I have mentioned “soaking grains” frequently here at The Nourishing Gourmet. Many have wondered what in the world I was talking about! Others have wondered why I would add another step into my cooking, when cooking from scratch takes so long already. An explanation is long overdue. Especially because this is a nourishing practice that I consider vital to our health.
Why I soak my whole grains
Most all of us know the nutritional advantages of whole grain food verses refined flours. Whole grains retain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are vital to our well being. But what if I were to tell you that in all whole grains there are enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion and other natural substances that blocks you from absorbing all of those great minerals and vitamins?
Grains, that are not soaked, equal poor digestive worth, and blocked vitamins and minerals
Unfortunately, it’s true. But there is a solution!
It’s only been in more recent years that we have disregarded traditional methods of sprouting, soaking, and fermenting grains. Not understanding the importance, we slowly forgot these methods of preparation. But we now know better …
Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, clocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, Pg 25
Soaked grains equal better digestive worth and make vitamins and minerals available to absorb
For those who have had digestive trouble when eating whole grains, this could be part of the answer for you. For the rest of us, it will help make sure we don’t develop digestive issues and insure that we are able to fully utilize all of those vitamins and minerals we eat whole grains to get!
How do you do it?
It’s quite simple. You can soak grains like rice, millet, quinoa, wheat, 12 to 24 hours at room temperature in some water with 1-2 tablespoons of whey, lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt, or kefir (this gives it an acidic medium which helps neutralize anti-nutrients). You can then rinse the grains to remove any acidic taste to them, and then cook in fresh water.
Or you can sprout your grains (check out my post about sprouting grains for more directions).
For baked goods, you can soak your flour in buttermilk, yogurt or kefir 12 to 24 hours and then add the rest of the ingredients right before baking. This makes the fluffiest whole wheat pancakes! I have been able to do this method dairy free as well very successfully (like this recipe for soaked pancakes)
Sourdough is also extremely helpful in reducing anti-nutrients as well. Read this post about the benefits of sourdough, and here is an example of a recipe using sourdough to effectively soak your grains.
I will give more specific direction in individual recipes, but those are the basic guidelines. I have personally found that it isn’t harder to add this step in, it just takes forethought! And it’s definitely worth it for our family’s health.
(Wheat flour soaking in buttermilk for buttermilk pancakes the next day)