Traditional cultures took great care to ‘deal with’ their legumes and grains with a long soaking before cooking. It has been practiced by our ancestors in nearly every culture, from what I can find, around the world that has had these as the basis of their survival.
We Americans eat a lot of processed bread, pastries, crackers, corn chips, oatmeal, and buns. All these grains contain enzyme inhibitors and toxins (ex. phytates, tannins, goitrogens) not meant for us to eat. The inhibitors and toxins are what allow whole grains (actually they are seeds) to remain dormant and stored for long periods of time.
The enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances found in grains can be minimized, or eliminated, in as little 8-24 hours. We can achieve this by soaking grain in warm water with an acid (ex. yogurt, whey, lemon juice~ See below). This simple step mimics God’s own germination process in the soil, causing the seed to think it’s time to sprout and activate its enzymes.
When we consume properly soaked grains, their enzymes increase the availability of many vitamins to our bodies and allow more nutrients to be readily absorbed.
I love Mexican food but have learned to avoid Mexican restaurants for this reason. They don’t soak their beans before cooking them! Those ‘anti-nutrients’ such as phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are going to be in your gut causing gas and whatever other digestive issues happen when you eat something that isn’t particularly digestible. Pretty much defeats the purpose of trying to eat healthy!
When consumed on a regular basis, un-soaked and un-germinated grains and beans can irritate the digestive tract – potentially leading to a variety of health conditions including:
Impaired Immune function
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Leaky gut syndrome
Blocked absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc
Blocks protein absorption. This not only applies to the minerals and protein in the food that contains the phytic acid, but also the food you eat with it!
Reading Sally Fallon-Morell’s book, Nourishing Traditions, really expanded my thinking. Since devouring that book 12 years ago, we’ve gone back to the traditional ways of soaking our beans and grains. We always soak our oatmeal overnight, and we eat sprouted-grain bread or naturally fermented sourdough bread.
Normally, we ferment and make our own breads, but occasionally, we buy bread. The go-to sliced bread of choice for us is Ezekiel 4:9 organic (no GMOs) sprouted grain by Food For Life. Trader Joe’s also has their own sprouted grain bread that is essentially the same. Both are delicious and great for impromptu sandwiches and cheese toasties.
Ancient, Traditional Old Ways Being Lost
Soaking grains, fermentation (here, here, and here), making herbal remedies (here and here), bone broth, and preserving foods are part of the ancient and sustainable old ways we don’t want to lose, but we are losing them.
Chances are if you are taking charge of your health you already know all about soaking, but for those who are new to it, below is a helpful little chart.
The acid medium (vinegar or whey) helps to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors (phytates), making beans and grains more digestible and nutrient-dense. Soaking them in water makes them swell and begin the slow process of sprouting which makes the nutrients available.
Approximate amounts (remember wet beans will swell 2, sometimes 3 times, their dry size)
2 cups black beans
2 cups black eye peas, pinto, navy etc. beans
2 cups red kidney beans
2 cups brown rice *
2 cups split peas
2 cup lentils
2 cup millet *
1 cup quinoa
1 cup chickpea
1 cup teff or amaranth
1 cup oat groats
* due to low phytate counts, soaking is recommended but not necessary ** smaller beans need more soak time
a glass or stainless bowl 3-4 times the size of the dry beans to allow for swelling
the acidic medium ( either apple cider vinegar, whey, kefir, plain yogurt or lemon juice)
the time in the chart above corresponding to the bean or grain you have
Place your grains or beans into the bowl, keeping in mind the swelling and cover several inches with water. Add the acidic medium. I use whey or apple cider vinegar. If you have a intolerance to lactose, use lemon juice or vinegar instead. No need to cover it. Finally, rinse it well after the time is over. For the tiny grains like teff and amaranth, you will need a cheesecloth lining a sieve. For some you can just rinse in the soaking bowl, holding the grains back with your hand.
Note on beans: Sometimes bubble scum will form on soaking beans; that is the gas formed in our gut when we consume them un-soaked and why people resort to artificial means such as Beano to decrease abdominal gas and bloating. Just drain and rinse the beans until all the scum is washed away. You can soak a large pot of beans and then slowly cook them. Later after cooling, I’ve frozen them for easy, quick meals when beans are required like homemade chili. Saves time for you and discomfort for your family.
Before cooking, discard the acidic soaking water and use fresh. Your plants or garden will
appreciate the soaking water.
The general principal ~ long slow soaking and long slow cooking is best for beans.
Examples from my kitchen of soaking:
Brown rice… Wild rice…
I keep several 3 gallon glass jars of dry beans within handy reach and also store our coconut oil in one. It is a part of my food storage system. They will keep for many years if kept must be kept cool and dry. This crock is dedicated to mixed soup beans.
Red quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) finished soaking after ~18 hours. You can see and feel the phytic acid poured off in the soaking water…
These kidney beans have swollen up almost 3 times their size and absorbed all the water. I needed a bigger pan or less beans to soak them properly. They must be completely covered with water for the proper length of time…
Mixed soup beans…they are so pretty on the counter and remind me that I am a steward of all we have been given to use it wisely.
Say “Bye bye” to phytic acid; you can also say “Bye bye” to Bean-o! You won’t be needing it ever again!
“Phytic acid not only grabs on to or chelates important minerals, but also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food, including pepsin needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar. Trypsin, needed for protein digestion in the small intestine, is also inhibited by phytates.” ~Dr. Ramiel Nagel (source)
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