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Whole grains are a staple in most households today. We all know that whole grain has much more nutritional value than refined grains, so opting for brown rice or whole wheat flour is a much healthier option. But, did you know that in order to get the optimum nutrition from grains, you should soak them?
Whole grains are fantastic sources of vitamins E and B, along with many minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron and more. Soaking grains enables more of these important nutrients to be absorbed by our bodies. Sally Fallon, author of the book, Nourishing Traditions, is a big proponent of soaking our grains before consumption. In Nourishing Traditions, page 25, Sally Fallon states:
We recommend the use of a variety of whole grains but with an important caveat. Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and, in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures.
Now, this might seem a little weird and maybe intimidating, but it really is quite simple. All it takes is a little extra planning. To start soaking your grains (like rice, quinoa, wheat, millet, etc.) all you need to do is place your grains in a bowl (I like to use glass or ceramic) and then cover them with warm, filtered water. To the water, add a couple tablespoons of buttermilk, yogurt, keifer, apple cider vinegar (raw with the mother), lemon juice or whey. Let the grains rest on your counter top (preferably in a slightly warm area) for 12-24 hours.
Once the grains have soaked, you'll want to rinse them. This will remove any of the acidic taste leftover from the buttermilk, vinegar, etc. Rinse them well and then prepare as you would normally. You can also toast the grain before cooking. I like to toast my grains in a hot, dry skillet – this gives them delicious flavor. Toast the grain until lightly browned and then cook as normal. One thing to keep in mind is that soaked grains do not always need as much water as dry grains. I usually start with about 3/4 of the directed amount of water and then add a little more if needed.
This is a really basic overview of soaking your grains. I know that new concepts like this can seem a little foreign at first, so this is the simplest way to get started. The biggest challenge is to remember to plan ahead so that you have your grains soaked and ready to go when needed! Soon, I will discuss soaking your nuts and seeds, as well as sprouting your grains for additional nutritional benefit.