In my post, Phytic Acid in Grains and Legumes, I shared some of my research which led me to conclude that phytic acid does indeed bind with minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. If you depend on grains and legumes for a high portion of your diet, then those phytates (phytic acid) could lead to mineral deficiences. This may be one of the biggest reasons that traditional societies fermented their grains. Now the question is, how do we effectively reduce phytic acid? But remember, I am sharing nitty-gritty details. If you find this overwhelming, remember you can simply bypass all of this, know that using traditional methods are beneficial and be happy. But if you want to know more information, then keep reading!
Once again, I feel that I still have many (many!) questions on this topic, and there is a whole lot of research to digest and write about, but here is some of the information I’ve gathered so far.
As you will remember, phytase is the enzyme that neutralizes phytic acid (also called phytates). We produce some phytase ourselves, and those of us with robust probiotic digestive health may produce even more of it. Our bodies should be able to neutralize some of the phytic acid we consume.
Some grains contain high amounts of phytase making it much easier to neutralize the phytic acid in them, while others are a lot lower. Sprouting, soaking in warm temperatures in an acid environment and fermenting also activates this important enzyme. The grains that are high in phytase include rye, wheat, barley, and buckwheat. [i] Grains low in phytase include corn, millet, oats and brown rice. [ii] How effective is sprouting, soaking or fermenting grains? Let’s look first at some of the historical methods of processing grains and then delve into some of the scientific studies done on this subject.
Using the source, Fermented Cereals: A Global Perspective, you get a good idea of a few methods that were used traditionally (and are still used in many places).
For all of these nations and people groups, the art of fermentation is a little different. Many of the Asian ferments use a culture from mold growing on raw or cooked grains. Some nations would actually chew some of the raw grain and spit it out into a pot. The enzymes from their salvia would help break down the grain during the fermentation process (though I have to admit that this American isn’t going to try it!).
Other ferments relied on the gathering of wild yeast from the air, which is turn would turn their foods into a tangy, and more easily digested product. Examples of this include our familiar sourdoughs as well as certain Indian ferments. In Mexico a process using wood ash or lime called nixtamalization is used in soaking corn. I notice that most of these grain ferments take days, so length of time is definitely a factor I also notice that many (though not all) use some type of starter enzyme, especially the Asian ferments. Others use malting and fermenting. One African ferment, Mahewu, takes cooked maize, and cools it. Then wheat flour is added as the “source of inoculum”. After being left in a sunny place for 24 hours, it has fermented. For injera, the dough is inculated with leftover liquid from the last injera dough (like sourdough bread)!. Another, kishk, involves taking boiled wheat and soaking it in buttermilk, then drying it. All in all, there seems to be many methods and there seems to be evidence for using sprouting, fermentation, and soaking in a cultured dairy for preparing grains as a traditional practice
Although there is an almost overwhelming glut of studies, most are just studying one grain and even just one method, so there are a lot of gaps still in my mind. However, I wanted to share a few of the studies as I think that they are helpful.
Sprouting Beans, Lentils and Peas
One study researched the effect that germination had on beans, lentils, and peas. First the legume was soaked in water (with added chlorine, which I do not recommend!) and then they sprouted the legumes for 72 hours at 77 degrees fahrenheit. They found that not only did the legumes have increased crude protein as well as an increased content of all amino acids, but also a significant increase in phytase and a significant decrease in phytates. [iii]
Sprouting Grains and Legumes and Fermenting them Together
Grains and legumes were often fermented together traditionally such as for the batters to make dosas and idli. One study tested the effects that germination (sprouting) and fermentation had. Germination of all of the separate grains and legumes (finger millet, green gram, black gram and chickpeas) showed positive effects on iron and zinc bioaccessibility. The fermented batters of rice and black gram showed significant reductions of phytic acid and tannins levels, but when they added chickpea and green gram to make another traditional dish, dholka, there wasn’t as much of a drop in phytic acid levels. They found that germination of grains increased the availability of iron, but not of zinc, while the fermentation batters using rice and black gram had more availability of both zinc and iron, though for the batter of dholka this was not true. [iv]
Another study found that sprouting peas for 4 days increased the bioavailability of zinc and magnesium. [v].
Sprouting a High Phytic Acid Pea
When a high phytic acid pigeon pea was released by the Department of Plant Breeding in India, they tested it for different methods of reducing phytic acid. They found that germination (sprouting) was the best method of reducing phytic acid ( 35% to 39%), while dehulling, soaking and then pressure cooking also had good results. All in all, soaking, soaking and dehulling, and sprouting and cooking pigeon peas all were effective in decreasing phytic acid and increasing the availability of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron. [vi]
Soaking, Dehulling and Sprouting Cowpeas
Another study found that soaking cowpeas for 12 hours, dehulling of soaked seeds and germinating cowpeas contributed significantly to reducing phytic acid and tannin levels. Dehulling as well as germination increased the digestibility to of both the starches and the protein in the cowpea. [vii]
Four pearl millets were germinated over a six day period and tested to see what the effects were on mineral levels and phytic acid levels. They found that germination significantly reduced phytic acid and that different minerals were lowered or raised according to the type of millet germinated. Overall, the conclusion was that there was a good correlation between antinutirtional factors reduced and minerals being more available through germination. [viii]
Sprouting Rye and Barley
I thought this other study using rye and barley very interesting too. Basically, they took rye and barley and soaked it, then sprouted it and studied the effects on phytase and phytic acid. The soaking alone had some effect on phytic levels in the case of rye, but the sprouting increased phytase, and degraded phytic acid dramatically (84% phytic acid degradation for rye and 58% for barley). [ix] This study was done for better nutritional for animal feed by the way. Apparently no one was thinking of us poor humans.
Using Sprouted Flour to Reduce Phytic acid in Non-Sprouted flour
Another study that I found very intriguing (with promise of being helpful to home cooks), was one conducted with sorghum malted flours. Sorghum was sprouted for 1, 2, 3 and 4 days to get varying degrees of malted flour. Then it was added to non sprouted flour (5% and 10% sprouted flour to 90 to 95% non sprouted) and placed in a warm environment (86 degrees Fahrenheit) with “shaking” for 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes. They found that the longer the sorghum had been sprouted and the longer they incubated it with the non sprouted flour, the more phytic acid and tannins were reduced. When using the four day sprouted sorghum flour and incubating it for 120 minutes, they had reduced phytic acid and tannins by 92% and 98%!!!![x]
This makes me wonder if we could duplicate this practice at home by adding sprouted flour to our soaking dishes to jump start the process of reducing phytic acid. It makes perfect sense as sprouting does release phytase. So if you add sprouted flour to say, a batter for soaked muffins, it makes logical sense that those live and released phytase enzymes would immediately begin to work to reduce the phytic acid content. Exciting!
Soaking, Fermenting and Using Germinated Flour with Maize
Another study aimed to see the effectiveness of different methods one could use at home to process white maize. Soaking, fermentation and using germinated flour were all studied. This study was really interesting because the most effective way to reduce phytic acid surprised me. Natural lactic acid fermentation slurries resulted in 88% retained phytates. In other words, it only reduced phytic acid by 12%. When a starter culture was used, 61% of the phytates were retained, 39% of the phytates removed. When germinated flour was used as a booster, 29% of the phytic acid was removed. But when they used both pounded maize and maize flour and simply soaked it and then removed the excessive water, the pound maize retained 49% of the phytates (51% of the phytates were removed) and the 57% of the phytic acid was removed when soaking the maize flour. [xi]
A few points here, maize is very low in phytase (the enzyme that helps reduce phytic acid). Using a germinated rye or wheat flour would have most likely had a much higher effect because they are high in phytase enzymes already. Also note that the more finely ground flour had even more phytic acid removed than the coarsely ground maize. We could conclude that it is easier to reduce phytic acid in flour in comparison to whole grains.
Raw Brewer’s Yeast Efficiently degrades phytates in corn and soy gruel
Another study that really blew my mind with new possibility was one that found that soaking with raw brewer’s yeast was effective in degrading phytic acid in corn and soy meal! They also mention that microbes such as yeast and aspergillus are known to produce phytase and aspergillus phytase has been used as an additive to animal feed to improve the phospohorus bioaviability by reducing phytates. [xii] Of course the only problem for the home cook is this, I think that all brewer’s yeast sold to the public is generally deactivated.
Soaking and Dehulling Millet and Soybeans
A 2005 study researched the phytates, phytase activity and iron and zinc levels after the soaking of whole seeds, dehulled seeds and flour of both millet and soybeans. They found that with millet dehulling and milling before soaking helped both the phytates and the phytase to be leached into the soaking liquid and result in phytate reduction. Whereas, dehulling soybeans resulted in a “marked” increase in phytate content, but milling the soybeans helped there be more interactions between the phytates and the phytases. The phytic acid rato to both iron and zinc only decreased slightly with soaking. The most phytic acid reduction was found at 8 hours for millet (I wonder if they only soaked for 8 hours? They may have had better results with soaking for a longer period of time or with a phytase addition since millet is low in phytase) and soaking whole soy beans for 24 hours. They found that cooking the soaked flours in the soaking water didn’t further reduce the phytic acid. [xiii]
Lactic Acid Fermentation of Millet
Because fermented millet slurries are an important food for young children in other countries, there was a study testing to see the lactobacillus bacteria found in these fermentations to see if they had phytase activities. The amount of phytase they produced varie,d, but phytase activity was found in all five strains selected. They also found that lactic acid bacteria also produced amylase (the enzyme that helps break down starch) and α-galactosidase. They concluded that this discovery went hand in hand with previous studies showing that phytates were reduced in millet lactic acid fermentations. [xiv]
I wished that not so many of the studies just used part of the wheat berry. I found one using just the bran and another just the germ. But they are still useful. It was found that sourdough fermentation made protein more digestibile, the concentration of total phenols, phytase and antioxidant activies were increased and the concentration of anti nutritional factor raffinose also decreased. [xv] I was also amused to see that one article looking for phytic acid content in the diet of the modern man in Finland (under the impression that phytic acid is positive) noted that traditional sourdough rye bread was not a good source of phytic acid! It’s generally understood that sourdough bread is very effective in reducing phytates, perhaps one of the best methods.
When oats were sprouted, the phytic acid was reduced from .35% to .11% (or in other words, about 2/3’s of the phytic acid was reduced). [xvi]
QUINOA PHYTATE REDUCTION
I thought that this chart published in the Living with Phytic Acid article, very interesting and helpful. You see that soaking and then cooking quinoa reduces phytic acid by a significant amount, while soaking with whey increases the phytic acid degredation even further. Finally, sprouting and then lacto-fermenting (fermenting with lactic acid) almost completely reduced phytic acid.
|Cooked for 25 minutes at 212 degrees F||15-20 percent|
|Soaked for 12-14 hours at 68 degrees F, then cooked||60-77 percent|
|Fermented with whey 16-18 hours at 86 degrees F, then cooked||82-88 percent|
|Soaked 12-14 hours, germinated 30 hours, lacto-fermented 16-18 hours, then cooked at 212 degrees F for 25 minutes||97-98 percent|
In the same article, Ramiel also mentions a study that I was unable to get my hands on that showed that roasting wheat, barley, or green gram (a legume) reduced phytic acid by about 40%. However, roasting will also deactiviate phytase so when soaking after the roasting period, you should add some type of additional culture that contains phytase (such as sprouted rye flour) to further decrease phytic acid.
Ground Flour and Rolled Oats
On that same note, since a high heat will deactivate phytase, you want to use flour that was ground at a low temperature otherwise it will no longer contain phytase. Oats are also almost always treated with heat, so they will also not have active phytase. Phytase may also decrease over time after grinding, so home ground flour is superior.
I find that there are adequate amounts of studies demonstrating that soaking, germinating (sprouting), lactic acid fermentation and other methods do have a significant effect on phytic acid reduction. It was a little distressing to me at first that we are often simply “reducing” phytic acid instead of completely eliminating it, but 50% less phytic acid is certainly still a much better percentage than 100%. How effective each method is seems to depend on a lot of variables, but most often combining methods, such as sprouting, and then fermenting a grain or legume has the most effect. This isn’t to discourage us from just using one of the methods if that’s all we have time for, but just to say that doing more than one is even better.
How do We Recreate This?
While those in previous generations had grandmothers and mothers to teach them how to ferment their local grains with local methods, we are having to recreate and relearn this process. Here’s a few things to get you started.
First, use freshly ground flour is at all possible.
Moisture is the first thing you need(that’s why it’s often called “soaking grains”).
Warmth The soaking/fermenting period will be much more productive in a warm place. Placing the soaking grains or batter in the warmest place of the house is a good idea, especially in the winter. You can also place in the oven with the pilot light on. You will see that many of the studies above used quite high temperatures. If we wanted to get closer to that, we could try a few things. Placing our bowl of fermenting or sprouting grains or legumes in a dehydrator on a very low setting is one option. Placing it in a warm laundry room is another. Making a little pilot light box is another idea. It also seems that the more cold it is, the longer you will want to ferment your grains or legumes.
Acidic Environment: It’s also important that the soaking water or liquid is acidic. This helps neutralize the anti-nutrients. You should add about one tablespoon of something acidic to the soaking water per cup of water.
Enzymes: I personally feel that using something that is rich in enzymes for your acidic addition, such as whey, raw apple cider vinegar, a fermented beverage such as “Grainsfields”, buttermilk or yogurt, is the best choice as I think that those rich in enzyme additions will help jump start the process of breaking down the grains more quickly. When I read about the traditional fermented grain dishes, I realized that most of them had some type of starter or wild yeast enzymatic action going on. Sourdoughs are naturally acidic and full of wild yeast and enzymes and very effective in breaking down anti- nutrients.
High Phytase Grain added to Low Phytase Grain: Adding a high phytase flour, such as buckwheat, rye or wheat to a low phytase flour or grain such as oats, rice, millet, and corn, can help break down the phytic acid. Think of cornbread with corn and wheat flour. That’s a pretty classic combination and if you soak the corn and wheat flour together you will be able to more effectively reduce the phytic acid in the corn. You should also do this if you roast grains (the roasting adds flavor as well as reducing phytic acid), since the phyase will be deactivated through the roasting process.
Using Sprouted Flour: Even more effective would be adding sprouted flour as the phytase is already active and ready to do business! From the few studies that I read who used this method, it seems that it could be quite helpful in reducing phytic acid. We can make our own and simply grind it as needed. If you don’t have your own grain grinder you can just buy a cheap coffee grinder and grind enough to add to your projects. The one study that we read about up above used only 5 to 10% sprouted flour, so it doesn’t have to be a high percentage.
Time (the more the better): Traditional societies often fermented long periods of time and you see that in many studies time did make a difference in phytic acid reducation. An overall rule of thumb is the longer you ferment or soak, the more everything will predigest and break down. It will also often get more sour (just a warning). Generally 24 hours is better, 12 hours acceptable, especially if at cooler temperatures.
Sprouting: As seen above in many of the studies, germination or sprouting was often very effective in reducing phytic acid. If you followed that with fermentation, the results were often even dramatic. Sprouting may be the very best way to reduce phytates in legumes as well.
Partially Milled Grain: Some grains, such as millet or rice may have been partially milled. Both of these grains were naturally low in phytase so by dehulling them, a lot of the phytic acid would be removed. You can sometimes find milled rice (different than white rice), or buy germinated rice.
Do I have all of my questions answered yet? Of course, not. But I am inspired through this research to continue to keep soaking, sprouting and fermenting away and to do so even more carefully!
[i] The Influence of Soaking and Germination on the Phytase Activity and Phytic Acid Content of Grains and Seeds Potentially Useful for Complementary Feeding, Journal of Food Science
Volume 67, Issue 9, pages 3484–3488, November 2002
[ii] Wise Traditions, Vol 11, Number 1, Spring 2010, Living with Phytic Acid by Ramiel Nagel
[iii] [Nutritional changes caused by the germination of legumes commonly eaten in Chile] Camacho L; Sierra C; Campos R; Guzmán E; Marcus D, Archivos Latinoamericanos De Nutrición [Arch Latinoam Nutr] 1992 Sep; Vol. 42 (3), pp. 283-90.
[iv] Influence of germination and fermentation on bioaccessibility of zinc and iron from food grains. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Mar2007, Vol. 61 Issue 3, p342-348, 7p, 5 Charts Hemalatha, S.1 Platel, K.1Srinivasan, K.1 firstname.lastname@example.org
[v] Evaluation of zinc and magnesium bioavailability from pea ( Pisum sativum, L.) sprouts. Effect of illumination and different germination periods. International Journal of Food Science & Technology; Jun2006, Vol. 41 Issue 6, p618-626, 9p, 5 Charts, Urbano, Gloria1 email@example.com López-Jurado, María1Aranda, Carlos1Vilchez, Antonio1Cabrera, Lydia1Porres, Jesus M.1Aranda, Pilar1
[vi] Changes in phytates and HCl extractability of calcium, phosphorus, and iron of soaked, dehulled, cooked, and sprouted pigeon pea cultivar (UPAS-120). Duhan A; Khetarpaul N; Bishnoi S, Plant Foods For Human Nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands) [Plant Foods Hum Nutr] 2002 Fall; Vol. 57 (3-4), pp. 275-84.
[vii] Antinutrients and digestibility (in vitro) of soaked, dehulled and germinated cowpeas. Nutrition And Health (Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire) [Nutr Health] 2000; Vol. 14 (2), pp. 109-17. Preet K; Punia D
[viii] Antinutritional factor content and hydrochloric acid extractability of minerals in pearl millet cultivars as affected by germination. International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition; Feb2007, Vol. 58 Issue 1, p6-17, 12p, 5 Charts, Abdelrahaman, Samia M.1
Elmaki, Hagir B.1Idris, Wisal H.1Hassan, Amro B.1Babiker, Elfadil E.1 firstname.lastname@example.org Tinay, Abdullahi H. El1
[ix] Effect of several germination conditions on total P, phytate P, phytase, and acid phosphatase activities and inositol phosphate esters in rye and barley. Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry [J Agric Food Chem] 2001 Jul; Vol. 49 (7), pp. 3208-15. Centeno C; Viveros A; Brenes A; Canales R; Lozano A; de la Cuadra C
[x] Effect of malt pretreatment on phytate and tannin level of two sorghum ( Sorghum bicolor) cultivars. International Journal of Food Science & Technology; Dec2006, Vol. 41 Issue 10, p1229-1233, 5p, 1 Chart, 4 Graphs, Idris, Wisal H.1
AbdelRahaman, Samia M. ElMaki, Hagir B.1Babiker, Elfadil E.1 email@example.comEl Tinay, Abdullahi H.1
[xi] Assessment of home-based processing methods to reduce the phytate content and phytate/zinc molar ratio of white maize (Zea mays). Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry [J Agric Food Chem] 2001 Feb; Vol. 49 (2), pp. 692-8., Hotz C; Gibson RS
[xii] Brewer’s yeast efficiently degrades phytate phosphorus in a corn-soybean meal diet during soaking treatment. Animal Science Journal = Nihon Chikusan Gakkaihō [Anim Sci J] 2009 Aug; Vol. 80 (4), pp. 433-7. Chu GM; Ohmori H; Kawashima T; Funaba M; Matsui T
[xiii] The effects of soaking of whole, dehulled and ground millet and soybean seeds on phytate degradation and Phy/Fe and Phy/Zn molar ratios. International Journal of Food Science & Technology; Apr2005, Vol. 40 Issue 4, p391-399, 9p Lestienne, Isabelle1
Mouquet-Rivier, Claire1Icard-Vernière, Christèle1Rochette, Isabelle1Trèl;che, Serge1 firstname.lastname@example.org
[xiv] Enzyme activities of lactic acid bacteria from a pearl millet fermented gruel (ben-saalga) of functional interest in nutrition International Journal of Food Microbiology; Dec2008, Vol. 128 Issue 2, p395-400, 6p, Songré-Ouattara, L.T.1Mouquet-Rivier, C.2 Icard-Vernière, C.2Humblot, C.2Diawara, B.1Guyot, J.P.2 email@example.com
[xv] Effect of sourdough fermentation on stabilization and chemical and nutritional characteristics of what germ, Food Chemistry, Apr 2010, Vol, 119, Issue 3, pages 1079-1089, Rissello, Carlo Giuseppe and others
[xvi] Physicochemical changes of oat seeds during germination, authors, Tian, Binqiang, and others, Food Chemistry, April 2010, Vol 119, Issue 3, Pages 195-1200
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Thank you so much for your exhaustive research! This is interesting and extremely informative! Thanks –
thanks for this. how would one contribute to the blog (as you mention at the beginning of the post)?
Thanks for asking. 🙂 It’s the little “donate button” on the left hand side.
Very interesting, thank you! It seem that I unknowingly did some of these methods just because my mom told me to. 😉 I use millet, quinoa and brown rice regularly and lentils as well. I need to bookmark this and re-read it for better understanding. I’m not sure how to decrease the phytic acid in lentils when they are used in soups, burgers ect. ie: w/out sprouting.
thanks again for the info.
Just soak them for 8 hours and then let them sprout for 2 days or less until they develop this little tail. Not much more. Then cook them for at least 15 minutes and you should be fine.
Great post! I have a question about natto (you inspired me to try some at home). I’ve eaten two different brands and have gotten a tummy ache, gas and nausea from eating them on three different occasions. Do you think it’s because the soybeans used were not soaked beforehand? Or is it the probiotic that I am not accustomed to? Just wanted to know your two cents. Thanks!!
Ick! Definitely sounds like it is not agreeing with you! Traditional methods of natto should have a good portion of the anti-nutrients reduced, but it’s quite possible that not all brands do it the traditional method anymore. Or, you could just not tolerate it very well.
You rule. I like to see the science. What I learned is that I don’t need to bother with soaking rolled oats (due to the heat used in their processing deactivating the phytase, as I suspected all along) but that it is indeed time for me to start sprouting and soaking my wheat and buckwheat flour, as well as my lentils. And probably split peas, too!
Jen @ Oh no! I really do need to eat my vegetables!
Kool! I’ve already been soaking my oats with a little flour; I didn’t know about the heat processing destroying phytase, but I knew that oats had little phytase anyway and would lose more just with being cut. I’ve also been sprouting and fermenting my grains, sprouting beans, lentils, seeds, etc. I’ll have to start doing that with peas whenever they come back into my diet. Fermenting my beans and pulses after sprouting wouldn’t be bad either.
Thanks for digging into the science!
wow – thanks for all the incredible research. Most of it flew right over my head but I retained three things – soak for as long as possible in a warm spot. Use something acidic to sake. Finally, mix foods together like corn and wheat.
I can do all of these. Thanks!
thank you very much for your extensive research. Your article is so comprehensive and understandable that it has answered just about all my questions.
Thanks so much.Ingrid
You can ferment any legumes, including lentils, & grains, by soaking them at least overnight (or even a couple of days) with 1 T raw apple cider vinegar per cup of dried legumes or grains & 1 c water per cup of dried legumes or grains. (the next day, drain water from beans & add fresh water; you don’t have to drain water from grains, just add more water per recipe directions) You can also use whey (drained from yogurt) or buttermilk or lemon juice or anything acidic like that. Fermenting & soaking helps reduce phytic acids levels (like Kimi said). Soaking & fermenting will not sprout your legumes or grains… with sprouting you soak beans, grains, or seeds for a certain amount of time, then you drain the water off, put them in a dark place, rinse & drain a couple of times a day til they sprout, then put in a sunny place & continue to rinse w/ water a couple of times a day until they green up.
You can also ferment veggies – Sally Fallon gives a lot of good recipes in her book Nourishing Traditions and she also has articles on the website http://www.westonaprice.org
As far as natto (fermented soybeans), it could either just not agree with you (as someone else said) or maybe it’s a GMO (genetically modified organism) … does it say organic (non-GMO)? Corn & soybeans, as well as a few other foods, are GMOs unless it says “organic” or “non-GMO”. There is a lot of controversy over GMOs, but I’ve read that it may cause cancer, & that’s enough for me to want to avoid it.
It’s always better, I think, to get whole grains & whole foods, not those which have been tampered with. Oat groats, for instance, would be better than rolled oats or puffed oats/cereal. As Jack LaLane (my hero) said, “If man made it, don’t eat it.” That’s a little hard in this day & age, especially if you don’t have your own farm, but we can do the best we can by avoiding things that we know are bad, such as refined foods, and eating more natural foods.
There are a lot of other fermented foods out there, too, like miso (a fermented soybean paste that you mix w/a little water & serve over fish, etc)(my fav is Eden brand hacho miso), organic gluten-free tamari sauce (instead of soy sauce), yogurt, kefir, etc.
I’ve also read that sprouting alone has no bearing on the gluten content – so if you’re allergic to wheat, sprouting will not help. I wouldn’t eat wheat anyway, because it’s been hybridized to contain a LOT of gluten – way more than we can handle, plus wheat attacks the immune system and contributes to leaky gut syndrome (per Danna Korn, Living Gluten-Free for Dummies).
My only problem with using an acidic addition to legumes is that many experience problems with the legume not cooking correctly. I believe that recipes that call for low temperatures and long cooking times generally work, but most are inconsistent. I no longer recommend this method. However, is seems that sprouting is probably the best way to reduce phytic acid anyway, otherwise I just do soaking in warm water and try to keep it as warm as possible.
sorry, I meant to post this web site:
Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama
Thanks for all the research and info! I have been working on this issue for awhile. However, my research has been primarily in how my own family is tolerating it.
We cannot eat unsprouted (or unsoaked) wheat or spelt. We note behavioral and digestive issues. Family members were labeled “gluten intolerant” and we did the gluten-free thing awhile. But I personally believe that a lot of those gluten-free things are not particularly healthy because they involve heavy starches and unsoaked gluten-free grains like corn and rice. Not so good.
Anyway, I experimented with sprouting. When only part of the grains sprouted, or when I let it sprout only slightly (1/8″ – 1/4″ tails), the effect was as if we were eating unsprouted grains. When I let it sprout “well” (1″ or longer tails!), we had no more issues. Now I’m experimenting with baking with it. Yeasted baking is challenging since the gluten is partially digested. I’m trying another recipe tonight that involves raw milk so we’ll see how it goes…it was LOOKING good! 🙂
Wow! Thanks for sharing! Your own experience matches some of the studies that would sprout for at least several days. Interesting!
Thanks for a great article, and the research!
I just found (2014) corn tortillas made with just organic sprouted corn –non GMO of course– water, salt, and lime. “Food For Life” is the brand name. I am going to try to copy this, sprout whole corn, then grind to a mush and form tortillas.
A point of confusion for me, you say “using sprouted flours” but, if one grinds a grain or a bean, the resulting flour is definately unable to sprout. So would “using fermented flours” be more accurate?
I am new to “fermenting” but an old hand at “soaking”.
Thanks very much!
Thank you so much for sharing and taking the time to put all of the info together.
I should read this whole series before I leave this comment, but I haven’t been reading much lately, so hopefully this is useful, not redundant. I do love your post though and have been reminded why you are at the top my blogroll.
I soak my oats WITH 6 grain – it definitely sours quicker.
I also soak my brown rice (when I do soak it) with some whole grain wheat or already soaked anything (such as with a handful of the sour 6 grain left in). Whole health source blogspot once did a post on the brown rice (with sources) and mentioned how it needed a warmer temperature to “sprout” it. I have had it sour, so my unscientific conclusion is that the few minutes of day before prep with these two points may have been worth it.
It is nice to have some supporting info of my current practice of adding a bit of sprouted flour to my fresh flour when mixing up waffles/pancakes batter to soak.
Regarding making my own sprouted flour – soaking it until it has a bud+tiny root is great. If the root gets to be looking root-y and long, then it affects leavening ratios and makes otherwise chewy cookies fluffy instead. So it might be the longer soak/growing time is making it more acidic and is possibly reducing the phytic acid more.
My other caution from experience, is to soak, and then if want growing time, then to rinse (keep moist) but drain. Too much soak time, which happens when it is left to soak water twice as long as I should have in the soaking water meant it switched to rotting instead of growing and then it doesn’t taste right even after drying.
Kimi, thanks so much for your research and dedication! I LOVE your blog!
Is phytic ACID a misnomer or is it really an acid? If it is an acid, as the name implies, then why do we neutralize it with an acid medium since a base neutralizes an acid. I am really confused on this one. Do you have any ideas?
As far as adding the acid, that’s to help bring the environment most helpful for releasing the phytase (and it’s the phytase that does the magic on the phytic acid). 🙂
I just can’t believe how fantastically wonderful all of this information is. You are a rock star! Thanks so, so, so much!!!
Kim, thanks for your insight and all the good work you’re doing to get this info out to people.
I agree that sprouting is probably the best method, it increases the nutrients, as well. Making sprouts, dehydrating, & then grinding into flour is a good flour, also – probably the best (as long as you don’t put wheat in it).
I don’t believe buying gluten-free products is the best, either (as Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama said) – tapioca starch, potato flour, and all those kind of flours are high in the glycemic index, as well as non-nourishing. But eating gluten-free whole grains is great.
If you do want to eat cooked beans without having to sprout them & without having gas, bloating, etc., just soak 1 c beans, 1 c very warm water (140 deg. F. per http://rebuild-from-depression.com/simplechang/simplechange/simplechange/beans.html), and 1 T raw apple cider vinegar (or other acidic medium) overnight, in the morning drain all the acidic water, and add 2 c fresh water. Bring to boil, then simmer 20 minutes (adding additional boiling water if needed), then put in the crockpot on low for the rest of the day, and they come out perfect. It is necessary to simmer for 20 minutes, as it gets rid of some other thing that’s not good for you, of which I’ve forgotten what. Fermented beans destroy many of the bacteria that live in the large intestine that cause flatulence (per a study in Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060426080023.htm#)
(It’s also good to eat a big salad before eating any meal, also. This helps digestion, as well as preventing a lot of diseases. Make raw about 80% of your diet and your health will improve dramatically.)
Some phytic acid has health benefits, including cancer prevention, but we still get some even after soaking & fermenting, and we also get a little phytic acid in other things, like flax seeds, avocado, broccoli, collards (per http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/phytic-acid.php)
It was from Amanda at rebuild from Depression that I first learned about keeping beans very warm while soaking. I know that she also found that soaking with vinegar or other acidic addition made beans not cook right.(I’ve also heard rumors that the next Nourishing Traditions book won’t recommend using an acidic addition for soaking beans, but I don’t know if that’s true). I bet you are having good results with soaking with vinegar because you cook for such a long time in a crockpot. Slow cooked beans seem to do okay with vinegar added to the soaking water. But what a cool study you linked too! The study said, “Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum are the key bacteria.” for the fermentation process. I am very curious as to where direct sources for this specific bacteria is. This study, http://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=jbs.2009.810.814, suggest that fresh cabbage contains both. I bet it would be a safe bet that homemade sauerkraut contains high amounts, so perhaps using a little sauerkraut liquid as a start for fermenting beans would be a good choice. I would have to try it to see if it made the beans not soften correctly. In my other post, I also mentioned some of the positive research in regard to phytic acid, though we should remember that those studies often use rats which (as I mentioned) have much higher phytase levels than us. So their results with a high phytic acid dose could be different than what ours would be. However, flax seeds as well as other seeds are extremely high in phytic acid, so you are right. It would be simple to get all of the phytic acid you want while still soaking grains and legumes for better mineral absorption.
Lisa, this might help answer your question.
phytic acid (organic chemistry) C6H6[OPO(OH)2]6 An acid found in seeds of plants as the insoluble calcium magnesium salt (phytin)… (http://www.answers.com/topic/phytic-acid)
Lemons are acidic, but the alkalinize the blood (sounds strange, but it does) (per Delia Quigley, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Detoxing Your Body).
Perhaps lemons work like hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is also an acid…the only acid the body produces, and helps keep us alive by maintaining proper alkaline/acid balance. It becomes alkaline after its job in the digestive process is over. (per Dr Theodore A. Baroody, Alkalize or Die).
I am gluten intolerant and have found a recipe, Serene’s Rejuvenation Granola, by Serene Allison in her book “Rejuvenate Your Life” very useful as a breakfast cereal replacement. The base of it is sprouted buckwheat (with long tails!) and to it she adds all sorts of healthy yummies! I highly recommend it. It is obtainable through the Above Rubies website.
I have lately been making delicious muffins using freshly ground buckwheat flour as a replacement for wholemeal wheat flour and coconut oil as a replacement for butter (am also lactose intolerant) and regular vegetable oils. However, I am going to try sprouting and dehydrating the buckwheat before using it in my recipe now that I’ve read your article.
Thanks for all your hard work, Kimi!
EXCELLENT article Kimi – thanks so much!
Thanks for all of your research and work on this for our benefit! Just now getting around to reading these posts.
Thank you for making this process easy to understand. Sometimes, the mountain of material and explanations are too over-whelming.
I’d like to ask where I may find more information on the Indian (I assume this refers to East Indian?) ferments you mentioned above. I know they use yogurt in a lot of their cooking, but I don’t know if they actually soak their grains. Traditionally, they use cultured milk for their ghee.
Your article makes for a fascinating read, but I’m failing to grasp what exactly you mean by “fermenting grains”. Do you mean soaking in the warm environment with an acid medium for a period of time? OR is it something more??
WOW! Thanks so much for compiling all this research! I currently soak grains overnight in water with ACV but this makes me want to experiment with some other methods to break things down even more.
Thanks for all your efforts and sharing on this matter.
What about nixtamalization(alkali treatment, rather than acid treatment) with maize, and how that could be advantageous with other grain processing for better human nutrition? Btw, I add a teaspoon of baking powder(non-aluminum) to the cooking of my multi-grain rice blend(no ‘white’ rice) and that addition makes a substantially improved eating quality, makes the rice a little softer and more nourishing feeling. The quantity of rice is two scoops of a typical rice cooker cup/scoop, to 4 scoops water.
I don’t pre-soak, I just put the rice, baking powder, and water together in the cooking pot and then immediately put it in the rice cooker, press the ‘on’ lever, and it cooks up nicely in about one hour.
Btw, I’ve tried adding the baking powder to oatmeal for cooking up, but the baking powder causes a poorer quality, and ‘kills’ the yummy oatmeal aroma.
You don’t want to use baking powder. You need to use baking soda. Baking soda will neutralize the phytic acid present in the grains. Baking powder is a mixture of an acid with an alkaline compound. The acid and alkaline compounds neutralize one another in water and produce carbon dioxide gas to make dough rise. This will do nothing to neutralize the acids present. Be sure to use baking soda.
Kimi, thanks for putting this all in one place. I’ve been using the NT method of soaking overnight for about 7 years, and I was highly discouraged when I read Ramiel’s article in Wise Traditions, because it seemed that simply soaking is just not enough, especially when one already has absorption problems from celiac and yet undiagnosed possible metabolic issues. Anyway, I did more research, and I started using a homemade sourdough starter (made from purple cabbage leaves and fed with buckwheat). Besides using the sourdough to make breads products, I’ve been adding a couple tablespoons of the sourdough starter to all my soaks. Between the high phytase in the buckwheat and the high enzyme activity in the sourdough, I feel like I’m getting a better reduction of phytic acid. I’ve also been souring everything in the dehydrator for around 24 hours. It does make for a more sour tasting product, but my children are used to it, and from what I’m reading, this is the way to go. I’ve not had good success with the sprouting, as my sprouts invariably mold in the warm humid months (even using a special sprouter). I may just have to start sprouting in large quantities over the winter, then dehydrating it and keeping it in the fridge until I need to grind it. I spend so much on organic whole foods that I want to make sure we’re getting every last scrap of nutrition out of it!
My unanswered question is whether to cook in the soaking water or rinse before cooking. This never seems to be specified in directions, either way.
I always rinse my grains.
Angela @ Organic Eco Baby
Rinse for sure!
You dont actually understand how phytic acid works. It is already bound to a mineral (provided by the food itself) so it doesnt steal anything from your body. Foods high in phytates are already rich in minerals anyway, and so there is no risk on mineral mal-absorbtion. Try imagine a fruit with a small amount of chemical that was already bound to the fructose, preventing a small amount of fructose absorbtion, risky? Nope.
Besides that Phytic acid has an affinity to bond if anything to heavy metals and acts as a cleaner.
So literally, you do not need any pre-prep work, unless you want to change texture and taste. You can eat raw.
Hope this helps you lot thretting over this subject.
Interesting idea. It fails in experiments I have seen conducted where diets were increased to 80% using high-phytate foods and no calcium foods, for example milk. Within three weeks the person involved was in the emergency department of a hospital suffering with peripheral neuropathy and problems with breathing and the nervous system and possible losses of minerals in the urine, evident by the cloudiness and colour of the urine. The situation was hypophosphaturia / hypophosphatemia. The phosphate in the blood has a fine balance with other electrolytes and calcium is used to counter the acidification in the blood. Before reaching the hospital the person was losing balance and coordination with thoughts of possible heart failure. Approximately four hours of emergency-room-diagnosing found the problem. The individual felt better within 1 hour of diagnosis, after consuming effervescent phosphate and potassium tablets dissolved in water. Improvement occurred throughout the coming week by consumption of electrolytes and milk to restore stores of minerals.
One study I read, which I can not reference here and now, showed that when an acidifying product enters the body, particularly the blood, then the body neutralizes it from existing sources and not from the food just eaten. IE. the required calcium to neutralize a phytate or oxalate in circulation does not come from the calcium eaten at the same time, as that has not yet been processed, the calcium is often leached from available sources such as the skeletal system. That may be the same situation for other minerals.
I am not suggesting all people are the same and will have the same reaction. If you can eats phytates well and live to tell the tale then I am happy that you have adapted in that direction.
I should have proof read.
“Eats” does not read right.
My mum is having all those syptoms, but doctors here, in Australia have not been able to diagnose anything except heart problems.
Can you give a reference to the study please?
Before you enter a discussion like this, you really should brush up on basic chemistry. Phytic ACID – ring any bells? It cannot be “bound to a mineral”, because if it were, it wouldn’t be an acid anymore – it would become a mineral salt. And that’s just the point – phytic acid binds to minerals, and removes them from your body. Yeah, it can bind to heavy metals, too – but apparently you are not even aware that iron and zinc, essential nutrients, are heavy metals too!
Hi, does this actually mean that the phytic acid in grains is not yet bound to minerals? Or is there some phytic acid in grains which is already saturated so to speak that is bound to minerals already and in addition there’s a lot of unsaturated phytic acid, which is not bound to minerals, which van steals the minerals from our bodies?
Appreciate your selfless sharing of this great piece of info. However, I found that this line you wrote “We produce some phytase ourselves, and those of us with robust probiotic digestive health may produce even more of it.” contradicts “Non-ruminants (monogastric animals) like human beings, dogs, birds, etc. do not produce phytase.” from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytase. Which is correct?
I wish I had linked to where I had read that, as I am having a hard time remembering where I got that tidbit of information (it’s been a little while since I wrote this). This isn’t exactly in answer to your question, but Ramiel mentioned this, “Interestingly, the body has some ability to adapt to the effects of phytates in the diet. Several studies show that subjects given high levels of whole wheat at first excrete more calcium than they take in, but after several weeks on this diet, they reach a balance and do not excrete excess calcium.11 However, no studies of this phenomenon have been carried out over a long period; nor have researchers looked at whether human beings can adjust to the phytate-reducing effects of other important minerals, such as iron, magnesium and zinc.”
It may be true that the study/article I read saying that humans can make varying amounts of phytase in their digestive tract wasn’t completely true – though it it seemed pretty definite when I read it. I can’t say for sure, since I don’t remember where I read that. However, I also noticed that Wikipedia didn’t seem to have a source for that information either, so I would take it with a grain of salt. 🙂
I’m really interested in this because my daughter has allergies and issues with digestion. I want to try the quinoa method but can you clarify how to do it? So I soak in water for 12-14 hours, then after that I germinate 30 hours? How do you germinate? Is that like sprouting where you put it in a mason jar and rinse twice a day? And then what is lacto-fermented? Is that where you soak again after germination along with something acidic? Could I Bragg’s apple cider vinegar? Sorry I am pretty new to this. 🙂
I thought I was doing really well with my vegan diet, until I read this !! I thought my breakfast of porridge oats with chia seeds, hemp, pumkin, sunflower and flax seed, along with a handful of fresh fruit, was packed with nutrients and doing me the world of good !! Seems now that couldn’t be further frombthe truth 🙁
What im curious to know is, rather than trying to neutralise the phytic acid within the grain itself, is there nothing we can eat with these nuts/seeds/grains that will neutralise this acid in our gut after we’ve eaten it ?
Thanks for this excellent article. Somehow, during all my cleansing and healing I fell out of taking the time to soak the grains and sometimes even beans. Now I have the know-how to do it better than ever before.
Last night I put some grains and beans in canning jars and added filtered water. Then I put apple cider vinegar in the jar. Then I put the jars in slow cookers that had two inches of water in them, set on warm, like double boiler. This morning the water was very warm but not too warm – probably about 95-100 degrees and smelled fantastic! Oh my God this is the answer I’ve been looking for! My diet has been so good, or so I thought! The problem was TIME! Taking the TIME to prepare the food in ADVANCE – the CORRECT way.
Blessings to you Kimi!
Wow! I have been doing endless hours of research on ways to improve gluten-free breads. I’ve found that malting part of the flour and then fermenting can have very positive effects on the final product, (nutritionally and it’s physical characteristics). Thanks for all of your information, glad to know that I am not the only food nerd! Haha
Can anyone tell me if pressure cooking (without soaking ) reduces phytic acid ?
I am having difficulty finding the answer to this with regard to beans.. One company is telling me they pressure cook their beans before canning, but no soaking <
Thank you so much for doing this research.
I am intnterested in making all my calories count. Some one has said, ” it’s not what you eat, it’s what you absorb”.
I do think many of the chronic degenerative, autoimmune illnesses of the 21st century derive because of a micro-nutrient deficiency.
If you ever run into more complete studies, I would lie to know about them.
Another issue with using brewer’s yeast is that it typically contains a form of monosodium glutamate/free glutamic acid..
Dairy products are high in calcium, and calcium inhibits the reduction of phytic acid. Using a dairy product to soak grain in may actually remove less phytic acid than soaking in plain water! An acidic environment is good; acids help to break down phytic acid and it also inhibits bad bacteria. Why not use vitamin C as the acidic source in the soak, thereby saving yourself a step?
Instant yeast does not need to be dissolved in water like regular dried yeast. Regular yeast has an extra coating added to protect the yeast, which needs to be dissolved. Instant yeast doesn’t have a coating and can be mixed directly into the dough. Another step eliminated.
Fermentation is still more effective at reducing phytic acid than soaking. Some recipes call for mixing up the full recipe with commercial yeast and doing the first rise in the fridge overnight. Might be more effective against phytic acid than a simple soak and wouldn’t take any more time.
See http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/phyticacid.pdf for a comparison of phytic acid reduction strategies.
Thanks so much for this informative piece. A lot of work must have been carried out to get this through. Pls how do I soak milled flour of guinea corn for later cooking. Thanks
Is phytic acid becoming alkaline once it is bound to minerals? If so, is there excess phytic acid in grains which is not bound to any minerals? If so, why do have grains phytic acid then in the first place. I thought it’s there to hold the minerals in a cage so to speak by binding them in order to release them once the grains start to sprout.
Just wanted to share something I remember from cooking in Iran. Legumes and some grains, like milled rice white rice) are soaked at least overnight a saline solution (usually salted water like 1 TBSP per quart) and then rinsed a few time to reduce the salt that has sipped in. It would bind with certain chemicals and then with each rinse, the relative concentration inside the bean or grain would move them out.
During cooking they also come out and often bind with non-digestible amino-acids. These show up on top of the cooking water (which should be an inch or more above the grains and legumes) and they form long change foams which we used a skimmer (Kaff-geer) to constantly remove them. It is a time consuming process but you get a significant portion of indigestibles and mineral binders out of the soup. The foam resembles scum that soap leaves behind when you wash a sink with lots of protein grime.
I use a medium meshed Chinese skimmer for that purpose, The mesh is about 1/16″ or less.