Wednesday, May 25, 2011

South Asian diets and flatulence

Originally posted at Brown Pundits.

“Beans, beans, the musical fruit/ The more you eat, the more you toot” – children’s song

As you probably know, legumes (beans, lentils and peas) have high levels of oligosaccharides, which result in increased levels of flatulence. Whenever I hear someone mention eating baked beans (one of the principal legume-based dishes of Anglophone culture), someone else almost inevitably makes reference to their fart-producing capacity.

But brown people eat legumes like no one else. The average person in South Asia eats some kind of dal at least once a day, and probably more.

There are of course numerous other culinary cultures that revolve very heavily around legumes – Egyptians, Ethiopians and especially Mexicans – but South Asia is the global capital of legume consumption. India especially, given that around 400 million of its people are vegetarian and thus rely on dal as their primary source of protein; although due to poverty, I figure dal is still the main protein source even for the majority that do eat meat.

That would seem like a lot of farting.

Now, I haven’t done the research on this, and frankly I don’t want to. But would it be fair to say that Indians are the farting-est nationality in the world?

Or does one’s digestive system acclimatize to a diet high in legumes, to the point where flatulence is no longer a problem?

It is notable that both Mexican and Indian cuisines make extensive use of ingredients which supposedly lower flatulence levels. In India it is the powdered resin known as hing or asafoetida, while Mexicans add the herb epazote to their bean dishes.

As a vegetarian myself, and one who is very partial to Indian food, I eat a lot of lentils and chickpeas, and thus can personally testify that things can get pretty windy afterward. But I still don’t eat legumes quite as much as the average Mexican or Indian. So does the average desi household resemble dinnertime with the Klumps?

See also:

Foods that make you stink - Fenugreek

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