significance of soaking

Soaking: nuts, seeds, grains and legumes

Maybe you have heard about soaking and aren't quite sure what it's all about, perhaps it seems like too much work, OR you have no idea what I am talking about. Now, hopefully I have you wondering... "What's the deal with this soaking business?" "Why do we need to soak?" Well as nature has it nuts, seeds, grains and legumes contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which keep the seed protected until the right growing conditions (that would be sufficient rain and sunshine) are available for it to sprout into a plant. Phytic acid, also know as phytate, is the storage form of phosphorous in plants and is present in the out layer in most seeds, nuts, grains and legumes. Humans, unlike ruminating mammals (cattle, goats and sheep)-aren't able to digest phytates. The other trouble with phytic acid is that is has a tendency to bind to vitamins and minerals- like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc-and block their absorption in the small intestine. This can essentially wreak havoc on the digestive system. So...if you are someone that has a hard time digesting nuts, grains and legumes, perhaps soaking can provide some relief and assist in gaining more of the nutrients.

Soaking and sprouting seeds has long been a traditional cooking method for grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Through soaking, the seeds are hydrated and the germination process begins, which helps break down the anti-nutrient properties found in enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. Nutrients begin to break down into their simplest form that can improve digestion. It also neutralizes phytic acid so that you are better able to absorb the nutritional value from these delightful foods. Additionally, soaking increases the vitamin B and carotene content.

There are various theories on soaking. It can seem pretty daunting at first, but is actually a pretty simple preparation. Below, we will look at some of the frequently asked questions along with some accessible and time effective suggestions for preparing grains, seeds, nuts and legumes.

Why soak? (Some of the health benefits)
  • Support proper digestion by neutralizing disruptive enzyme inhibitors that prohibit good digestive behavior
  • Increase the vitamin content, specifically B vitamins
  • Aid enzyme production that enhances the ability to break down and absorb nutrients
  • Help prevent mineral deficiencies by reducing or minimizing phytic acid
  • Begin process of breaking down nutrients into simplest form for improved digestion and assimilation
  • Reduce gas and indigestion that can be associated with consumption of nuts and legumes
What to soak:
Legumes, seeds, nuts and grains

How to:
  • Fill glass bowl, mason jar or ceramic container 1/3-1/2 full (avoid plastic as it can leach into water). *Note-Nuts, legumes and grains will absorb water and expand so be sure to give the plenty of room to swell.
  • Fill the rest of the container with room temperature filtered water.
  • You may add 1 teaspoon of salt for nuts and seeds.
  • For grains and legumes you can add lemon juice or whey to further the process of breaking down the enzyme inhibitors (optional).
Suggested soaking times: 
Soaking times vary. If you are interested in going a step further with sprouting or want more details on soaking times, go here:  As a general rule I like to soak overnight.

Nuts           6-12 hours
Seeds         6-8 hours (2-4 hours for chia seeds)
Grains        12-24 hours
Legumes    24-48 hours

Short on time?
No problem. You can still soak for less than the suggested time. Even rinsing several times can help start the process, so if you didn't plan your meal in advance, don't worry. Give them a good rinse or soak them for 15 minutes or so. Don't sweat the small stuff!

What next?
After soaking you will need to rinse them several times and drain the excess water.

For seeds and nuts: 
If you wish to consume the seeds and nuts in the soaked state (eat them raw) you may want to soak in small amounts so they don't go rancid. The best option is to slow roast them in the oven on lowest heat or in a dehydrator for 24-48 hours. This helps to keep the enzymes and nutrients alive and makes delicious crispy nuts. You can also lay them out in the sun if you live somewhere warm and dry.

For grains and legumes:
Be sure to discard the soaked water and cook in fresh water. You may need to reduce the water to grain ratio if you have soaked for more than 4 hours. For smaller grains like quinoa you might find that a 1:1 ratio will work best. Legumes are best soaking for longer periods. Soaking can decrease the cooking time. The first time you cook soaked grains and legumes be attentive to the cooking process. Adding kombu or kelp seaweed in the bottom of the pot for cooking grains and legumes will add nutrients, reduce cooking time and improve flavor and digestion.

Now get to soaking! Any questions? Let me know how it goes.




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