Q: A friend says I should soak 2 pounds of white beans in water with 1/2 cup of baking soda to get rid of the trouble with gas. I'm concerned about reducing the nutrition. Is this worth doing?
A: The results are mixed on whether adding baking soda, either to the soaking water or while cooking beans, will help. Some people notice a small improvement; other notice no change. Soaking beans in plain water and then changing the water before cooking is just as likely to help.
There is evidence that adding baking soda reduces some nutrients, particularly vitamin B. Baking soda also can make the beans taste saltier or even soapy, so they should be rinsed very well if you use it. Adding baking soda also may affect the texture, making the cooked beans mushy instead of tender.
If you do add baking soda, the amount your friend suggested is too large. Usually, you only use 1/4 teaspoon baking soda to a pound of beans.
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The best way to reduce the problem is simply to eat more beans. People who eat beans regularly have the least trouble digesting them.
kathleen purvis, charlotte observer