For years I’ve had to avoid hummus. All legumes, or foods made with legumes, actually. I simply can’t digest beans and the consequences are not worth eating them. Recently though, I found that if I properly prepare legumes by soaking them before cooking, I’m able to stomach a small portion. And thus, hummus is back in my life and my homemade hummus recipe was born!
Why Make Homemade Hummus?
There are a few reasons to make your own hummus rather than buying it.
It’s probably cheaper, though I did not price this out as cost is not my motivating factor. You can also control the ingredients, change the flavors, and decide how much you’d like to make.
But the biggest reason for me to make homemade hummus is that I can soak my chickpeas before cooking them, which hugely aids in my ability to digest them. I’ve only ever found one store bought hummus made from soaked chickpeas, and sadly it was not tasty. At all. Like we really couldn’t figure out how it passed any sort of taste test before coming to market.
How Does Soaking Legumes Help with Digestion?
In short, beans contain a sugar called oligosaccharide, which the human body does not breakdown during the digestive process in the small intestine like most foods. Instead, they pass through to the large intestine where they are a beneficial source of dietary fiber to gut bacteria (read more about the importance of fiber).
For some of us though, the combination of hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas that is produced as our gut bacteria breaks down the oligosaccharides results in uncomfortable gas. Both for us and our dining companions…
Soaking beans prior to cooking them results in a reduced amount of oligosaccharides, which leads to less of an issue for those of us who have trouble with legumes.  If you prefer to get your science from pop culture, the Myth Busters also confirmed the ‘magical fruit’ effect. 😉
Curious how a product like ‘Beano’ works? It contains an enzyme that allows the body to breakdown the oligosaccharides in the small intestine before they arrive in the colon.
Soaking legumes has additional benefits besides reduced oligosaccharides, like breaking down some of the phytic acid in beans and releasing nutrients. Phytic acid is a phosphorous storage molecule in grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It is problematic because it both binds to important minerals like zinc and calcium and inhibits enzymes that are needed to digest food (and thus absorb nutrients), like pepsin.
Soaking doesn’t typically break down all of the phytic acid, but it does break down some. If you’re curious to learn more about phytic acid and traditional food preparations, check out this article.
How to Soak Legumes
Oh goodness, you can find about a million different answers to this question. First, start with your goal.
My goal is to reduce gas when eating beans and I find that soaking uncooked legumes overnight works for me. I soak for about twelve hours, then cook in my Instant Pot. Cooking time depends on what type of bean I’m cooking. The combination of soaking and cooking, along with eating small portions, allows me to enjoy tasty legumes here and there.
I’m not too worried about phytic acid because my diet is not high in foods that contain it. However, if you enjoy a diet high in grains, nuts, seeds, or legumes, I would suggest following the suggestions for reducing phytic acid in this article to some degree. Phytic acid can substantially reduce the amount of nutrients you are receiving from your food and it may be worth looking into reducing.
Products Used For This Recipe
Food Processor – A favorite of mine in the kitchen, and one of the few tools that has earned permanent placement on the counter. I used it for shredding and chopping veggies, making dips and sauces, and pulverizing gluten-free oats for ‘bread crumbs’.
Instant Pot – My right hand man in the kitchen. There is no quicker or easier way to cook beans.
16oz Mason Jars – I love mason jars for pretty much everything, especially storing dips and sauces.
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I'm a believer that we shouldn't have to compromise our health in the name of beauty. Or performance in the name of safety.