de-gassing beans

Has anyone ever heard of using baking soda to de-gas beans before making ham and bean soup? I learned this method when I was cooking at the nursing home in order to aid in the digestion of the beans. I have asked numerous cooks, nutritionists, and chefs what (if anything) does the baking soda do to the beans to make them more digestible and I have always been met with a blank stare and an "I have no idea" answer. I've been doing my bean soup this way for over 30 years and I can attest that it truly does "de-gas" the beans. Anyone out there know why? Incidentally, I have only encountered one other person who used baking soda on her beans during the over-night soaking. Interestingly, she was my cousin! Are we following some old wives' tale, back woods lore that is absolutely useless?

Sally Capotosto


702551 March 24, 2018
An Internet search using the terms "baking soda beans" resulted in this top hit:

which refers to an old study based on dried beans.

The same author wrote another study that led to the conclusion: “People’s concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated.”

Note that much of the original American studies about flatulence came from NASA in the 1950s during their research into manned spaceflight.

From personal observations, I also agree that beans' reputation for causing flatulence is overstated.

What baking soda does accomplish is increasing the pH of the cooking water and aid in softening the beans. Cooks Illustrated covered this before and Serious Eats has touched on the topic as well:

at least for chickpeas.

Enjoying reading these!
Sally C. March 24, 2018
Interesting. Thanks for the information cv.
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