Thursday, June 18, 2009

Soaking Grains... Why?

Soaking whole wheat flour for pancakes

I want to take the time to explain a nourishing practice that I consider important to our health. Many recipes that I am planning to share with you in the near future will call for “soaking” of whole grains and flours. Read on and enjoy the benefits of adding this practice to your daily diet.

Why Soak Whole Grains

We all know that whole grain food have many nutritional advantages compare to refined flours. Whole grains retain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are very important to our health.

Unfortunely, in all whole grains there are enzyme inhibitors that interferes with digestion and other natural substances that blocks you from absorbing all of those important minerals and vitamins.

Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid, for example, is an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound. It is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.

Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness.
-Be Kind To Your Grains

BUT…thankfully, there is a solution!

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. Nourishing Traditions… By Sally Fallon

So, for all those who have digestive troubles when eating whole grains, this could be part of the answer for you. For the rest of us, it will help make sure we don’t develop digestive issues and insure that we are able to fully absorb all of those vitamins and minerals we can get in our whole grains!

How To Soak The Grains

It’s quite simple.

The first thing to do for preparation is to soak the whole grain flour in an acid medium and liquid. Basically, soak all the flour with the liquid ingredients and add 1 Tbsp of an acid medium per cup of liquid called for in the recipe.

Acid mediums (dairy acid mediums must be cultured):
-cultured buttermilk
-cultured yogurt
-lemon juice

Brown rice, buckwheat and millet:
low phytate content and only need to be soaked for 7 hours.

Whole wheat, spelt, oats, kamut and others:
higher levels of phytate content and should be soaked for 12-24 hour.
Oats are said to be the highest and therefore best soaked for 24 hours.

Second, leave your grains to soak at room temperature on your counter or in your oven (I do that to keep bugs out…we’ve got lots of ‘em here). Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a plate to prevent drying (especially when making dough).

Third, after you’ve soaked the grains… add the remaining ingredients and proceed with the recipe.

Like I said… it’s quite simple. These are the basic guidelines and I have personally found that it not much more work to add this step. Just need to think ahead. It is definitely worth it for our family’s health.

A great bonus I’ve found in soaking grains is how the liquids absorbs and expands the grains… making a larger quantity in the end. This is especially true when I soak our oatmeal. It increases the quantity, more satisfying and very filling as well. I love how it really helps the food budget because we eat less and gain more nutrients in the process.

To wrap this up… soaked whole grains, overall, are much more satisfying and fill you up longer than processed flours or unsoaked grains. More nutrients being taken in and less money being spend! Sounds good to me!


  1. I have started soaking our wheat flour for bread making and my children are having a hard time gettignused to the sour flavor. Do you think yogurt is the most mild?

  2. I am not a fan of boxed cereals. Why not have a couple tablespoons of sugar for breakfast instead? No matter how they try to market it as a healthy breakfast. It's a processed food and nutritionally defficient. sadly it is hard to escape the heavy tv marketing that targets kids. In an ideal world it would be great if my kids never even knew that this stuff existed but I must raise them to live in the real world. So in this house cereal is not served for breakfast but is called by it's rightful name, dessert or snack! It's a high sugar snack and it is given as a treat in moderation much the same as ice-cream, or any other dessert on rare occasions.

  3. Thanks for both the recipe and the method. I'm just reading the Nourishing Traditions chapter on soaking grains, so I'm trying to figure out a lot of things, like soaking flour or grains for flours. This method sounds simple and should be easy to fit into my routine (which seems to be half the battle.)

  4. I am wondering if I am going to have oatmeal (hot) in the morning do I still need to soak it before I cook it on the stove top?

    1. Hello Sarah,
      yes, that is correct. I often start soaking my oatmeal the morning before. That way it will get about 24 hours of soaking. Sometime if I forget, I soak it the night before I plan to eat it. Enjoy!! We love it!

  5. I'm just now learning about soaking grains. I've just heard about it. Am I correct in reading that you soak the grain in the liquid that the recipe calls for then add an additional tbsp of acid medium? No draining of liquid is needed?

    Thank you for your post!

    1. Shannan- yes, that is correct. If you are soaking your grains in cultured dairy, there is no need to add the additional tbsp of acid medium. But if you are soaking your grains in water... then you will need to add the acid medium. Glad to help you out! Hope you enjoy this new process of traditionally preparing your grains!

  6. Hi Ok sorry but what acid medium is it. Thank you

    1. Hello Karla, I'm not sure I understand your question... but I will answer what I think you are asking.

      In the post I listed all the liquids you can use to soak your grains with. My preferred method is sourdough now... but I also like using raw apple cider vinegar. Hope that answers your question!

  7. Hi it says that the dairy acid medium must be cultured....the whey that we get from leaving raw milk out for that considered cultured? Also if we separate curd and whey by using lemon...will the whey considered cultured as well even though the raw milk hasn't turned sour/ left out for days....

    1. Hello Jesslyn! Yes, the whey from leaving out milk is cultured because you start out clabbering the milk and then it turns to cream cheese and whey. I don't think you can use the whey from separating the curds and whey because it isn't considered cultured. But don't toss it out!! Give it to your animals... it is still a very good by-product!


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