Do You Know Nutrition: Sugar in beans cause of gas

Nov. 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Updated Nov. 2, 2010 at 6:02 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

Can you please tell me why some beans cause me to have so much gas and others do not. It is embarrassing.

The problem with flatulence, or what we casually call gas, is produced by the fermentation of the complex sugar oligosaccharide found in beans and some other vegetables, such as cabbage and broccoli. The small intestine does not have the proper enzyme to break this sugar down, but as it passes into the large intestine, bacteria breaks it down and unfortunately ferments the sugar producing hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide gases.

The following list was released by the USDA's Western Laboratory in Berkley, Calif. The list is in order of those beans that produce the most gas, based on the beans sugar content, to the beans that contain the lowest amount of sugar and therefore produce the least amount of gas. Number one is soybeans that are rated 10; pea beans rated nine; black beans rated 8.5; pinto beans also rated at 8.5; California small white beans rated 8; Great Northern beans rated a seven; lima beans rated 6.5; garbanzo beans (chick peas) rated 6; and black-eyed peas rated 5.

The flatulence problem was studied among pilots since gas expands at higher altitudes causing gut discomfort. At 35,000 feet, gas will expand to 5.4 times more than at sea level. In the 1960s, astronauts were selected based on the individuals who produced the least amount of gas. The beans that caused the biggest problems were found to be navy and lima beans, with pinto beans trailing in at third place.

What does the word "parve" mean that is listed on food packages. Sometimes I see it with different letters in front on the word. Please explain.

"Parve" or "pareve" is used to identify Kosher food and means neutral. By Jewish customs, that means that a product is neither meat nor diary, has not been cooked or mixed with any meat or dairy and that it does not contain any meat derivatives. This also means that the food product is suitable for vegetarians and is considered 100 percent dairy free, and therefore, safe for someone who is following a strict casein free diet.

The circle around the letter represents the letter "O" for Orthodox. If the circle contains the letter K before the word parve, that means that the product is Kosher, and if there is a U circled in front of parve, that stands for Union.

NOTE: The next nutrition class will be Monday at Organic Emporium, 2918 N. Laurent St., Victoria. Call 361-580-1400 to sign up.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, e-mail her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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