THE SCIENCE BEHIND SOAKING GRAINS
JULY 19, 2013 BY TIFFANY 37 COMMENTS
What does it mean to soak grains?
THE SCIENCE BEHIND SOAKING GRAINS
Well, besides sprouting and making sourdough, soaking whole grain flour is one way to maximize the benefits found within the grain.
The nutrition you find in whole grains is locked inside by three main components, phytic acid, phytates, and phytase.
I’m still not fully versed in all-things phytates, phytic acid and phytase and likely will never be. But I do feel well rounded enough to at least share with you what I’ve learned. It’s interesting, that’s for sure.
We’re skipping over the whole enchilada versions and heading straight for the chips and salsa. That’s my favorite part of the meal anyway.
Phytic Acid: shaped like a snowflake, phytic acid acts like a locked storage container in grains and seeds.
It’s found in the bran and germ portion and holds mainly phosphorus, but often times calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc too.
Phytates: the “glue” keeping these important minerals inside the storage container.
If phytic acid is the locked container, phytates would be the lock itself.
Phytase: an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. This would be the key to our lock.
How do we unlock the phytic acid and break free the vitamins and minerals so our bodies can use them? We turn the key. We activate the phytase when we soak the grains.
WHERE DO WE FIND PHYTASE?
Phytase is found naturally in raw plant foods. But let’s be honest. The mere mention of the words “raw” and “food” together in the same sentence tends to give non-foodie people the heebie-jeebies.
It’s also found in the whole version of grains, but levels of phytase begin to drop as soon as whole grains are milled into flour.
This means that any non-raw version of whole grains bought from the store (all flours, rolled oats, even most nuts and seeds too) will likely have little phytase left when you’re are home, ready to eat it.
Traditionally, a diet rich in raw plant foods and whole grains wouldn’t be an issue when it comes to phytase breaking down phytic acid.
It happens naturally in our own digestive system when all parties are present and accounted for.
But most of us don’t eat traditionally.
The human diet nowadays is comprised largely of cooked foods and processed grains.
Any chances of remaining phytase are slim, and the ability of that phytase to break down phytic acid on its own is even slimmer.
This causes the vitamins and minerals to be stuck inside and passed right through during digestion. Our bodies aren’t even given the opportunity to absorb and use them.
Unless you use and turn a different key – lactobacilli.
Lactobacilli is the helpful bacteria found in yogurt, buttermilk, kefir and whey.
It can activate phytase, giving it the boost it needs to break down phytic acid.
HOWEVER…IN HEAT PASTEURIZED DAIRY…destroys all live (Good & Bad) alike…
A “load of Dead Bacteria”…creates “HEALTH PROBLEMS”
& uses ENERGY…
to dispose of the DEAD Matter …
Instead of allowing the live cultures to “do their jobs”…
Lactobacilli together with warm water can catapult phytase to successfully break down phytic acid in as little as 12 hours (although 24 hours are recommended by most traditional foodies). It’s a very similar process to fermentation in sourdough.
For how-to soak info check out these recipes:
soaked whole wheat bread
WHAT GRAINS SHOULD BE SOAKED?
All grains contain phytic acid … to some extent….
Based on Nourishing Traditions‘ recommendations:
Oats, rye, barley, “Ancient Grains” wheat (avoid GMO Wheat, Soy & Corn) and quinoa should always be soaked (or fermented).
Buckwheat, rice, spelt and millet can be soaked less …
Whole Brown Rice & whole millet contain even less phytates …. so it’s not necessary to always soak.
Flax (now highly GMO-avoid) seed does not require soaking if eaten in small amounts.
IS IT REALLY NECESSARY TO SOAK?
The fact that phytic acid has the ability to bind and hold minerals is not always a bad thing.
Sue Becker quotes that phytates (the glue, or storage lock) bind with radioactive and toxic substances and carry them out of our bodies. (source)
She also cites a company wanting to sell phytates on their own because of their anti-tumor, anti-carcinogenic and blood sugar regulating properties.
Surely something so powerful can’t be all bad, right?
Besides, if an overnight soak only reduces roughly 10% of the phytic acid, is it really worth all the effort?
Will it really make that big of a difference?
Some say yes, that the difference between soaked grains
& unsoaked grains has a profound impact on their digestive system with the latter.. being much more difficult to endure…Celiac Disease, IBS…
Additionally, soaking can BREAK DOWN GLUTEN…
Those with gluten sensitivities
(and those without) may tolerate soaked grains better too.
But can’t we just eat white bread?
If phytic acid is found only in the bran & germ…
white bread contains neither…
BASICALLY, IT IS NEUTERED!
doesn’t eating white bread solve the issue?
Well, that is one train of thought to consider,
but you won’t be getting the nutritional benefits of the whole grains.
Essentially you’re just eating simple carbohydrates…
(BODY SEES AS SIMPLE SUGAR)1
Or what if we milled our own flour?
Wouldn’t that take care of the rapidly depleting phytase?
Milling your own flour does help retain the phytase.
Most people that mill their own grain don’t bother with soaking since their flour is so fresh.
However, milling isn’t always an option if you can’t find a good price on whole grains or don’t have a mill (you can always work around the mill problem by using this method).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Ever feel like the answer isn’t ever a simple yes or no?
Unfortunately (or maybe it’s good news?), t
his topic is no different.
You will have to sort out the pros and cons of soaking grains for yourself. I did some of that here –> Soaking vs Sprouting vs Sourdough.
SOURDOUGH VS SOAKING VS SPROUTING: LET’S TALK PRACTICALITY
JULY 25, 2013 BY TIFFANY 16 COMMENTS
My biggest hang-up for not doing a lot of things is time.
There are only so many hours in each day and there’s always a list of things to do. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Making bread or soaking the oats or sprouting the almonds doesn’t always make it to the top of the list.
BREAD MACHINES SEEM TO BE VERY EFFECTIVE & SAVE TIME…
SOURDOUGH VS SOAKING VS SPROUTING
To me, it only makes sense to bake sourdough. The nutrition of it is absolutely amazing and even though we don’t have any wheat or gluten sensitivities, I’ve noticed it is easier on my own body to digest.
Since this basic sourdough bread recipe works with a single rise, I’m okay with that 2-hour waiting window. The timing of the bread has worked out so that we’re home for that window anyway.
I typically use about 50% white flour in a lot of my bread recipes. And since soaking has no effect on white flour and only minimally reduce phytic acid, I can’t say I’m all-in for soaking for bread.
There’s probably a recipe somewhere out there that explain how to soak the 50% of wheat and then add the white later… or that it’s ok just to soak it all together in the first place… but that’s requiring more mental energy than I have to give it. Frankly, the cons simply outweigh the pros.
Plus, phytase (the stuff that breaks down phytic acid) is found in the whole grain. If we ground our own grains at home just before use, they’d be in ample supply. Then the need to soak the whole grain becomes a moot point.
There are significant benefits to sprouting, and sprouting nuts is something that can easily be incorporated into a busy schedule, even when you include the dehydrating time (now that I know we prefer them after a full 24 hours).
However, the issue of sprouting grains is like a teeter totter and I’m not yet completely on board. Sprouting grains means we have to buy them whole and I haven’t yet found a quality source that is affordable. If we regularly buy whole grains, it would be ideal to have a grain mill… but that’s not in the budget at the moment. We could use this process to grind with coffee grinder or food processor, but then we’re adding a significant amount of time into the process.
IN AN IDEAL WORLD…
I’d own a grain mill, would grind my grains at home and make sourdough bread regularly.
Also, I would be more than happy to make rolls or biscuits on a whim because I have fresh flour at my fingertips.
I could skip sprouting the grains altogether but still sprout our beans and nuts. Because a gassy family is not fun.
Time – as little as one minute per day to feed; don’t have to be home to create a warm environment for the rise;a total of 20-30 minutes now for mixing/kneading process and an hour for baking later
Money – least expensive bread recipe possible (only requires flour, water and salt)
Energy – most of the “work” is done ahead of time by feeding the starter; mixer does the bulk of the kneading; requires 5-10 minutes of hand kneading at the end
Nutrition – with these benefits, sourdough is quite possibly the healthiest bread available
Time – a single rise using a heating pad could be ready in as little as 4 or as many as 6 hours, leaving a 2-hour gap to play the waiting game; double rises are much less predictable and require more presence in the kitchen
Money – batches don’t always come out edible, so even the minimal ingredients are wasted
Energy –the effort is required to develop a “perfect” sourdough recipe and sometimes energy is wasted when loaves fail for no obvious reason
Nutrition – none
Time – the active time of adding flour and water to a bowl takes roughly one minutes; the inactive time is entirely hands off and can be done while sleeping
Money – other than flour, no additional cost if I already have the soaking medium in the kitchen
Energy – little effort is needed to “add” and “stir” and “let it sit overnight”
Nutrition – breaks down gluten and phytic acid; predigests starches easing the work of the body
Time – at least one day advance preparation is required
Money – the cost of organic milk for buttermilk, yogurt and kefir cannot be ignored over time
Energy – a great amount of mental energy is used when trying to determine how much of what ingredients should be used to soak in a recipe that wasn’t originally written to be soaked; a smaller yet still significant amount of energy is used to locate specific recipes that include soaking instructions
Nutrition – soaking only reduces 10% of the phytic acid (source); only whole grains need to be soaked (so if I only have white flour on hand, there’s no point at all)
Time – filling a jar with nuts/grains, water and salt is quick; agitating the jar takes less than a minute
Money – no additional expense if they were going to be eaten anyway
Energy – requires 2-3x daily shakes or stirs, but other real foods take much more
Nutrition – the benefits of sprouting are enormous and cannot be ignored
Time – active time is low, but the inactive time can take up to four days; this doesn’t include any post-soaking dehydration (12-24 hours with the last few requiring frequent checks)
Money – the cost of whole grains instead of pre-made flour, plus the cost of a grain mill if these alternative methods aren’t suitable; possible cost for a dehydrator if the existing oven is insufficient or undesirable
Energy – none for sprouting; requires work to drain and lay out grains/nuts if dehydrating; must frequently check on the grain/nut during dehydration to ensure it’s done
Nutrition – none
WHAT DO GRAINS LOOK LIKE IN YOUR IDEAL WORLD? ARE YOU A SOAKER OR SPROUTER, OR DO YOU PREFER SOURDOUGH?
WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE ON SOAKING? DO YOU SOAK YOUR GRAINS?