In a nutshell…
Your body will absorb more nutrients and more easily digest whole grains, rice, beans, nuts, and seeds when you first prepare them by soaking or sprouting.
What can you soak?
You can soak grains, rice, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Why do you soak?
Grains, rice, beans, nuts, and seeds have a system of preservation built into their make-up that keep them from deteriorating and prevent them from sprouting until the conditions are right. But this same system that preserves grains for such long periods of time includes antinutrients like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors.
Phytic acid is found in the bran or outer hull of grains, rice, beans, etc. and it can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption.
Enzyme inhibitors inhibit digestion making it hard to digest tannins, complex sugars, and gluten.
Because grains are designed in this way, a diet high in improperly prepared grains can lead to mineral deficiencies and bone loss. However, properly preparing grains–through either soaking, sprouting, or sour leavening–neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors enabling your body to absorb vitamins and minerals and increase digestibility. Weston A. Price Foundation
Who came up with soaking?
Soaking grains is a traditional practice that many cultures have followed in the past and some still follow currently. Preparing grains in this way is more time consuming, so it’s interesting that so many cultures would consider it important enough for their health to put in the extra effort and preparation. Some examples of soaking grains include maize soaked in Latin America for desserts, drinks, and bread; oats soaked in Russia then dried and cooked with broth or milk; and rice soaked in Indonesia, made into a solid cake, and eaten as a snack. The Nourishing Gourmet
What are some benefits of soaking?
Besides the already mentioned health benefits of soaking your grains, soaking makes the texture lighter in your prepared food. For example, brown rice can be chewy and heavy when prepared by standard methods, but when first soaked overnight in an acidic medium and then cooked, brown rice is light and fluffy. And while soaking grains takes some forethought, the actual cooking time is lessened because the grain has already been partially broken down.
How do you soak?
You soak your grain, rice, beans, nuts, or seeds in water with an acidic medium such as yogurt, whey, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar. Start the process the night before or the morning of the day you’re going to eat them. Pour the grains into a bowl and cover with warm water by a couple inches. Add about a tablespoon of an acidic medium. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for the minimum required time. If still soaking after 24 hours, change the water. Drain and rinse the grains before cooking with fresh water. The soaking time varies for each type of grain. The chart seen below is a great reference for how long to soak a variety of foods. Image source: Wake Up World
Tip: soak or sprout your grains and enjoy lighter products, such as fluffy brown rice and lighter whole wheat bread.
Marrie Lambson says
I just found your website and I love it. As I read this page I thought you were going to discuss “sprouting” after the “soaking”. Obviously I can read about it somewhere else but I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Thanks. I do need to talk about sprouting on Two Thirds Cup. I haven’t been posting as frequently lately, but I’ll try and fit this topic in here soon!
What method do you like to use when sprouting grains?
Jolly Chan says
Katie there is information online, and I was told at a health food shop, saying that you should not soak quinoa.
So…is it better to soak or sprout?
Leah Arthur says
If you plan on cooking steel cut oats in a slow cooker overnight, does that “count” as soaking, and lessen phytic acid?