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How to eat lentils without bloating

Posted 2 years ago by Jo

We love lentils, however we appreciate they have gained something of a 'windy' reputation and are known to cause bloating and gas. Here I aim to explore the health benefits of including lentils in your diet, why they are often associated with flatulence and bloating, as well as ways to help improve the potential impact of eating them to make them more accessible to those with digestive issues.

 Types of lentil

Lentils come in many varieties, ranging in both colour and texture from Puy to Beluga 

Lentils are pulses and part of the legume family of plants. There are several different types of lentil, in varying colours and sizes. Varieties include the french Puy lentil which is dark green in colour, red lentils which are have a flatter shape and are orange in colour, and black lentils, also known as beluga lentils. They are all a rich source of vegetarian protein, containing important amino acids (the building blocks of protein) with health boosting properties, as well as providing iron, B vitamins and dietary fibre. They are also an easily accessible and relatively inexpensive and valuable protein source in many parts of the world, such as India and Asia. 

Why do lentils cause bloating?

The reason lentils have developed a reputation for causing bloating and wind is due to the fact they contain high levels of fibre, as well phytic acid (also known as phytates). Phytic acid is found in all plants in varying levels and its role is to help protect them from predators in their natural environment. There are ways to help reduce the levels of phytates in lentils which we will discuss in more detail below.

How to help reduce bloating from lentils 

Soaking lentils in plenty of cold water overnight can significantly reduce their phytate levels, helping to lower their potential for causing bloating. Adding some lemon juice or vinegar to the water further helps to breakdown the levels of phytates on the outer coating of the lentils. Once they have been soaked, rinse them thoroughly, cook them in fresh water and the bloating effects should be reduced.

As well as soaking lentils overnight, it can be helpful to cook them along with plenty of carminatives. Carminatives are foods known to help soothe the digestive tract and help to reduce bloating and flatulence. There are many herbs and spices with valuable carminative properties which have been used traditionally for many years as natural remedies for helping relieve bloating and digestive discomfort. Those that we are most familiar with include star anise, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemon balm, nutmeg, parsley and peppermint. These herbs and spices have be used in cooking for many years; not only do they add flavour, but they help improve our digestion.

Carminative herbs

Carminative herbs include star anise, cardamom and fennel seeds are used abundantly in Indian cooking 

Indian cooking, in particular, traditionally values many of these herbs and spices in helping the body to digest the food being eaten. A perfect example of using carminatives to help with digestion is Lentil Dahl, a delicious combination of lentils, garlic and spices, usually eaten with rice, chapati or naan bread. I have included a delicious Lentil Dahl recipe (from the BBC) for you to try and I'm sure you are going to enjoy it as much as I did!

If you are more interested in herbs than exotic spices, you may like to read herbalist Megan's piece on herbs to relieve bloating

Lentil Dahl Recipe

Ingredients :-

250g / 9oz chana dal (yellow dried split peas), soaked overnight and rinsed until the water runs clear

3 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil, or ghee 

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 small onion, chopped

3-4 whole green chillies, pricked with a knife

2cm or ¾in piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips

3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

3 tomatoes

¾ tsp ground turmeric

¾ tsp garam masala

1½ tsp ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Handful chopped fresh coriander leaves

Method :-

Place the lentils and 900ml / 1¾ pints of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.

When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a whisk to break down the lentils. Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown.

Blend the garlic and tomatoes to a purée in a food processor. Add the purée to the pan and stir well to combine.

Add the ground spices and 100ml / 3½fl oz of water to the pan and stir well to combine. Season, to taste, with salt and simmer over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the oil from the sauce has risen to the surface of the sauce.

Add the cooked lentils to the sauce and stir well, adding more water as necessary to loosen the mixture. Bring the mixture to the boil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving.

dahl

Delicious Dahl combines lentils with carminative spices to help reduce bloating and digestive discomfort 

I hope you enjoy the recipe and handy tips to help reduce the potential bloating impact of lentils. If you are suffering from abdominal discomfort, I would recommend addressing your general digestive health. You may find that it helps to increase the levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut which you can do by introducing a probiotic supplement. Click here to read more about probiotics for bloating

There are many natural remedies for bloating you may like to try, which you can read about here.

References:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/tarkadal_90055

Images:

www.mindbodygreen.com, www.taste.com.au, www.ourbetterhealth.org 

About Jo Saunders

Jo is a qualified Nutritional Therapist with a Diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition. She enjoys writing informative articles that take a holistic (whole) approach towards using food to help heal the body.

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