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The Benefits of Soaking Grains

The Benefits of Soaking Grains

Why soak?

Traditional cultures understood the value of soaking grains before eating them – a practice largely forgotten in modern cooking.  Soaking is beneficial for many reasons.  First of all, most grains contain high levels of phytic acid.  In your body these phytates combine with minerals such as iron and calcium and block their absorption.  This can lead to mineral deficiencies, bone loss and GI problems.  Soaking grains helps to break down their phytate content, especially if you add a little whey or plain yogurt to the soaking water.  Soaking also increases beneficial enzymes, breaks down gluten and makes grains easier to digest.  Additionally it softens the grains which greatly speeds their cooking time.  This simple process helps you receive greater nutrition from the food you eat and will actually decrease your time in the kitchen.

The soaking process is very simple.  Pour grains into a container that has a lid (I usually use a mason jar).  Don’t fill more than halfway because most grains will expand.  Add water so that it covers the grains by at least a couple inches.  Add 1-2 Tablespoons of whey (How to Make Whey: ), if you don’t have whey you can subsitute plain yogurt or buttermilk.  Or you can omit entirely – plain water alone will neutralize over half of the phytates.  Then put on the lid and let it sit at room temperature for 8-12 hours.  When you’re ready to cook, just pour off the remaining soaking water and they’re ready to be cooked.

Soaking is most beneficial to grain that have a high gluten content such as wheat, oats, rye and barley.  Low gluten grains such as rice don’t need to be soaked.  Other foods that are more nutritious when soaked include beans, seeds and nuts.  They can be soaked according to the directions above and then rinsed before cooking.  If you’re soaking beans, they expand almost three times so don’t fill your jar more than 1/3 full of beans or you’ll have a mess!  Soaked nuts are particularly good roasted.

A few more tips:

  • If you need the grains sooner than 8 hours, any amount of soaking time will help.
  • If you accidentally forget about them, they can sit out without problem for a full 24 hours.
  • Finally if you don’t have whey or yogurt or buttermilk, just use plain water.  Water alone will break down much (although not as many) of the phytates and you still get the benefit  of the shorter cooking time.


Note: I was introduced to this technique through a the book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon:  This is a book/cookbook that questions many aspects of our modern diet and teaches traditional methods of food preparation.  It’s an interesting and thought provoking read!

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