Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Importance of Soaking Grains, Nuts and Seeds

There's a lot of talk lately about eating whole grains and that's good...a step in the right direction away from super refined flour and grains the "white stuff" but along with that admonition should be careful instructions about how to prepare those whole grains and soaking should be the number one priority.  Why?   Well it has to do with a chemical that is on most all plant "embryos"  in other words, seeds, nuts and grains.  It is phytic acid which is strong enough to taste on some seeds and not so obvious on others.  Phytic acid is a plant defense mechanism.  The plant wants it's seeds to become more plants and so this is a protection.  If the animal doesn't like the taste and won't come back for more it is in the plant's best interest.  Phytic acid will bind the minerals and vitamins in the seeds and grains so that the animal gets very little nutrition out of it especially if it goes through the digestive system of the animal quickly and that is also in the plant's interest especially  if the seed is eliminated whole in the feces  it has a good chance of sprouting into the intended plant.  For humans, phytic acid is a nutrition blocker in other words when ingested, it binds or blocks the calcium, magnesium potassium selenium and other nutrients so they do not get absorbed into the intestinal wall and into blood stream.   To get around phytic acid's nutrition blocking ability, the grains, nuts and seeds must be soaked; soaked  in just plain water for at least 8 hours. Water and other liquids neutralize phytic acid with enough time and it is not necessary to change the water after soaking.

Pictured above is a sample of my morning breakfast cereal of amaranth, quinoa, chia and whole flax seeds.  I take a cup of this dry mixture and soak it in a quart jar with 3 cups water overnight.   I cook all of it up the next morning and use only a portion of it for that mornings breakfast and put the rest of the cereal away in a container in the fridge.  I heat it up other mornings.
My husband likes a combination of rolled oats, spelt, flaxseed meal and chia seeds.  I use 1/3 cup of this dry mixture and soak it with a cup of water the night before.   He cooks it up the next morning and flavors it how he likes it.
I soak all my grain before cooking, even brown rice which has low levels of phytic acid.  There are other benefits of soaking grains the primary one is that the starches in the grains start changing, softening so to speak and turning into sugars which are easier to digest than straight starch.
I soak my raw almonds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.  Many people find that eating raw walnuts is distasteful for them.  This is because the phytic acid on walnuts is strong and some people are affected by it.  So, soaking for a couple days then draining off the water and drying the nuts on paper towels neutralized the offending chemical and they can eat and get the many benefits of walnuts.

Bread can be very toxic to people.  Which is a shame because bread should be nutritious and comforting.   Commercial bread even those with combination of whole grains are probably not nourishing people as much as they could be if the bakers took the time to soak the grain and the flour made from grain.  But time is money and producing a tasty loaf of bread quickly means more profits.  Ignorance of the importance of soaking is also a factor.  Another injury to bread is the use of quick-rise yeasts.   They were invented in 1984 to boost the industry.  Quick rise yeasts do exactly that.....make the bread rise faster without allowing the necessary time for the dough to slowly rise as with old fashioned or natural or sourdough yeasts.  The old way with natural yeasts require a good 6-9 hours to rise and that is enough time to neutralized the phytic acid in the flour and grain and allow the natural yeasts to begin the process of breaking down the starches and deconstructing the proteins ( like gluten) that are giving so many people problems now. If the bread baker wants to continue using  quick-rise yeasts, at least combine all the flour to be used with all the liquid in the recipe and the salt and other ingredients and allow that dough to set for 8 hours or more and then add yeast last.   Bread can be nutritious again if the flour is allowed to soak at least 8 hours first in a starter with natural yeasts.

Grains and bread can be more nutritious and not so toxic if the homemaker will think ahead and allow enough time for the flour and grains to soak in water or milk or other nutritious liquids.  Using a natural yeast starter for bread instead of quick-rise yeasts will greatly enhance the digestibility and nutrition of this universal comfort food.
Just found out that cocoa powder has lots of phytic acid and needs to be soaked for at least 8 hours before baking.  

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