Whole Grains May Not be as Healthy as You Think

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!


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.


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?

Related article

How I remineralized my tooth cavity without dentistry

My favorite soaked oatmeal recipe

Make your own Wild Yeast Sourdough Starter

Characteristics of Traditional Diets


  1. April 16, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    […] more anxiety onto the situation I come across a blog post by ‘A real Food Lover’ -https://arealfoodlover.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/whole-grains-may-not-be-as-healthy-as-you-think/ About The level of phytic acid in whole grains and how it prevents you from absorbing […]

  2. April 16, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    One thing I can contribute is that soaking the grains before cooking makes them more digestible and you are right that soaking and fermenting has a long tradition.

  3. momgonepaleo said,

    April 16, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    I gave up grains entirely. I do soak my nuts for the same reason you do but for me I chose to just not eat grains at all. I dont even miss them anymore but then again my motivation is more than the lectins and the phytic acid. I avoid starch all together in order to avoid the blood sugar roller coaster. This is a very helpful post for those who want to keep grains as a part of their diet. Nice job!

    • April 16, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      I don’t think i would mind much if I gave up grains entirely. I find that when my diet is full of healthy fat and lots of protein at a steady rate through out the day, that I don’t have those crazy sugar/carb cravings. I hardly eat grains at all, and don’t really notice that they’re gone.
      I’m not so sure that Rob could live without his tortillas and sourdough bread though 🙂

      • momgonepaleo said,

        April 16, 2012 at 9:22 PM

        I hear ya! My kids are still carb eaters. We are slowly transitioning. Made zucchini pasta with shrimp tonight and they liked it!

  4. chefconnie said,

    April 16, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    ooo I am reading that book…right away.

  5. April 16, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    Grain soaking is hard. Sometimes there isn’t enough time ahead of time to do so… but I do think it’s really important for proper nutrition and mineral absorption. I have Rami Nagel’s book but wasn’t into phytic acid as much then as I am now. I think I need to re-read it. I am dying to get my hands on Weston A Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. I know it’s a long one but I have been really interested in the tooth decay idea for a while. I like how Rami Nagel puts the info in a cliff’s notes type book, easy to read and understand! Really great post lady!

  6. phoenixrisingpsychics said,

    April 18, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    you might think about rejuvilac your grains….This formula was developed by Ann Wigmore that is fermented hard wheat grains for three days (in warm place, not hot, not cold)…it should bubble when done and smell ‘lemony’…why use rejuvilac? It is fermented and acts like probiotic enzymes to help break down seeds, nuts and other grain proteins to make them more digestible…etc. However, would by pass this completely if you have Celiac’s disease or Crohn’s disease. Personally, down to the potato carb…have trouble giving up the spud…I love them…any of them, sweet or white…Just adore spuds! Anyone else allergic to buckwheat? I itch with those puckers!

  7. Reclaim Reconnect Renew LLC said,

    April 18, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Reblogged this on Reclaim Reconnect Renew LLC and commented:
    This article gives a good summary on how to use grains in the proper fashion. Grains are a very difficult food item for humans to digest. An unhealthy gut cannot tolerate the until healed. A healthy gut needs the grains to be properly prepared.
    The heavily processed foods on the market are not going to be properly perpared and will feed the pathogenic flora.
    Eat grains if you have no digestive issues. If you do have digestive issues grains may be returned carefully to the diet after “healing and sealing” the intestinal tract.

  8. April 19, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    great post. I posted a link to this on my fb page. love all your articles!

  9. April 19, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    how do I reblog an article on my blog?

  10. April 19, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    just figured it out 🙂

  11. April 20, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    […] Whole Grains May Not be as Healthy as You Think (arealfoodlover.wordpress.com) […]

  12. May 7, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    […] mix (I soak and dry the nuts first, then make the […]

  13. April 7, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    […] Eat a diet low in phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient found in grains, seeds, nuts and beans, and actually blocks the absorption of minerals by the body (I will do a full post on this tomorrow). […]

  14. Sayeeda said,

    April 26, 2013 at 6:02 AM

    What do you do with seeds such as linseed, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower, do you soak and dry them to. How long can you keep them once they have been dried and ground as I’ve heard linseed goes rancid after a day when it’s been ground, still confused.

  15. Sayeeda said,

    April 26, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    Do I soak quinoa and amaranth?

  16. Sara Mullaney said,

    August 5, 2013 at 2:34 AM

    I really loved your article about healing your cavities by changing your diet. I’d love to know more about the diet if you wouldn’t mind sharing. I’m on gmail at pugsbysara, please feel free to email me. Thank you so much 🙂

  17. Lisa said,

    August 18, 2013 at 1:24 PM

    I have been following the advice of Karen Hurd http://www.karenhurd.com. She claims it is the soluable fibre — beans, that are missing from our diet. Further, she says, the beans force the liver / pancreas to produce healthy new bile, clearing out the old, and in the process straigthen out hormones, clear heavy metals, and more.
    Would anyone be willing to offer their input on this?

  18. January 3, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    […] Eat a diet low in phytic acid, which is an anti-nutrient found in grains, seeds, nuts and beans, and actually blocks the absorption of minerals by the body (I will do a full post on this tomorrow). […]

  19. Marty said,

    February 1, 2015 at 2:05 AM

    Great post, great information, it can be hard to find this kind of info on the web!! I am currently under taking the same diet and have greatly reduced my consumption of phytic acid through better whole food choices and food combinations. The levels of phytic acid consumed in a modern western diet are dangerous and unhealthy.

    That being said I think its also important to note that grains need not be entirely removed from the diet. If you read Weston Prices’s book and look at some of the case studies about traditional diets you will see that traditionally prepared whole grain sourdough ryes were present in some populations with extremely low rates of tooth decay. Of course they also consumed a lot of raw dairy which when eaten in combination can mitigate some of the phytic acid.

    I only bring this up so that people dont get to scared of a particular nutrient. The goal is not to totally remove it from the diet but to lower it considerably. Low levels of phytic acid in the diet have proven health benifits. It is an anti oxidant. Its also important to remember that food and how we react to it is an incredibly complex system. Everything in moderation is key. The hard part is always finding out how much is a healthy amount, but the answer is rarely 0 with any nutrient. Using only white flour because of the risks of phytic acids is a modern type approach to the problem. Personally I would say if you are going to eat wheat at all than eat whole wheat because it has many other useful nutrients but of course take care not to consume too much and try to combine it with things that help mitigate phytic acid. And make sure it is well fermented like a sourdough. White flour is so devoid of nutrients even rats will avoid it. It is essentially empty calories, an industrial invention. It is milled this way specifically because it has a long shelf live because it lacks nutrients.

    Personally I limit my consumption of grains a lot and when I do eat something like bread its homemade organic whole wheat (or rye) sourdough which is shown to have much lower levels of phytic acid than unfermented breads.

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