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This small, dried, light-colored French bean variety is called the flageolet bean. The word also means delicate woodwind or flute instrument. Leave it to the French to come up with a fancy word that combines beans with tooting. Linguistic inflation is rampant in France. Not that that’s a bad thing. Wouldn’t you agree that flageolet beans sound far more exotic, highfalutin and gourmet-ish than kidney beans?

Look at that French country color, they even look snooty.

Now that the lowly bean has been elevated in stature, I’m going to throw in a little bioscience and share what actually happens when we eat these little gems. Fancy words or not, indiscriminate digestive rumblings can (and often do) occur after eating beans.

Here’s why.

Let’s start with the endogenous microbial block party going on inside the large colon. According to National Institutes of Health scientists at the Human Microbiome Project, we have 100 trillion bacteria in our distal gut alone.

Yikes!

Beans contain some rather large and unwieldy sugar molecules called oligosaccharides that we can’t easily digest and utilize. We didn’t come equipped with the right enzymes to break down these massive (molecularly speaking) lug-nuts, so instead of being processed in the small intestine as they should be, they bounce their way through the gut relatively untouched and arrive in the colon as an all-you-can-eat buffet for roving herds of bacteria.

Imagine a medieval barbarian banquet – a feeding frenzy of gulping, burping and farting bacteria. If you think about it, it’s really not you tooting, it’s the unruly bacteria. So quit blaming the dog (poor guy) and place blame where it belongs. On the gluttonous bugs, their innate behavior and offensive methane byproducts.

There’s another thing about beans that has been making the food blog rounds lately. Are they highly toxic if eaten raw?

Okay, you’re thinking, who in the world eats raw, dried beans?

Well, who eats coins, dead crickets, paper clips and golf tees?

Little boys.

If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you an x-ray of my son with a stack of coins in his gut. Kids eat weird things, just ask any ER doc.

Raw, dried or undercooked kidney beans contain a toxic compound that can cause severe nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. According to the FDA, most beans contain this compound, but raw kidney beans contain an enormously large amount. The hemagglutinating unit (hau) is the substance measured for toxicity, with raw kidney beans topping out at between 20,000 to 70,000 hau. Cooked beans contain from 200 to 400 hau. It only takes 4 or 5 raw kidney beans to make an adult sick, so imagine a little kid eating only 1 or 2. Don’t expect your GI doc to know anything about natural plant toxins, so if you call and say your kid is sick after eating one raw kidney bean, he/she will think you’re a nutbar. Or at the very least, an incredibly neurotic mom.

In this case, you could be both and still be right.

To be on the safe side and to avoid having to explain what phytohaemagglutinin means to an overly busy ER doc, make sure your curious little kiddos don’t stick raw beans in their ears, up their nose, eat them or feed them to the dog. Beans can be enough trouble when they’re cooked, avoid them raw at all costs.

For more fun with digestion, you might also like
• Erin’s well-written poop post love to eat : hate to digest from Mysteries Internal
• Heidi’s incredibly detailed and informative post Hello Flora, How You Doin‘ from Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom

If you’ve read through all this digestion turmoil, you deserve a recipe for flageolet beans. I’ve made them on several occasions and love the delicate, buttery taste. They’re delicious. You can use them in salads, soups or as a side dish. Add roasted tomatoes to the cooked beans and top with a poached egg and some shredded Parmesan cheese. Absolutely divine.

Basic Flageolet Bean Recipe (courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill with my adaptations)
Sort and rinse before cooking. Soak beans in cold water overnight (I put them in the refrigerator). Drain and rinse well. Add 4 cups of water or chicken broth for every 1 cup of flageolet beans. Liquid should be 1-2 inches above the top of beans. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 1-2 hours. Add more liquid as needed.

• 1 cup of dried beans yields about 2-1/2 cup cooked beans
• cooked beans can store in the fridge for about a week
• cooked beans last about 6 months in the freezer

You might also like
•  Soup au Pistou Recipe with flageolet beans from 101 Cookbooks (use gluten-free pasta)

Peace, love and well-cooked beans!
Melissa

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29 Responses to “beans bacteria toxins and toots”

  1. Melissa, I can always count on you for the very best info and a great, super simple recipe to go with it! Those beans do look snooty AND sound delicious. And yep, little boys will eat anything so your warning is much needed! I’ll be sharing your post with my support group in my next email newsletter. Interestingly enough, the much-loved preschool that my son attended had bins of dried bins in which the kids played with Tonka trucks and machines. Thank goodness the little ones were always under the watchful eye of staff! I don’t remember which dried beans they were now, but I’m so grateful nothing ever happened. The director has long since retired, but I know she’d have heart palpitations just from knowing she put the kids in any kind of danger. Thanks again for all, Melissa!

    • Melissa says:

      Shirley,

      As always, thanks for your kind words. My kids are so far past preschool that I had forgotten about the beans for art projects. Good point!

      Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m WAY behind in my replies! Sorry about that.

      xo

  2. Erin Block says:

    “Leave it to the French to come up with a fancy word that combines beans with tooting. Linguistic inflation…” — Yes! Great line! I laughed out loud in my quiet office. I am sure co-workers are curious!

    I was craving baked beans yesterday, but am now fancying some “flageolet” just because…I feel like being highfalutin (I love that word, by the way!!!).

    And thanks so much for the link :)

    Awesome post!
    Cheers!
    Erin

    • Melissa says:

      Erin,

      You’re welcome. Loved linking to your poop post! =)

      Yes, highfalutin is a good word, isn’t it? And (surprisingly) it’s a “real” word.

      Peace, love and highfalutin beans!

  3. Alta says:

    Great post, Melissa! In spite of repeated attempts to digest LOTS of beans, I still have to limit myself. Good to eat, but not so good later. However, properly cooked beans make SUCH a difference – and here is where my pressure cooker enters the scene. (I just got the thing a few weeks ago, and right now, it is a miracle worker. I’m in awe of how it can turn raw into food in mere minutes.) That pressure cooker makes dried beans a cinch – and I can cook a whole lot and freeze leftovers for future.
    Oh, and I can’t leave without singing “beans, beans, the magical fruit…the more you eat, the more you…”

    • Melissa says:

      Alta,

      Thanks for adding the toot song to the conversation! =) I forgot about that one! I guess I’m going to have to get a pressure cooker. I’ve sure been hearing good things about them lately.

      xo

  4. You know when you share all of the science behind foods I always understand the way you say it. Others I often have a hard time figuring out what they mean. I’ve never been a fan of kidney beans. Not sure why. I do however love to cook up these pretty little greenish beans. I’m totally out of them so they are going onto my grocery list. I’ll be sure to eat them after yoga class.

    • Melissa says:

      Diane,

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate your comments. I’m such a science nerd, I’m never sure if half of what I say makes sense, so it’s really nice to get some feedback.

      P.S. Yes, good point on eating the beans after yoga, rather than before. =)

  5. Sandy Ferrell says:

    Melissa,

    Being from a small town in the midwest, Angola, INdiana; where would you find these beans to purchse them?

    • Melissa says:

      Sandy,

      You can probably order them online at Bob’s Red Mill, but I’m guessing they will be rather pricey. They are anyway and having them shipped might not be worth it. They’re good, but depending on the price, they might not be THAT good. =)

  6. Thanks for writing on this Melissa! Very helpful.

    • Melissa says:

      Alisa,

      Thanks for stopping by! And, I’m glad you found this bean tooting post helpful! If nothing else, it’s kind of fun to know what’s causing all that rumbling inside. =)

  7. Elese says:

    That’s a great point Shirley, about beans in early childhood classrooms…dry beans are also popular for things like gluing onto paper for “mosaic”-type art, sorting and counting, bingo markers, etc. Great to be aware of the toxicity of uncooked beans…thanks so much Melissa!

    • Melissa says:

      Elese,

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate it.

      Yes, Shirley is always on top of things! I love having her add her opinion on everything from beans to genetic testing.

  8. Melissa,

    Such valuable information, I had no idea about raw kidney beans! My son’s preschool has a dried bean “tactile stimulation” table and dried kidney beans are part of the mix…going to email this link his teacher ASAP.

    Thanks Melissa!!

    xo,
    Heidi

    • Melissa says:

      Heidi,

      Raw beans could end up adding more than just “tactile stimulation” to the classroom. Thanks to Shirley for adding the pre-school warning to the conversation.

      xo

  9. donni says:

    Wonderful, I had a few good laughs, and some good information.
    Little girls eat weird things too. I ate my father’s coin collection.

    • Melissa says:

      Donni,

      Yes, you’re so right! Little girls do eat weird things. You and my son must have a mutual interest in coins. At least my son ate regular money, not anything from a coin collection!

      Glad you got a snicker out of the post!

  10. Wow, Melissa,
    A whole stack of coins, huh? He must have been saving up for something really big.
    This is awesome information, all around. I love learning things like this — the sort of information that I need to know when my kids start asking their myriad “why does” question. This one, I am now well-equipped to answer.
    And my kids love to talk about toots. So there’s that. ;0
    Warm regards,
    Nicole

    • Melissa says:

      Nicole,

      Thanks so much. What a nice comment! You’re right, kids like talking the toot talk and now you have the science behind it. Makes life more interesting when you know some of these details!

  11. Tia says:

    Thank you, Melissa. It’s so nice to see you write about this and to get a recipe. I just need to cook all of the bean up. Not the ones Max has been playing with, though. Ew! Oh, and I agree with Donni. I swallowed a marble once, when I was 7. So, I totally expect Max to put stuff in his mouth. Funny thing is that he hasn’t done it until now. Go figure.

    • Melissa says:

      Tia,

      Marbles! Wow, I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes perfect sense. They’re shiny, round and colorful. They look like candy.

      All that toxicity talk with raw beans motivated me to write up this post. Thanks for the inspiration! =)

  12. As usual, I am left laughing with your writing. What an awesome post, Melissa! I can always count on getting the most humorous nutrition info from you!! THanks for sharing this information! It is funny how more people do not know about this!
    And, I would love to see that xray of the entire stack of coins! LOL!! That is impressive. Even more impressive is that he managed to pass them all!
    xo

    • Melissa says:

      Kim,

      Good, I’m glad I can provide a laugh now and then. We can’t take ourselves too seriously, that’s for sure. Life has enough ups and downs, we might as well giggle our way through it (at least try to anyway).

      As for the coins, I can’t guarantee my son passed them all because I didn’t check. I figured — what’s the point (plus, ICK!). Either they pass or he saves them for a rainy day. =)

      xo

      xo

  13. Cid says:

    Melissa,

    I agree with the girls, you are a mind of information… and we all love that… who else is going to give us the inside view, plus colour decorating tips!! Love the colour of these beans by the way, it’s positively Gustavian!

    Hands up, I’ve been really bad just recently with my eating habits and am paying the price. All kinds of aches and pains and badly digested meals and snacks. Stress doesn’t help either coupled with the fact I’ve just bought a new dress which looks great on the hanger but on me, a yacht in full sail :) I only have myself to blame so it’s on with the annual spring clean and calorie cut down… you may need to check on me from time to time to make sure I’m still on track.

    All the best Melissa, hope everything is well with you.

    Cid

    • Melissa says:

      Cid,

      I’m not much on color decorating tips, but I do love exploring inner space! Glad to hear from you. I think of you so often and hope things are well on your side of the pond. I’ve been so bad with my blog hopping lately that I’m almost embarrassed to check in with Miles. =)

      As you know, too much stress (hard not to be stressed at time) does mess with our digestion. Take care of yourself and I’ll stop by “the other channel” for a visit soon. You’ve motivated me to make the effort. (LOTS going on over here. I’ll explain later.)

      P.S. I laughed out loud at your yacht/dress comment. You have such a wonderful way with words!

      Melissa
      ox

  14. lo says:

    Oh, how I’ve missed you, my dear Melissa. I always love the education I get when I come over here. Today I learned that bacteria is noisy! ;)

    We’re big bean lovers at our house. Flageoliciousness and all :)

    • Melissa says:

      Lo!

      I’ve missed you, too! I’ll stop by for some ice cream and wine one of these days. =)

      “Flageoliciousness” — what a great word. Wish I had thought of it!

  15. Carol Gates says:

    Nice funny info. :) Not sure if there’s scientific evidence to back it, but my mother in love taught me to use the quick soak version for any type of beans, and immediately add 1 tablespoon of baking soda as they soak for the hour. Make sure you use a large pot because it bubbles up alot. Rinse really well before cooking them. It’s incredible the color of water that comes off, and the room is much quieter and pleasant after eating. ;) hehe

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Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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