Soaking Grains, Part two

With so many people interested in soaking grains from my last post, I thought I would post a few more helpful quotes and thoughts.

First of all, check out Sally Fallon’s article, Be Kind to Your Grains . It is very helpful in understanding why this is such an important process to do. But here is a quote that contains the most helpful part.

Why We Soak Grains

Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid, for example, is an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound. It is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects. Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness. Most of these antinutrients are part of the seed’s system of preservationβ€”they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Proper preparation of grains is a kind and gentle process that imitates the process that occurs in nature. It involves soaking for a period in warm, acidulated water in the preparation of porridge, or long, slow sour dough fermentation in the making of bread. Such processes neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption. “

And from Nourishing Traditions…..

“Traditional methods for preparing grains and legumes supply those factors that nature uses for neutralizing phytic acid in seeds so that they an then sprout and grow: warmth, moisture, time and slightly acidity. Soaking whole grains and flour overnight in a medium like cultured milk or warm acidulated water activates the enzyme phytase, which then neutralizes phytic acid. Studies show that salt added to the soaking medium inhibits this process, so the time to add salt to porridges and batters is just before cooking, not during the soaking period. ” Nourishing Traditions

Soaking and sprouting reduces anti-nutrients and helps you absorb the full benefit from grains. It’s so sad that many of us may be faithfully using whole grains, but not really reaping the benefits because phytic acid is blocking our absorption of it.

Some Ideas

Soak baked goods in buttermilk, thinned down yogurt, or kefir. For dairy free alternatives, use coconut milk (or water) with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.Β  Search my recipe index for ideas.

Whole grains should also be soaked, generally 12-24 hours, with about one tablespoon of an acidic addition per cup of liquid. I use raw apple cider vinegar a lot for this use., but whey, buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and vinegar are all options as well.

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!


  1. Belinda says

    Hi Kimi,

    I notice that you are just specifying grains? It led me to wonder if it is suggested that we should be doing this when soaking peas and beans that are consumed as a whole seed?

    Thanks for this series it is certainly making me think.

    Kind Regards

  2. Mrs. U says

    VERY informative post!!! Thank you for sharing all of this. I have much to learn. πŸ™‚

    And I have wonderful news- I just ordered Nourishing Traditions!! I can’t wait to sit down with it and read the same things you’ve just shared here. That way, it’ll soak in better. (HAHA! No pun intended there on the soaking comment!!)

    Mrs. U

  3. Peggy says

    I like soaking for pancakes and quick breads, but I can’t hack the sour oats! We love oatmeal (whole family does) and from my reading, it takes so long to break down the pytates in oats that the soaking is not very beneficial. So, for oats, I don’t soak. There is also a lot of info stating phtates are very beneficial to the body and carry out harmful toxins. This was taken from an excerpt from Sue Gregg- see the paragraph right under the Evaluating the Importance of the Two-Stage Process:

  4. Sarah says

    Dear Kimi,

    Thanks for this interesting information and the link to “Be Kind to Your Grains”. I am really looking forward to seeing your sourdough whole grain bread recipe.

    Beyond soaking, is there a health reason for using sourdough rather than a long-soaked yeast recipe? (My yeast breads take from 3-26 hours to make, whereas I’ve made sourdough that takes at least 36 hours.) Yeast from a jar is so convenient, tastes fine, and doesn’t require maintenance. (I definitely think sourdough tastes great, which is wonderful unless it makes us eat too much bread!) Just curious, since you and Sally Fallon mention sourdough in particular.

    Thanks again!

    • Terry says

      Taste is really not the issue regarding the wild yeast (from creating sourdough) vs commercial yeast. Health is definitely the issue. If you do your due diligence on wild yeast, you’ll discover that it too transforms the dough into a more healthful and beneficial food, while eliminating harmful factors. I hope you will see this and consider investing the initial time in culturing some wild yeast. Here are a couple of excerpts from a great article (
      “Wild yeast, or multi-micro flora are the natural air-borne ferments that are generated or seeded in a dough left exposed to a clean and cool atmosphere under specific conditions of moisture and temperature and the exclusion of larger specimen. Within that fertile medium, lactic bacteria of the various beneficial types are found: B. Pastorianum, B. Delbrucki, B.Ternoas well as saccharomyces such as S.Pastorianus, and S. Cervisiae. This type of microflora consumes little energy and multiplies quite slowly. Its growth duplicates the cycle of human breathing and that of wheat embryo germination. Wild yeast also naturally enriches the bread, due to an additional development of nutrients by the beneficial enzymes and ferments.” and “Commercial yeast is an isolate “mushroom-type” microorganism whose cells are high in moisture and consist of vacuolated protoplasm…. rising of the dough is lightning fast, coupled with a reduction (baker’s yeast is a strong reducer), followed by a strong oxidation during the baking and often accompanied by an alkalinization. This is increased even more when a portion or all of the bran is removed. We witness here a phenomenon totally opposed to the normal laws of life. The end result of this biological decay (staling of bread), is a deficient oxidative energy that changes into a glycolysed energy, as evidenced by monster, or anarchistic, cells that are an exact duplicate of human cancer cells, according to the research of Dr. Warbourg, M.D.”

  5. Kimi Harris says

    Excellent question, I definitely would always soak my legumes. I should have mentioned that, but was hoping to do a separate post about that since I do it slightly different than grains. πŸ™‚

    Mrs. U,

    What fun! I think that you will find it very informative and it has a ton of great recipes! Just to warn you, there are some quotes and sections that I don’t agree with. It also has a small section on eating raw meats (yuck). But other then that, I really have found it to be the most helpful book for healthy cooking. Happy reading!

  6. Kimi Harris says

    I had gotten the impression from others that it does take longer or is harder to soak your oatmeal. Can you direct me to an actual place to read why that is? I am very interested in that.

    I have read what Sue Gregg says about phytic acid, and Sally Fallon actually says something similar in Nourishing Traditions. The thing to keep in mind is that when Israel, for example, would eat “unleavened” bread it was only for a short time period. So it was kind of a cleansing period (where the phytic acid could be helping them cleanse by taking out toxins), but it wasn’t something that they would do year round. So while that makes me feel it’s okay to have it occasionally, I wouldn’t want to have unsoaked oatmeal, or other unsoaked grains daily, or even weekly. That would be my personal opinion. πŸ™‚

    Anyway, I am curious to read more about soaking oatmeal, since that is something we have once in a while. It seems that Sally Fallon (who I know doesn’t know everything, but did introduce this concept) thinks that soaking it overnight is effective. This gives me some reassurance about it, but I would be interesting in reading info to the contrary. πŸ™‚

  7. Kimi Harris says

    That is a great question and one that I am still trying to understand an grapple with. I will definitely answer it soon, but may have to do it in a post since I would love to include some quotes and such that would be to long for this comment section. I would like to introduce both sides of the argument to that question, and see if others have any thoughts on it as well. πŸ™‚

  8. Anonymous says

    I understand you are also supposed to soak nuts and seeds and then dry them out. How long does it take to dry them out and can this be done in the oven so that they are hard and crunchy again? Soggy nuts don’t sound very appealing to me, and we eat a lot of them. But, I also want to do the healthy thing…

  9. Anonymous says

    Thank you for your articles. I was wondering what one should do with the soak water. I’m assuming that all the unwanted things are pulled out into it, so it is best discarded and not used?

    Thank you! NN

  10. Al says

    I am also wondering what one should do with the soak water. As above I’m assuming that all the unwanted things are pulled out into it, so it is best discarded and not used? I am soaking flake cereals (quinoa, millett etc) and these are difficult to strain. Does anyone know the correct technique?

    Cheers Alison

  11. Al says

    I have another question. I am soaking grains and cereals for a 1 year old baby and would prefer not to use lemon. Is it wise to soak with the addition of yoghurt and leave the ingredients out of the fridge.

    Thanks for your comments.

  12. Kimi Harris says

    Hi Al,

    My understanding from Nourishing Traditions is that you are neutralizing the phytic acid, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about rinsing them.

    As far as leaving out the cereal with yoghurt for a one year old, I can’t make that judgment call for you. I can tell you that I have never had any problems with it, and the many people I know who use this method have never had a problem either. I can also tell you that this is a traditional method, so has been used for a long time. πŸ™‚ I always tried to get the best quality, naturally fermented, live dairy products. And of course, never eat something that smells bad after fermenting.

    Hope that helps. πŸ™‚

  13. Caroline says

    I have never soaked any grains and am very interested in doing so, especially for organic short grain brown rice that I eat every day and also oats. My son is allergic to all the acids that you mention should be added for soaking. I’m wondering if I can use slightly acidic water instead. We have a water ionizer that can produce different pHs of filtered tap water. Would that be a good substitute?

    Thank you!!!

  14. KimiHarris says


    We get water from a similar machine, so I know that you are talking about. Since the point is to actually make the water acidic when you add in the other different elements, I am assuming that soaking in slightly acidic water from you machine would work just as well. Otherwise, you can just make sure to soak for extra long. πŸ™‚

    If you would rather not cook your grains in the acidic water, you can drain and rinse them as well before cooking (just cook in ph neutral water). Hope that helps!

  15. says

    I had been soaking oatmeal in whey for a while, and I tried yogurt after reading here that it was less sour. Our family had the opposite experience! I hardly taste a thing with whey-soaked oats. My whey comes from the yogurt when I make yogurt cheese, so maybe it’s different if it’s whey from cultured cheese. ??

    Also, some friends have asked me if soaking my grains will do anything negative to the FIBER in the whole grains. This was at Wikipedia: “Fiber does not bind to minerals and vitamins and therefore does not restrict their absorption, but rather evidence exists that fermentable fiber sources improve absorption of minerals, especially calcium.[49][50] Some plant foods can reduce the absorption of minerals and vitamins like calcium, zinc, vitamin C and magnesium, but this is caused by the presence of phytate (which is also thought to have important health benefits), not by fiber.[6]” I don’t know if that says anything about soaking and fiber…what do you think?

  16. Louise says

    I really love this newsltter. I already learned a lot, and I’m going to try this soaking of grains. I want to try the cracker receipe I read in another article.
    I decided to subscribe. I have not received the link to confirm that I subscribed.

    • KimiHarris says

      Hi Louise,

      Glad to have you here! You should get an confirmation email soon. Let me know if it doesn’t come. πŸ™‚

  17. carole says

    Hi! Thanks so much for this post! Very helpful to a saoking-newbie such as myself πŸ™‚

    Question: If I want to use chickpea flour in a flatbread recipe, should I soak the chickpeas and then grind them into flour or just soak the flour????? I’m not thrilled at the prospect of drying the beans out in the oven all day, so I’m more inclined to soak the flour, but I’d love your opinion as to whether the chickpeas even need to be soaked… thanks!

  18. Meredith says

    Hi. Thanks for the information. Question: Is cooking oatmeal or any other breakfast cereal in a slow cooker overnight equivalent to soaking? Thanks

  19. Ellen says

    Dear Kimi,

    Love this site! Has all the info I’ve been looking for. πŸ™‚ I’m quite new to the “nutritious ways,” and learning about the best way to eat is taking time. Finding out that refined grains are nutritionally-empty, I have been banishing white bread/rice and eating organic whole grains only.
    I’ve also been mixing raw muesli (oats, wheat, and barley flakes, nuts and raisins) with yogurt every morning and adding chopped fresh fruit – delicious! Reading your post, I’ll try soaking my muesli tonight. Will mixing it with plain yogurt and leaving overnight in the fridge do the trick? Or do we need room temp?
    Also, have you seen this article:
    It states that “virtually all oats are steamed or toasted as part of the rolling, grinding, or milling process”, which destroys the phytase we are trying to activate by soaking. Is soaking at all helpful then, without the phytase?

  20. Ronnie says

    Nice blog! I was raised on Adelle Davis and have followed developments in nutrition for decades. Recently studying nutrition and cancer, I realized that phytic acid is the stuff in the *very expensive* anti-cancer supplement IP6.

    I’ve been feeding my father grain soaking water/whey between meals, so he gets the benefit of the phytic acid without loss of nutrients. In the summer, the soaking makes a pleasantly tart cooling drink. Think about old-fashioned barley water. Not sure what I’ll do now that it is getting cold.

    • Karin says

      Interesting! I’m curious to hear your thoughts, Kimi. Do we drink or reuse the soaking water? I’d been discarding it, too. What do you suggest, considering your research? Thanks!

  21. Saul says

    How does adding an acid solution to an acid neutralize that acid? Secondly, what concentration of acid solution is required. Has someone performed the titration? Presumably there’s an ideal stochiometry. A too weak pH’d solution would be ineffective. Finally, if an acid solution is sufficient to neutralize phytic acid, then why is the much stronger acid solution of the stomach insufficient? Food sits in the stomach in a rather strong acid solution for hours before entering the intestines where nutrients are absorbed.

    Also, the article cites speaks of enzyme inhibitors, tannins, complex sugars, and gluten in breads as acting as “antinutrients.” Wouldn’t the enzyme inhibitors and proteins be denatured by the long baking process? Furthermore, wouldn’t most of the complex sugars be hydrolyzed, converted via the fermentation process, or converted via the Maillard reaction?

    Can someone help me understand the science behind this?

    • Erica says

      I second these questions. If anyone has a resource that talks about the science behind this, I would love a link.

      • Lorelei says

        My research suggests that you aren’t neutralizing the acid. Most grains also contain phytase, which is the enzyme that will break down the phytate. However, although I found some other things that seemed contradictory, it appears that phytase works best in an acidic environment. Actually, according to the article linked to below, it appears that there is a precise optimal pH for each specific kind of grain, or at least various studies have reported that that was their experience. So that if your solution is TOO acidic, it might not work so well. Anyhow, here is the article that I referenced: Please note that this article is almost 50 years old! I’m just another Googler, so please don’t put TOO much stock in what I say.:)

        • Rachel says

          That article appears to be about corn only. Corn you would use lime anyways, to nixtamalize it, not soaking with the common soaking acids.

  22. Meili says

    I’m wondering about pie crusts and cookies. Can those be soaked at all? What if I mixed the dough with the butter and let it sit. Any ideas?

  23. stephanie k says

    researching the soaking/milling/sprouting… sigh! I buy King Arthur flour. I understand they are stripped of the wheat germ and the nutritious oils, but for the sake of the trouble and cost, could I just add wheat germ and then soak it rather than mill my own flour? What brands (if any) of flours do you recommend? I dont have enough $ for a mill and my local co-op doesnt have a mill either.

  24. says

    Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Appreciate it

  25. Terry says

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