It’s always a shock to learn that something considered healthy—like beans—can pose risks that are not widely known. You may be surprised to learn that several types of everyday beans can make you sick if not cooked thoroughly. In fact, consuming undercooked beans can lead to abdominal complaints, like vomiting, diarrhea and gas, and even hospitalization in rare cases.
Cooking beans properly is vital because beans contain natural insecticides in their core. The chemical found at the center of beans is often referred to as lectin or phytohaemagglutinin and must be cooked in order to neutralize. This chemical is found in various concentrations depending on the bean type. The highest concentration of lectin is found in red kidney beans.
So why do people often consume undercooked beans? The reason is simple—we smell the delicious aromas coming from our crockpots and we don’t want to wait out the full cooking process. However, it’s fairly simple to check if your beans are cooked properly.
Remember that soaking beans before cooking can help make them more digestible (although I never remember to soak them!) and when you think that they are done check to make sure they are fork tender. Undercooked beans will often have a chalky consistency and will feel too firm under your fork. Also, you can take a spoonful of beans out of your cooker and blow on them. If the skin on the beans’ wrinkle and then start to peel, they are most likely cooked properly. You will also notice on that the skin on properly cooked beans looks a tad loose in appearance.
If you feel like you are experiencing poisoning from undercooked beans, please consult your physician as soon as possible. Luckily, most recover very quickly, but don’t wait if you feel you need immediate medical attention. Also, please note that sprouting beans has separate risks and challenges that are different from cooking beans. Thus, you want to follow completely different practices for sprouting vs. cooking and remember that only certain beans can be sprouted.