Photo by NourishingCook.
Why it is important to soak grains, legumes, nuts and seeds…
Have you ever wondered why our ancestors used to soak these food items before consuming them? Doesn’t it seem strange that food allergies and sensitivities, celiac disease, chronic indigestion and candida albicans overgrowth is on the rise? Why is food making us sick?
In today’s fast paced world we have become used to preparing foods quickly. Unfortunately this is having some negative consequences on our health.
As Sally Fallon points out in her highly recommended cookbook Nourishing Traditions…
The reason our ancestors used to soak and ferment their grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds before eating them is because these foods contain phytic acid as well as enzyme inhibitors and anti-nutrients to prevent them from sprouting in unsuitable conditions. This is nature’s brilliant way of protecting the seed until the conditions are right for it to produce a plant. Phytic acid can act as a barrier and combine with minerals in the intestinal tract blocking their absorption. This can lead to bone mass loss and mineral deficiencies. Enzyme inhibitors can really put a strain on the digestive system, even when buying these food items raw, causing gas and bloating. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. Soaking vastly improves the nutritional benefits of the food and increases the protein content of grains. Sprouted seeds have almost double the protein content of unsprouted seeds! During the soaking process, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins partially break down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.
I have noticed a huge difference in my own health and that of my family’s by soaking and sprouting. Our tummies are really thankful that we have made this change. How is it done?
Soaking grains and legumes in warm acidulated water will neutralize phytic acid thereby improving nutritional benefits. Nuts and seeds need to soak in warm salt water as this activates beneficial enzymes and de-activates the enzyme inhibitors.
For Grains and Legumes
Soak in an acidic medium such as buttermilk, cultured milk, yoghurt, and whey. Vinegar and lemon juice can also be used to activate phytase which breaks down phytic acid. Sour milk products also provide lacobacilli that helps to break down starches, tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins. I usually use 4 cups filtered water plus 2 – 4 tbs of an acid medium per 2 cups of grains/legumes.
It takes at least 7 hours to break down phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. I usually soak my grains overnight making sure the water is warm before adding the grains/legumes and they are ready to utilize in the morning. Most grains and legumes have better results soaking for 12 to 24 hours and also by changing the water out one to three times during the soaking process. After soaking they should be drained and rinsed. If soaking floured products there is no need to rinse off. Just continue with cooking or baking after the soak time is complete. You can also dehydrate your whole grains and legumes in a low temperature oven or dehydrator. Once completely dried out they can be ground into flours. Gluten-free flours can soak up to 7 hours. Leave the soaking material on your counter at room temperature. Cover tightly with a plate or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.
For Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds need to be raw and soaked in salt water. Use a 2-1 ratio of water to nuts/seeds. I use 1 tbs sea salt per 4 cups of water. I find that if I use more than this my nuts can become overly salty. All nuts should be soaked 12 to 24 hours except cashews which will become slimly and disagreeable in taste if soaked longer that 6 hours. Please see my crispy cashew recipe for directions. Once soaking is complete the nuts/seeds need to be rinsed extremely well having discarded all of the water. This water is acidic and contains all of the enzyme inhibitors! Let the nuts/seeds dry out in a low temperature oven or dehydrator. I like to use a cookie sheet and set the oven temperature to no higher or less than 118 degrees so as not to destroy all the beneficial enzymes and nutrients. This process can take 12 to 48 hours depending on the nut. Just taste test them to your desired crispiness. Prepared this way these nuts are the best I have ever tasted. I like to keep mine in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator so they stay fresh longer.
For more information and plenty of recipes, please order your copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.
Sweet fact: Did you know that the moment you spread some raw honey onto a starchy food such as bread, the honey enzyme starts predigesting it. As you chew more digestion takes place. If the bread with its honey enzyme coating is allowed to stand at room temperature for 15 mins before you eat it, there will be less work for salivary amylase. Edward Howell, MD Enzyme Nutrition. ( Nourishing Traditions pg 490)
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