How to Soak Grains–For Better Health!

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Have you heard about soaking grains to make them easier to digest and more nutritious? Here’s some information about how to soak grains and why you should consider doing it.

It’s pretty interesting stuff–put on your thinking cap and let’s get started.

bowl of flaked oatmeal with text overlay for post about how to soak grains

The road to healthy eating sure is a long one.  One step at a time.  There is so much information and always something new to learn.

Take me, for example.  I thought I was a healthy eater when –

  • I stopped eating meat and ate an extremely low fat diet.  Then
  • I switched from processed foods to whole wheat flour and less refined sweeteners.  Then
  • I started grinding my own grain….oh, I guess I’m getting ahead of myself.  And perhaps I am overwhelming you as well :-).

Before you feel intimidated by anything that I write about our family’s nutrition, let me be clear that we are all a work in progress in all arenas of life.  We’re all trying to get ourselves and/or our families to eat better, and we need to be happy about what we have accomplished and just press ahead making the most of what we know at a pace that doesn’t exhaust us.

In any case, somewhere along the line I heard about the importance of soaking grains.

There’s a lot of information on grains, and about soaking them.  There are even folks who think that eating grains are not healthy at all.  I haven’t come down on either side of this argument, but it seems to me that there is a lot of reason to cut back, especially on the refined (white) flours. 

Without getting too involved in the discussion, here are my basic thoughts, in a debatable order of importance.

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Making the Grains In Your Diet Healthier

Here are some tips for how to make healthier choices about the grains that you do choose to eat.

  • Stop eating (or at least greatly reduce) refined flours that are devoid of all nutrients.  That means no white flour, and even being careful about starches like tapioca flour (for those of you on gluten free diets).  These can be hard on your digestive system.
  • Start grinding your own grain
  • Eat less gluten
  • Start soaking your grain
  • Eat less grain (us westerners, in particular, need to cut back)
  • Buy organic, or at least ‘certified chemical free’ (CCF) grains, whenever possible.

Why You Should Soak Your Grains

Basically, think about what first goes in the ground in order to grow a plant — seeds, right?  Well, the seeds that we eat are seeds, nuts, and grains.  All of these things have protective coatings that need to be removed for the seeds to germinate (of course, we remove the shells of the nuts and seeds before eating), but there are also enzyme inhibitors found in whole grains (and in seeds, nuts and legumes) that prevent them from being digested properly.

In my post about how to soak nuts and seeds I addressed that food group, and in how to de-gas beans, I talked about making beans more digestible.  Well, now it’s time to work on the grains.

When you soak your grains, you are working on the enzyme inhibitors to make the grains easier to digest.  Some people find that they do not have a problem (or as much of a problem) with gluten when they soak their gluten-containing grains first.  I’ve found that soaked grain recipes have a lighter texture and seem to be easier on our digestive systems. (source)

So my decision for now is to soak the grains when I remember and when I have time.  Sometimes I forget and bake the recipe just the way that it was written.  I used to find myself really stressing out when I realized that I hadn’t planned for soaking or had completely forgotten about it.  But stress is clearly the bigger problem here so —

Stress not and soak when you can :-).

I know for sure that soaking nuts and seeds is beneficial, and so is the soaking of beans before cooking in addition to the addition of ajwain or epazote to the cooking water.  However, the grain soaking thing (exactly how to do it) is still a bit up in the air from the research that I’ve read.

oats in a bowl with text overlay for post about how to soak grains

Basic Instructions

  • Combine grains (either whole or in cut, flaked, or flour form) with liquids, sweeteners and fats.
  • Replace 1 tablespoon of your liquid with an acidic medium (vinegar, lemon juice, or whey).  If the liquid is already acidic or cultured, then you can simply skip this step.
  • Allow your mixture to sit at room temperature for at least 12 and for up to 24 hours.  When I am rushed, 7 hours works for me 🙂
  • Add the remaining ingredients for your recipe and proceed as close as possible to the original instructions.

With some recipes that have a more stiff dough (like pie crust, thick bars, or the delicious whole grain doughnuts), the dough will be hard to mix at this point. 

However, if you’re willing to put in a little elbow grease and make sure that all of the ingredients get mixed in well (like salt and baking soda….ever get an icky clump of one of those in your baked goods) you can use this soaking technique for any grain-based recipe to make it more digestible.

The Need for Phytase When Soaking

Soaking grains using the above method works fine for grains that are high in phytase (buckwheat, wheat, or rye), but for grains that are low in phytase (oats, rice, millet, corn, etc.) you need to add a high-phytase grain to the low-phytase grain in order to have the soaking be beneficial.

It appears that substituting approximately 10% of the low-phytase grain / flour with a high-phytase source is sufficient.  (Source) — UPDATE 2/16: Sorry that source is no longer on the internet.  I’m trying to find it again but can’t.  For example, if you are making a cake that calls for 3 cups of flour, then you would remove approximately 1/3 of a cup of the flour and replace it with wheat or rye, or you can use buckwheat as an option if you are gluten-free.

There is actually some really interesting information that recently came out about soaking and I hope to share that with you in the near future.  So stay tuned!

Oats and Phytates

One other thing to note is that oats are particularly high in phytates so soaking of oats is highly recommended (source). This recipe for Oatmeal Cake is a great one with the soaking built right in.

Meanwhile, soak when you can and trust God for the results until better information comes along.:-)

bowls of different grains

How To Soak Grains

These easy tips about soaking grains will improve your digestion of grains and help you get the most nutrition out of your grain-based recipes.
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Ingredients

  • grain of choice
  • water
  • acidic medium of choice 1 tablespoon per 1 cup liquid (such as Kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk, kefir, whey, yogurt, etc.)
  • traditional fat 1/2 tablespoon per 1 cup grain (such as grass-fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.)
  • salt

Instructions

  • Combine grains, water, and acid in pot or bowl the day before you need to cook them. If making a baked good, you can add the sweetener and fat as well.
  • Cover pot or bowl and let sit out on counter for 7 to 8 hours, or overnight, up to 24 hours.
  • Proceed with recipe.
Tried this recipe?Mention @wholenewmom or tag #wholenewmom!

How about you? 
Did you know about why you should soak grains or do you already do it?

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