Beans and IBS Expert Advice on How to Find and Enjoy Low FODMAP Beans and Legumes

Beans and IBS: Expert Advice on Enjoying Low FODMAP Beans & Legumes

“Expert Advice on Enjoying Low FODMAP Beans & Legumes with IBS” was written by dietetic intern and functional nutritionist Krista Wale, B.S. and reviewed, revised and updated by Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT.

While beans are generally categorized as a “health food”, unfortunately they can be pretty troublesome for lots of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), due to their high FODMAP content.  But the good news is that not all beans have to be completely off-limits when following a low FODMAP elimination diet!  There is such a thing as low FODMAP beans – and we’re here to help spread the word.

In this article we’ll cover what makes beans hard to digest (especially for those with IBS), which beans are lowest in FODMAPs, and how to reduce the amount of FODMAPs in some types of beans.  As an added bonus, we’ll also share our ‘secret weapon’ which could potentially allow you to enjoy high FODMAP beans with IBS – without the aftermath! (Hint: it’s special enzymes for digesting beans.)

Disclaimer:  This article was written for informational and educational purposes only. Do not take this as medical/nutritional advice! Make sure to consult with your treatment team to receive customized advice and protocols tailored to your individual needs.

Affiliate disclosure:  This article contains affiliate links*.  If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, Whole-istic Living may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! 

Types of beans and legumes

  • Baked beans
  • Black beans
  • Black eyed peas
  • Cannellini beans
  • Edamame
  • Fava beans
  • Green beans
  • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
  • Great northern beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Refried beans

Health benefits of beans

Research shows that including beans in regular dietary patterns is an easy and effective solution for achieving recommended fiber intake and maintaining a healthier gut and overall health for most healthy adults. (1)

Although beans may be infamous for their gassy impact, they sure do pack a nutritional punch!  Alongside being rich in micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants), beans are also a great source of plant-based protein and fiber which helps us to feel energized, sustained, and satited (satisfied after a meal) for longer.

Beans are also rich in prebiotics which feed the probiotics (good bacteria) in your large intestine, promoting healthy regularity and better digestion overall.  (Learn more about prebiotics vs probiotics here!)

Because beans play such a big role in your overall health, it’s generally a good idea to try and enjoy beans in moderation if possible (as tolerated) – even at a certain point during a low FODMAP elimination diet. Indefinitely eliminating all beans and legumes from our diets could potentially contribute to insufficient fiber and prebiotic intake, both of which we need in order to keep our gut microbes happy and healthy!

Why are beans hard to digest?

Known as the “magical fruit” (cause the more you eat, the more you you-know-what)…. beans are notorious for causing digestive issues like gas and bloating, even among those of us without IBS.  This is because their high levels of FODMAPs, or more specifically small carboydrates called oligosaccharides. (You don’t need to memorize that fancy word – but know that it’s what the “O” of FODMAPs stands for!)

  • As a quick reminder, FODMAPs are poorly digested carbohydrates that are present in some foods, such as beans and legumes.

Most people produce a variety of enzymes in our gut, to help digest the foods we eat.  But beans are another story.  As it turns out, alpha-galactosidase is the main type of enzyme that helps break down oligosaccharides (the primary FODMAP in beans) into smaller molecules to be easily digested

The catch?  Humans (even those of us without IBS or SIBO) can’t make this alpha-galactosidase enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides!

  • These undigested oligosaccharides move through the small intestine and enter the colon where they are fermented by gut bacteria causing uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating.  This is why foods like beans are generally more troublesome for most people, with or without IBS!

Beans and SIBO

In folks with SIBO (which often masquerades as IBS, since there’s so much overlap in all the symptoms), there are microbes in the intestines which feast on those undigested or poorly digested oligosaccharides from the beans.

This fermentation produces methane and/or hydrogen and/or hydrogen sulfide gases, inevitable leads to an unwanted aftermath of gas, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation (depending on the type of SIBO).

How to pre-soak beans for better digestion

There’s a lot of wisdom in certain ancestral traditions like soaking grains and beans, to make them more digestible.  As it turns out, soaking dried beans in water for 12-24 hours, followed by draining and rinsing, is a necessary process for reducing the FODMAP content of beans!

FODMAPs aside, soaking beans also helps to neutralize phytic acid, an anti-nutrient.

  • Most beans and legumes contain a high amount of phytic acid.  Phytic acid is referred to as an anti-nutrient because it prevents the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium, which may cause nutrient deficiencies.

Beans and IBS:  Frequently asked questions

Are beans good for IBS?

Generally speaking, no.  In our clinical experience we’ve found that most people with IBS can’t easily tolerate beans in “normal” quantities without experiencing a flare.  But this doesn’t mean you can’t eat beans if you have IBS! You just need to figure out your unique threshold.

But this isn’t true for everyone. We believe in bio-individuality, which means that one size doesn’t fit all! There are definitely people out there with IBS who can eat beans, or who even feel GOOD when they eat beans – especially since certain types of beans are a prebiotic food.

Consider working with a registered dietitian and keeping an IBS food diary to get a better idea of whether or not beans are a good fit for you on your IBS healing journey.

Canned vs freshly cooked beans – which are better for IBS?

Did you know that FODMAPs are water soluble? This means that FODMAPs will dissolve in water-based solutions. This is good news because you can use this to your advantage when preparing and cooking beans in order to reduce the amount of FODMAPS present, making them more tolerable on a low FODMAP diet.

For this same reason, canned beans are slightly lower in FODMAPs than dried beans cooked from scratch. When canned beans are soaked in water or brine, some of the oligosaccharides will leach out into the water. This won’t completely get rid of FODMAPs in beans, but a quick drain and rinse will definitely help to reduce some of its FODMAP content.

Although canned beans are typically recommended over dried beans in a low FODMAP diet, something similar you can do to reduce the amount of FODMAPs present in fresh beans is to pre-soak them!

Which beans are the easiest to digest?

Generally speaking, any and all low FODMAP beans in their assigned portions that meet low FODMAP criteria are the easiest to digest.  Refer back to our low FODMAP beans list for details.

Can I take a FODMAP enzyme to help digest beans?

Yes!  Research shows that supplementation of alpha-galactosidase may reduce symptoms when taken with foods high in oligosaccharides, like beans and legumes, for individuals who have IBS.

Alpha-galactosidase can be found in certain types of digestive enzymes like Beano, FODZYME* and FODMATE.

  • Enter my affiliate code WHOLEISTICLIVING for 15% off your first FODZYME order here*!
    • FODZYME is a powder versus a pill, and like FODMATE, it works for other types of FODMAPs – not just beans.
    • As a former IBS sufferer who can’t eat unlimited quantities of beans without help from enzymes, I’ve also noticed that the enzyme powder (FODZYME) is generally more effective than the pills (Beano and FODMATE), since the powedered enzymes make direct contact with your food and thus work better and faster. This is why I’m only an affiliate for FODZYME. 😉

Lima beans and IBS:  Are lima beans low FODMAP?

Yes.  Lima beans are actually lower in FODMAPs compared to other types of beans! Enjoy canned lima beans by sticking to a serving of ¼ cup (39g).

Green beans and IBS:  Are green beans low FODMAP?

Yes.  Green beans can be consumed in a low FODMAP diet, as long as you stick to a portion size of 1 cup of whole green beans (75g).

Chickpeas and IBS:  Are garbanzo beans (chickpeas) low FODMAP?

It depends!  Cooked or canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are considered low FODMAP up to ¼ cup (42 gram) serving.

Choose canned chickpeas over raw (or freshly cooked), and make sure to drain and rinse, in order to help further reduce their FODMAP content.

Kidney beans and IBS: Are kidney beans low FODMAP?

Unfortunatley, not really!  Like most othere types of beans, relatively small amounts of kidney beans are relatively high in FODMAPs.

However, by sticking to a 25g serving (about ___ tablespoons), kidney beans can be enjoyed without any adverse digestive reactions.

You could also consider trying a FODMAP enzyme such as Beano, FODZYME* or FODMATE.

Black beans and IBS:  Are black beans low FODMAP?

Black beans are not internetly considered low FODMAP, but you can have up to a 40g (about ___ tablespoon) of black beans without fear of irritating symptoms of IBS.

Canned black beans are going to be a better choice over dried black beans if you want to reduce your FODMAP consumption.

Are pinto beans low FODMAP?

Pinto beans are not low FODMAP so it’s important to stick to the recommended serving size of 45g when consuming a low FODMAP diet in order to avoid any additional gut issues.

Lentils and IBS:  Are lentils low FODMAP?

It depends.  For example, canned lentils are only considered low FODMAP up to ½ cup per serving. Canned lentils are the best option when it comes to keeping you in the green zone for FODMAPs.

A list of low FODMAP beans & bean pastas (with portion size)

It’s important to keep in mind, ONE of the following options is considered to be “low FODMAP” – but if you were to have multiple servings of low FODMAP beans in a day, you’re essentially “FODMAP stacking” and no longer within the parameters of a low FODMAP diet.

Translation: practice moderation and try not to don’t eat one of these options per day, unless you’re having it with a FODMAP digestive enzyme. (More on these further down!)

  • Black beans, fermented: 15 grams (1.5 tablespoons)
  • Black beans, soaked and boiled or canned: 40 grams (about 3 tablespoons)
  • Black beans, refried, canned: 34 grams (1.5 tablespoons)
  • Black-eyed peas, boiled: 20 grams (~2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
  • Butter beans, canned: 35 grams (2.5 tablespoons)
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), canned: 42 grams (~1/2 cup)
  • Chickpea pasta, cooked: 100g (1 cup cooked chickpea pasta)
  • Edamame: 90 grams (~3/4 cup)
  • Green beans: 75g (1 cup)
  • Lentils, canned, drained: 46 grams (~1/2 cup)
  • Lentils green, boiled: 29 grams (~1/3 cup)
  • Lentils red, boiled: 23 grams (~1/4 cup freshly cooked)
  • Lentil pasta, cooked: ~1/2 cup
  • Lima beans, boiled: 39 grams (~1/2 cup cooked)
  • Mung beans, cooked: 40 grams (3 tablespoons)
  • Pinto beans, dried, cooked: 23 grams (~2 tablespoons)
  • Pinto beans, refried: 45 grams (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
  • Pinto beans, whole, canned, and drained: 45 grams (2.5 tablespoons)
  • Red kidney beans, sprouted: 25 grams (1.5 tablespoons)

(If you’d like details on low FODMAP bean pasta brands and products, feel free to check out our comprehensive low FODMAP pasta list here!)

15 little-known ways to try low FODMAP beans

7 low FODMAP bean recipes to try

We scoured the internet to find these fun, tasty low FODMAP bean recipes for you! But as a friendly reminder, don’t have more than 1 per day to avoid FODMAP stacking. 😉

Low FODMAP chili con carne

This simple low FODMAP chili con carne with canned black beans is packed with protein and fiber! Add a dollop of plain low FODMAP yogurt on top and serve with rice for a filling and flavorful low FODMAP meal.

Low FODMAP roasted chickpea salad 

A roasted chickpea salad is anything but a boring salad! Crispy and crunchy chickpeas tossed together with lettuce, tomato, nuts and seeds and topped with a yummy tahini dressing makes for a perfect as a refreshing meal or a side dish.

Tuscan bean soup

This hearty, flavorful soup is good for the soul and the gut! It’s made with sauteed veggies like tomatoes and carrots and seasoned with an array of  herbs and spices, then topped with seasoned, pan fried butter beans. It can be enjoyed all year long and it freezes well, too!

Low FODMAP bbq baked black beans

Baked black beans are a great, fiber-packed side dish that pairs well with many types of main dishes. These beans are smokey, spicy and slightly sweet and will definitely make following a low FODMAP diet that much tastier!

Low FODMAP refried beans and huevos rancheros 

This refried beans and huevos rancheros recipe is perfect for your next breakfast/bunch! Made with canned lentils, this recipe packs a protein and fiber punch to keep you satisfied until your next meal.

Low FODMAP spicy lentil soup

This warm, hearty low FODMAP spicy lentil soup recipe is full of flavor! With 5 servings of vegetables, it’s high in calcium, fiber and iron makes a healthy lunch or light meal option. This recipe freezes well so double the recipe and store for those days you need something healthy and quick!

Low FODMAP hummus 

This tangy and nutty mediterranean spread fits perfectly into a low FODMAP diet by blendings canned chickpeas with other GI friendly ingredients like garlic-infused olive and tahini into a creamy, smooth texture. This dip pairs perfectly with crackers, veggies or even on the top of a buddha bowl or salad!

More IBS & low FODMAP resources

If you found this helpful, know that we’ve got lots more articles and recipes for you!  Feel free to check out any or all of the following IBS and low FODMAP articles and recipes.

Articles

Recipes

Recap

Beans and legumes absolutely CAN be enjoyed on a low FODMAP diet-  as long as you’re conscious about the serving sizes and utilize beneficial preparation and cooking methods to further help reduce your FODMAP consumption.

Most beans and legumes are high in FODMAPs, especially when they are in their raw or dried form. For this reason, consumption of canned beans over dried beans is recommended when following a low FODMAP diet.

Canned beans in the right portions are a safe bet, but it is possible to lower some FODMAP content of dried beans as well by soaking them for at least 12-24 hours, then draining and rinsing them before you cook them.

Beans are a nutritious source of protein, fiber and many vitamins and minerals, all of which are essential to our gut health and overall health. For this reason, consumption of beans should not be limited if possible!

Next steps

Not sure what other foods are triggering your IBS symptoms? Keeping a food log is crucial in the early stages of your IBS and gut repair journey!  Not everyone has the same types of food intolerances/food sensitivities.

Grab a copy of this IBS Food Diary* (the only one designed and published by a gut health dietitian) to learn more about which foods will work best for you!

Jenna Volpe's affiliate link to the IBS Food Diary on Amazon

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