If you’re new to a gluten free diet, you might be discouraged by all the foods you can’t east anymore. But don’t despair! There are actually some really tasty foods that you still can eat, as well as gluten-free versions of many of your favorite foods.
But what about beans? Most doctors talk about how great beans are for your diet, so can you still have them? The short answer is maybe. While beans are naturally gluten free, they are often contaminated. Let’s talk about what kinds of beans you can have and how to ensure that your diet remains gluten free.
Before we start, let me mention that we have a number of courses to help you go gluten free!
- Get Out of the Gluten Glut (Part One): Get to Know Gluten
- Get Out of the Gluten Glut (Part Two): How to Go Gluten Free
- Get Out of the Gluten Glut (Part Three): Leaky Gut and Immunity
Now on to the information about beans and gluten!
What is Gluten?
Gluten if found in most types of grains, especially wheat. It causes dough to be elastic (the word gluten actually comes from the latin word for glue). Because grains containing gluten are found in so many of our foods, gluten is found in everything from cereal to beer to salad dressing.
In recent years, you may have noticed that gluten free diets are increasing in popularity. Gluten isn’t bad for everyone, but many people suffer from celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you’re sensitive to gluten, you may experience bloating, diarrhea, rashes, and respiratory problems. However, if you don’t need to follow a gluten free diet, it might not be wise to do so, since many of the nutrients our body needs are found in foods that contain gluten. Talk to your doctor before cutting gluten out of your diet.
You don’t have to give up bread to eat a gluten free diet! Check out this pastry course, which goes over everything you need to know to go gluten free with your baking.
The Gluten Problem with Beans
Beans are subject to contamination from day one because of how farmers use their fields. Certain foods use certain nutrients in the soil, so to avoid soil that is depleted of any one nutrient, farmers rotate their crops. That means that a field that grew corn this year might grow tomatoes next year and soy beans the year after that.
Unfortunately, this can contaminate beans, since the fields may have been previously used to grow foods that are not gluten free, such as barley. The farmers may also be using storage bins and equipment across all fields, which can also cause contamination. Barley is especially a culprit, since this crop is very commonly rotated with lentils, due to the nutrients used in the soil by each type of seed. You may even notice barley kernels in bags of dried beans.
Rinsing your beans or even scrubbing them won’t necessarily help the problem. If you are extremely sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, the generic beans you can buy at any grocery store may not be a good option.
Are There Non-Contaminated Bean Options?
Yes! Just because you have a gluten problem doesn’t mean you can’t eat beans.
Today, labeling standards do not require food companies to note when their products contain wheat or are manufactured in a way where the product might be contaminated. You might see this on some labels, but it is completely voluntary. So, don’t rely on the label.
Instead, look for been products that are certified to be gluten free. If something is certified gluten free, it contains less than 10 parts per million of gluten. If something is called gluten free but not certified, it must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten (in the US and Canada). So, if you are extremely sensitive, these may not be good options. For most people, however, certified gluten free beans are fine.
Dried versus Canned
In general, it is much easier to find dried beans that are certified gluten free than to find canned beans that are certified gluten free. The goods news is that almost any recipe calling for canned beans can be made instead with dried beans. Simply soak the beans first and allow for a longer cooking time. That way you can make chili, baked beans, or just about any bean recipe without using canned beans.
Grow Your Own!
If you’re extremely worried about gluten contamination, one of the best options is to grow beans yourself. As noted, beans are naturally gluten free, and if you grow them in your own garden with other gluten free foods, you can avoid contamination. This organic soil building course is a great place to start if you want to create your own backyard garden.