makes a difference?

    1. I must agree with Kelley wholeheartedly! It made a huge difference for me when I soaked the beans. I made hummus with sprouted garbanzos and soup with the sprouted lentils and there was NO problem with gas afterwards. It was such a ah ha moment!!!! I am about to make adzuki beans in my instant pot from beans I soaked for a good 12 hours and then drained and put into a big over-the-sink colander and sprayed off a couple times over the next day or so. Now I’ll let you know if I have the same success as I’ll be cooking them in the instant pot today. I usually like to add a piece of dried sea veggie too called Kombu that you’ll often find in good brands of cooked canned beans. It helps with mineralization of the beans and some say digestion too. Good luck!!!

      1. They turned out beautifully tender and tasty! I added some strips of Kombu sea veg to the water and followed cooking times for adzuki beans.

  6. I have just been told that I should absolutely soak my grains, beans, nuts and seeds before cooking and eating them because of the phytic acid issue (and frantic googling has not helped me figuring out if this is a myth or an exaggeration or what). Can you please tell me if I should soak those things? If yes, for how long? Some sites say 24-48 hours? As a vegan, I eat a lot of those things daily. Thank you very much for your help and your great website!

  7. I’ve spent several decades of cooking and eating many kinds of beans. My method for lessening the gas-producing properties of the beans was to always add 1 tsp. baking soda to the cooking water (after soaking and pouring off the soaking water and rinsing with cold water). To prevent the taste of the soda, I also added 1 tab. granulated sugar. I always preferred to use a 6-quart heavy cast iron Dutch oven and cooked on the stove top. I never liked pressure cooked beans or slow cooked beans.

  8. I always used canned beans because of the convenience factor until I discovered how freakin’ easy it is to cook them from dried in a slow cooker. You don’t need to pre-soak them, there’s no worrying about the stove being on or anything burning etc. You just load up the slow cooker and leave it alone like a rice cooker (another godsend). AND I find the beans actually taste better, have a better texture and make me feel healthier. Personally, I don’t get gas from beans but I’ve been eating them forever. Anyways in the slow cooker I do include a little piece of ginger, so maybe that’s been helping as people have shared – though I only add it to enhance the flavor of the beans (along with a bay leaf, a halved onion and a whole garlic clove per 1 dried cup with 3 cups of water).

    I in no way sell or profit from slow cookers, I’m just so so happy that I discovered mine after 20 years of being a vegetarian (and always too lazy to cook beans from scratch)!

  9. I eat one cup (dried) yielding 4 cups wet of a variety of beans per day with no gas. I wonder what my microbiome has than accomplishes the task?

    1. Vinegar. Someone else said sugar but we added vinegar after everything was done and that stopped the baking soda taste from being as prevalent.

  10. So I read that adding baking soda to soaking lentils and precooking lentils would help with the gases that they sometimes produce in me. So then I thought why not combine these two advices. I took my dry lentils and soaked them twice for about ten minutes and drained the water,, as usually​ do. Then I poured them into a large pot with room temperature water (enough for something like a stew) and proceeded to turn on the stove and I took a large serving spoon and added baking soda. I added about four or five tablespoon I think or a little more, and I simply swirled around the spoon inside the pot until the baking soda was dissolved and unoticable. Once it started boiling I let them cook for about 4 or 5 minutes because the foam ( a light green color) was coming up really fast. I got a bit scared when I removed them from the heat because when the foam clear the liquid left behind was a dark purple-green color, it looked and smelled poisonous. I drained them and rinsed them in cold water and mean while I washed the pot to reuse it. And I added enough water to cook them. They finished cooking about 10-15 min later. Once I ate them I immediately noticed a different feeling in my stomach and no gases were produced. If you try this with beans you might want to precook them for at least 20 minutes or until they are cooked half way.

    1. That is simpler to what my mom taught me. She always let her beans come to a boil with about z tablespoon of baking soda in it. Then she would rinse them and continue on with her recipe. It was usually a bean soup with ham that cooked for at least 3 hrs. That was before slow cookers.

  11. My parents are from​ the south and they have cooked beans from red beans, white beans, pinto beans, blackeye peas, Lima beans, butter beans, and Crowder peas; we have never experienced gas. My parents have used a combination of methods that has been handed down through generations. I even cook with the same methods.
    Beans are to be washed and soaked in water overnight with a bit of baking soda. Rinse in a collander with cold water VERY good. Place in a pot with water and place a top upon pot……Tilted. Bring to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes….Then simmer on low for 25 to 30 minutes. Pour beans into a collander again and rinse with cold water through. Place back into pot cover with water, whatever meat for seasoning, garlic, onions, bell peppers, celery, and pepper. Add salt 20 minutes before they are done.
    It looks like a lot of work but it’s not. The reward is gas-free beans.

    1. Hi Linda, I am from Bulgaria where we always soak for 24h and also preboil beans! Interesting! We just boil for 5 min or so and then throw that water. We don’t do the simmer part. With older beans I boil two waters while chopping my veggies. As you say, it sounds like a lot of work but it’s not.
      I had never heard about the soda though. Gonna try!

    2. Linda’s method is method I use . For years I suffered from severe acid reflux and spent lots of money on expensive anti-acid medicines that never worked. I started just putting a table of baking soda in a cup of water and slowly sipping it until it goes away. . I keep a cup of water with baking soda on my bed table and if I wake because of stomach distress I take a sip or two. Always works.

  12. Well my goodness! So much ado over cooking beans! I am a mama, raised in the south, have cooked pintos & navy beans & others most of my life. I HATE the gas they create after eating – BUT – let me tell you that this adding baking soda to the soaking water really works. When I cook 1 C. of dried beans, I add 1 tsp. baking soda to the soaking water. Soak overnight. Then you have to rinse real, real well. I cook in my Crock Pot now & after this rinsing, I put those beans in new, fresh water OR chicken broth OR vegetable broth, enough to come up over the beans, & I turn the pot on high till the beans have started to come to a boil, then back to medium heat. It is at this time I add cut-up salt pork (ham hocks are hard for me to come by), chopped onion & garlic, black pepper, a bay leaf & just a shot of garlic powder. Now use your head! ! Test those beans once-in-a-while till they’re done! YOU know how to do this! This is all very simple & believe me, they taste delicious. Even better eaten along with a pan of buttermilk cornbread!! Cooking is like being in love — makes you smile & happy all over!!

  13. Dr Greger writes:

    “research dating back more than 25 years (“Effect of Processing on Flatus-Producing Factors in Legumes“) found that adding baking soda to the soak water of dried beans before cooking (about 1/16 teaspoon per quart) significantly decreases the content of the raffinose family of sugars.”

    I may be reading the paper wrong, but as far as I can tell this isn’t what its authors concluded. I’m looking at Table II, page 269 of J. Agric. Food Chem., Vol 33, No 3, 1985: “Table II. Mean ± SE of Raffinose Content (Percent) of Different Legumes”.

    The authors compare the raffinose content in 5 types of beans after 6 to 12 hours of soaking and 30 to 60 minutes of cooking, with or without NaHCO3.

    Differences exist, but they are rather small: soaking beans in plain water cuts their Raffinose content by ~46% (40-50%, 6 hours) and ~60% (50-74%, 12 hours); soaking bean in water with baking soda cuts their Raffinose by ~50% (45-55%, 6 hours) and ~70% (56-79%).

    In one case (black gram, 12 hours), the difference is within the margin of error. Arguably, the other are “significantly” different, in the strict scientific sense of “significantly”

    Note that soaking for 12 hours without baking soda works *better* that soaking with baking soda for 6 hours, and that baking soda makes a 5 to 10 percentage points difference, which is small.

    The study also points out that 72 hours of germination removes 100% of the Raffinose in all beans.

    The authors conclude this:

    “Soaking in plain water may be preferable to that in sodium bicarbonate solution because of susceptibility of some vitamins of the B complex group to alkali, particularly thiamin and riboflavin, which are known to be destroyed slowly in alkaline medium at room temperature (Swaminathan, 1974). Sprouting for 24 h also causes considerable losses of these three oligosaccharides. In addition, it also results in better digestibility and increased ascorbic acid, niacin, and available iron contents as reported by Barnerjee and Banerjee (1950)”

    I’d love to hear Dr. Greger’s thoughts on the part about B vitamins; in the meantime, I’ll just soak my beans longer, and without baking soda :)

    Thanks for all the articles and videos! (And the book, of course ^^)

  14. I’d like to see a whole video done on the health aspect of utilizing baking soda and citric acid in cooking beans. I’ve done quite a lot of studying on the subject, as I’m about to launch a patented product that combines baking soda and a dry powdered acid with seasoning in a form to be used with soups and stews. We mainly invented it for fun, but soon realized the added health benefits. I know Dr Greger wouldn’t endorse a product or company. Think of it more as a cooking method or food tech that needs examined. We all know that if plant foods could be patented then doctors would be prescribing them. Well, we hope to become the pharm-reps of the seasoning industry.

  15. Dear Dr. Greger and all,

    thanks for all the information you are sharing here. I’m actually trying to find an answer to a question related to soaking lentils and peas, but not regarding gas. I once read or heard (can’t remember where) that soaking them overnight or a longer time increases the content of protein and so they become even more beneficial for ones health. Is that true? I’m from Germany, and my mother always soaks lentils and peas overnight, but I found that on the package it says “cook the lentils/peas without soaking them. I tried to find out why, but couldn’t find more information. I’m not sure- does “beans” in English refer to beans only or does the term include lentils and peas?

    Greetings from Cologne, and thanks for everything!

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