Soak This! ~ Why and How To Soak Grains, Nuts, Seeds and Legumes
Ever notice that after you eat certain “health” foods you feel really bloated? Or maybe you have a really hard time digesting them?
Well, there’s a good reason for that!
Whole grains (as well as nuts, seeds, beans and legumes) can cause digestive issues when prepared improperly, which unfortunately, most people do.
You may or may not have heard of lectins or the benefits of soaking. Or maybe you’ve heard about soaking but are unsure why or what you should be doing.
OK, SO WHY SOAK AND/OR BUY SPROUTED?
Just as some plants have thorns as a form of defence, nature instilled defence mechanisms on nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes in order that they are able to survive until the ideal growing conditions are present.
Ideal conditions include lots of rain, which allows the nut/grain/seed to germinate and produce a plant.
This is why we soak, to mimic nature.
When not enough rain (or soaking) occurs, the defence mechanisms stay in tact. These defence mechanisms include enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances known as anti-nutrients.
There are two kinds of enzymes that we need, digestive and metabolic. We need digestive enzymes to help break down and digest food.
We require metabolic enzymes for the growth of new cells and the repair and maintenance of the body's organs and tissues.
Pretty big jobs huh?
Nuts, seeds, grains and legumes that have not been soaked contain numerous enzyme inhibitors, meaning that they will clog or warp the active site of an enzyme preventing it from doing its job (making these foods, and the foods eaten with them, very hard to digest).
Therefore, if consumed in excess (which they are - think cereals, bars, oatmeal, bread, crackers, nut butters, any and all products made from flour, pasta, cookies, prepackaged trail mixes, etc, etc) they can put a real strain on the digestive tract.
Secondly, all edible seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts contain toxic substances or anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and lectins.
These anti-nutrients combine with important minerals that the body needs such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc and blocks their absorption.
A diet high in ‘unsoaked' whole grains, nuts, seeds, & legumes can lead to serious mineral deficiencies (even if you’re eating lots of foods with these important minerals, because the minerals aren’t being absorbed!).
Aside from eased digestion and increased absorption of minerals, there are additional benefits to soaking your grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.These include:
increased amounts of vitamins and nutrients,
increased fibre content,
reduced or eliminated bloating,
prevention of gut related illness,
proteins in these foods are more readily absorbed.
It has even been argued that for some people, their gluten intolerance may simply be that their grains haven't been properly prepared. And what is ACTUALLY needed is to add this gluten-busting step to their food prep.
Below I explain how to soak your own grains, etc. (it's really very easy!), but luckily now you can find many products that have been pre-soaked!
LOOK FOR THESE BRANDS IN YOUR LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE:
One Degree Organic Sprouted Spelt Flour
One Degree Organic Sprouted Rolled Oats
One Degree Organic Sprouted Granola
Lundberg Sprouted Brown Rice
Sasha BioBud Sprouted Brown Rice (they also have lentils, mung beans, and adzuki beans),
Tru Roots Sprouted Quinoa (and lentils),
Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Breads (as well as english muffins and waffles!).
Note: "Sprouted" means the grains/legumes have been soaked.
DIY: HOW DO YOU SOAK AND FOR HOW LONG?
STEP ONE: Place desired amount of nuts, grains, seeds or legumes in a large glass or ceramic bowl and cover with warm, filtered water (about a 2:1 ratio) and about 1-2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar. This will aid in the development of phytase, the enzyme needed to break down the phytic acid and/or lectins found in these foods. Cover and let sit for desired time.
*Note: soaking times vary for different nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes but a good rule of thumb is to place in water before bed and rinse in the morning when you get up. There are lots of good soaking guides online listing specific soaking times if interested.
STEP TWO: Once food has been soaked thoroughly, rinse well (using a mesh strainer), drain and cook as you normally would. If you’ve soaked nuts or seeds, place in a dehydrator (if you happen to have one) at no higher than 115º F for 24 hours, and store in sealed glass containers in the fridge. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can gently dry them in the oven at the lowest temperature for an hour or two, or you can use the soaked nuts immediately in baking recipes. If nuts are not dried, they will develop mold, so unless you’re dehydrating or roasting them, they need to be used immediately.
I know soaking can seem intimidating and time consuming but I promise you, it really is quite simple and it is incredibly beneficial to your health.
That said, when I first heard about soaking, I thought “Whoa, I am not there yet”. And I wasn’t, I was still in the beginning stages of turning my diet around and adding soaking to the mix just wasn’t in the cards.
It was something that was way too overwhelming at the time but once healthy eating became second nature, it was easy to integrate soaking into my routine.
I think that's the trick, to make changes slowly and individually, and not all at once when it can become discouraging. We don’t need to change overnight, it isn’t possible, nor is it realistic.
We need to take it step by step (just like the New Kids On The Block taught us years ago 🎶😉). So, if after reading this you’re feeling like you're just not ready to start soaking, don’t beat yourself up, just keep it in the back of your mind for when you are ready. 😊
I hope this was helpful and feel free to reach out if you have any questions!
Hugs and Healthy Habits,