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Soaking Grains... Why?

Posted Jun 18 2009 12:00am
Soaking whole wheat flour for pancakes

I want to take the time to explain a nourishing practice that I consider important to our health. Many recipes that I am planning to share with you in the near future will call for “soaking” of whole grains and flours. Read on and enjoy the benefits of adding this practice to your daily diet.

Why Soak Whole Grains

We all know that whole grain food have many nutritional advantages compare to refined flours. Whole grains retain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are very important to our health.

Unfortunely, in all whole grains there are enzyme inhibitors that interferes with digestion and other natural substances that blocks you from absorbing all of those important minerals and vitamins.

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.
-Be Kind To Your Grains

BUT…thankfully, there is a solution!

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… By Sally Fallon

So, for all those who have digestive troubles 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 absorb all of those vitamins and minerals we can get in our whole grains!

How To Soak The Grains

It’s quite simple.

The first thing to do for preparation is to soak the whole grain flour in an acid medium and liquid. Basically, soak all the flour with the liquid ingredients and add 1 Tbsp of an acid medium per cup of liquid called for in the recipe.

Acid mediums (dairy acid mediums must be cultured):
-cultured buttermilk
-cultured yogurt
-lemon juice

Brown rice, buckwheat and millet:
low phytate content and only need to be soaked for 7 hours.

Whole wheat, spelt, oats, kamut and others:
higher levels of phytate content and should be soaked for 12-24 hour.
Oats are said to be the highest and therefore best soaked for 24 hours.

Second, leave your grains to soak at room temperature on your counter or in your oven (I do that to keep bugs out…we’ve got lots of ‘em here). Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a plate to prevent drying (especially when making dough).

Third, after you’ve soaked the grains… add the remaining ingredients and proceed with the recipe.

Like I said… it’s quite simple. These are the basic guidelines and I have personally found that it not much more work to add this step. Just need to think ahead. It is definitely worth it for our family’s health.

A great bonus I’ve found in soaking grains is how the liquids absorbs and expands the grains… making a larger quantity in the end. This is especially true when I soak our oatmeal. It increases the quantity, more satisfying and very filling as well. I love how it really helps the food budget because we eat less and gain more nutrients in the process.

To wrap this up… soaked whole grains, overall, are much more satisfying and fill you up longer than processed flours or unsoaked grains. More nutrients being taken in and less money being spend! Sounds good to me!

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