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Prairie Fare: Beans Aren’t as Musical as You Might Think

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
Beans contain raffinose, a type of sugar that may be difficult for some people to digest.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

As I pushed my cart down the grocery aisle, I heard a child say something softly. I glanced at my daughter, but she wasn’t saying anything. I kept pushing the cart.

“Excuse me. Are you one of the bean people?” someone said more loudly.

I turned and looked down at a little girl, whom I immediately recognized. My daughter giggled at my new designation.

“Yes, I am one of the bean people, and I know you from your preschool! I am buying some beans today. Are you still eating beans?” I said.

She grinned at me and nodded. We talked for a little while, and then she caught up with her parents.

“You’re one of the ‘bean people’?” my daughter asked. She looked at me a little strangely.

“Yes, I guess I am. We did a bean education research project with the preschoolers and their parents in Fargo and Grand Forks last summer. I’m part of a national project called the Bean Coordinated Agricultural Project, or BeanCAP,” I explained to my daughter.

“The children helped plant a garden with all kinds of dry edible beans and string beans. They heard stories and tasted many different bean-containing recipes,” I said as I picked out cans of kidney beans and black beans.

The parents received educational newsletters and recipes, plus feedback from their children. The young children were able to tell us that beans contained protein for strong muscles. They knew that beans can fit in either the vegetable or protein food groups of MyPlate, the latest symbol for nutrition recommendations.

The children sorted beans by color and size. They were able to distinguish navy, kidney and lima beans. They tasted a range of bean-containing foods ranging from salsa to main dishes to desserts, all made with various types of beans.

The children also made musical instruments (tambourines) using beans, which was a “tongue-in-cheek” response to a common critique of beans.

Some people skip beans in their diet because of their “musical” qualities. In other words, beans sometimes are associated with the production of intestinal gas or flatulence.

Beans contain raffinose, a type of sugar that may be difficult for some people to digest. When this natural sugar is fermented by bacteria in the intestine, gas production may result.

Recently, researchers at Arizona State University reported that flatulence from eating beans may be overblown, so to speak. The participants in three different feeding studies ate a diet supplemented with pinto beans, black-eyed peas and/or canned carrots. Some people (control group) ate no foods associated with gas production.

Less than half of the participants reported gas from eating pinto or baked beans. Only about one in five experienced gas with the black-eyed peas. More interestingly, some of the people in the control group reported gas production without any beans in their diet.

Give beans a try in your menu. Be sure to drain and rinse canned beans to reduce the sodium content and rinse away some of the undigestible sugars from the broth.

If you never have used dry beans, try the quick-soak method to begin the rehydrating process.

First, inspect the beans and remove any stones and broken beans. In a large pot, add 10 cups of water to 2 cups (1 pound) of beans and allow to boil for two to three minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for at least one hour. Then drain, rinse and add water to fully cover the beans. Simmer until tender and use the beans in your favorite recipe. Two cups of dry beans equals about 4 cups of cooked beans.

Beans are an economical source of protein. An excellent source of antioxidant nutrients and fiber, beans may play a role in fighting chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

When you add any high-fiber foods, whether in the form of vegetables, fruits, whole grains or beans, drink plenty of water and gradually add fiber to your diet.

Here’s an easy, healthful recipe to enjoy on a cold winter day. Pair it with corn muffins, milk and fruit for a complete meal. You can find more recipes and information about beans from the NDSU Extension Service “Now Serving: Beans!” publication at or view food preparation videos on the Extension portion of the BeanCAP website at

Spicy Bean Soup

1 pound extra-lean ground beef

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 c. chopped onion

1 c. sliced carrots

1 c. diced celery

2 (14.5-ounce) cans beef broth or vegetable broth

1 (15-ounce) can black beans

1 (15.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

2 (15-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Rinse and prepare vegetables. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic; drain fat. In Dutch oven or slow cooker, add remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer over medium-low heat for about one hour on the stovetop or cook on low in a slow cooker for six to eight hours.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 280 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 26 g of protein, 31 g of carbohydrate, 11 g of fiber and 490 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Jan. 26, 2012

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
Prairie Fare: Prairie Fare: A Taste of Brazil is Worth Trying  (2019-07-18)  Give beans a try on your menu.  FULL STORY
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