Grains, grains, grains. It seems there is a lot of confusion about whether to eat them or not, how to prepare them, how to soak and sprout and sourdough and grind…..I am just as confused about grains as everyone else. So here are the parts I am sure about:
- Our ancestors soaked or fermented their grains before making them into porridge, bread, cakes and casseroles.
- All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran
- Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestines and block the absorption of these minerals.
- A diet high in grains leads to bone loss, tooth decay and mineral deficiencies.
- Soaking allows enzymes and bacteria to break down and reduce phytic acid.
- Soaking allows enzymes to release vitamins that are bound in the grain, making them readily available to your body.
- Soaking partially breaks down gluten, making it easier to digest.
- Cracked, rolled and ground grains (flour) go rancid very quickly at room temperature. Long before you purchase them off the store shelves.
Parts I’m not so clear on:
How much of the phytic acid is reduced by soaking? Is it worth it?
What ratio of grains should a person eat? What is a safe amount?
What grains need to be soaked for what length of time?
Most recipes say to cook the grain in the water in which it was soaking…doesn’t that water have phytic acid in it now? Where did it go? Did small ninjas come carry it away in the night?
According to Ramiel Nagel in the book Cure Tooth Decay: “Sprouting grains is a wonderful step in the fermentation process. But it does not remove that much phytic acid. Typically sprouting will remove somewhere between 20-30% of phytic acid after two or three days for beans, seeds and grains under laboratory conditions at a constant 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprouting was more effective in rye, rice, millet and mung beans, removing about 50% of phytic acid, and not effective at all with oats. Soaking by itself for 16 hours at a constant 77 degrees typically removed 5-10% of the grain and bean phytic acid content. Soaking increased or did not reduce the phytic acid content of quinoa, sorghum, corn, oats, amaranth, wheat, mung beans, and some seeds.”
“These statistics do not illustrate the entire picture. Even though soaking quinoa actually increased phytic acid contents, soaking and then cooking quinoa reduces its phytic acid levels by more than 61%. The same holds true for beans. Soaking and then cooking removes about 50% of phytic acid. With lentils this same procedure removes 76% of phytic acid. Roasting wheat, barley or green gram (Mung beans) reduces phytic acid by about 40%. A very interesting report shows the value of grain and bean storage in relation to plant toxins. In humid and warm storage conditions beans lost 65% of their phytic acid content.” And for the record Ramiel Nagel recommends either severely limiting grains in the diet, and freshly grinding grain and discarding part of the bran and germ (the part that contains the phytic acid). According to his research if you are purchasing flour from the store you should buy unbleached, un-enriched organic white flour, and eat it very sparingly. I would highly recommend that you read his book. It’s 234 pages of mind blowing research. www.curetoothdecay.com
I also want to add some anecdotal evidence. If I eat a handful of raw nuts I get almost instantly bloated, with stomach pains and indigestion. If I soak the nuts and dehydrate them and then eat a handful of nuts, I digest them just fine and can eat a big serving of homemade trail mix with no problem.
If I eat unsoaked oatmeal, I get the same feeling. Just an overall feeling of not digesting properly. Bloated and heavy and weird…If I soak the oatmeal for 24 hours and then cook it, I digest it just fine.
So based on my own experience with grains alone, I think soaking is worth the trouble for me. I also think we would be much better off in a lot of areas if we listened to our ancestors (and our bodies). Traditional people soaked, fermented, or sprouted grains. Maybe they were doing that for a reason?
To further add to my confusion, I was recently introduced to http://www.phyticacid.org/ Dr. Amanda Rose has done some interesting research showing that your soaking medium should not contain calcium. She explains that the phytic acid is reduced even more with just a plain water soak, or with an acid medium that does not contain calcium (vinegar, lemon juice, sourdough starter etc). Every soaking recipe I have ever heard called for whey, buttermilk, or kefir. She says that soaking in warm water, or warm water with sourdough starter is more effective. I am planning on purchasing her e-course and research materials, and I will post all about it when I’m through I promise!
HOW TO SOAK GRAINS
1 cup grain
1 cup warm purified water (enough to cover)
2 Tbsp sourdough starter (learn how to make one here) OR lemon juice or vinegar.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl (I mix mine right in the sauce pan that I plan to cook them in) Cover with a lid or cloth and let sit out overnight (or longer). Oatmeal is very high in phytic acid and should be soaked for 24 hours. Anyone who has eaten soaked oatmeal knows that it really does improve the flavor so much, that it is worth it for that reason alone. Soaked grains also cook much faster, which is great for the morning rush.
HOW TO SOAK NUTS
4 cups nuts
filtered water to cover
1 Tbsp sea salt
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and cover with a cloth. Let it sit out at room temperature for 8 hours minimum. I let mine sit overnight. Drain in a colander. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread nuts out in a thin layer. Place in oven on lowest heat (no more than 150 degrees). My oven has a “warm” setting that is 170 degrees, I use this and place a wooden spoon in the oven door so that the door is open 1 inch. The thermometer now reads 144 degrees. Perfect! Dehydrate the nuts for 12-20 hours or until they are crispy and no longer moist at all. I stir them a few times so this goes faster. If you are lucky enough to have room in your kitchen for a dehydrator, use that!
Almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts and peanuts have high amounts of stable oleic acid and can be stored for four months at room temperature (if container is air tight). Walnuts contain unsaturated linolenic acid and should always be stored in the fridge.
So what do you think? Does that sound too difficult for daily cooking? I find that if I plan ahead and stick to my menu planning I have no problem soaking grains. When I don’t make a menu for the week, then I only remember it about 50% of the time. I do a large batch of nuts at once, and that lasts us for 3-4 months or so. Right now, I don’t have a grain grinder, so I am buying sprouted flour. I am really looking forward to grinding my own grains, if I can ever fit that appliance in my budget that would be great!
So hopefully you leave this post feeling a tad bit less confused about grains. I know it is a confusing subject, and I think the more you research health and nutrition the more confused you are going to get. One thing at a time right?