I used to eat a lot of grains, but over the last few years I’ve heard more and more negative things about a diet high in grains, especially wheat. So I made a point of cutting back and upped my intake of nuts, seeds, beans and legumes to help “take up the slack.” Then I found out that all 4 food groups contained phytic acid, which, it turns out, can cause all sorts of problems for the body. So, unfortunately, I apparently hadn’t been eating as healthy as I thought.
How depressing! It’s one thing to know something is bad for you and decide to eat it anyway, but another thing to think you are doing what’s healthy and find out otherwise. And nuts, seeds and beans are high in nutrients and good sources of protein, so I didn’t want to give them up, which is why I was glad to find out that soaking and/or sprouting can go a long way to decrease the level of phytic acid and other toxic substances and nutritional inhibitors, and increase beneficial enzymes and vitamins in the foods and make them more easily digestible. Woohoo!
Here’s an article that will help explain everything….
By: Delicia Beaty and Sharon Foutch from FoodMatters.tv
Soaking nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes
Nature has set it up so that the nut, grain and seed may survive until proper growing conditions are present. Nature’s defense mechanism includes nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances that can be removed naturally when there is enough precipitation to sustain a new plant after the nut, grain or seed germinates. When it rains, the nut, grain or seed gets wet and can then germinate to produce a plant. So we are mimicking nature when we soak our nuts, grains and seeds.
Nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances found in nuts, grains and seeds can be minimized or eliminated by soaking. These inhibitors and toxic substances are enzyme inhibitors, phytates (phytic acid), polyphenols (tannins), and goitrogens.
What are Enzyme inhibitors?
There are digestive enzymes and metabolic enzymes. Digestive enzymes help break down food. Metabolic enzymes help every biological process the body does. Enzyme inhibitors will clog, warp or denature an active site of an enzyme. They may also bind to the enzyme, which will prevent the intended molecule from binding. “Once again, the habits of traditional peoples should serve as a guide. They understood instinctively that nuts are best soaked or partially sprouted before eaten. This is because nuts contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that can put a real strain on the digestive mechanism if consumed in excess.”
What are Phytates?
“All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer or bran. 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 unfermented 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.”
*Personal note: This may help explain how/why I ended up being diagnosed with anemia, calcium, magnesium and zinc deficiencies, plus degenerative bone loss a number of years ago. I grew up eating lots of grains and used large amounts of wheat and oat bran to add fiber to my diet. At the time all this seemed like a healthy thing to do. 😦
Why soak nuts, grains and seeds?
- 1. To remove or reduce phytic acid.
- 2. To remove or reduce tannins.
- 3. To neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
- 4. To encourage the production of beneficial enzymes.
- 5. To increase the amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins.
- 6. To break down gluten and make digestion easier.
- 7. To make the proteins more readily available for absorption.
- 8. To prevent mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
- 9. To help neutralize toxins in the colon and keep the colon clean.
- 10. To prevent many health diseases and conditions.
“Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amount of many vitamins, especially B vitamins. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.”
What can be used to soak nuts, grains and seeds?
I have found many references to soaking nuts, grains, and seeds in water, salt water, or a warm water mixture with something *acidic like yogurt, whey or lemon juice. It seems within 7 to 24 hours the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized and the anti-nutrients are broken down regardless of the method you choose. There is evidence that the process works when you see sprouting begin.
*Personal Note: I’ve also read you can use ACV.
How long does the soaking process take?
“As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits.” “Flour products should be soaked at room temperature for at least twelve hours, but better results may be obtained with a twenty-four hour soaking.”
Are the nuts, grains and seeds used wet?
I have enjoyed almonds wet. If you choose to try consuming anything in the soaked state, make little batches and store them in the refrigerator. Usually everything that is soaked is dried in a dehydrator or oven on the lowest possible setting for 24 – 48 hours to remove all moisture.
Wheat berries can be soaked whole for 8 to 22 hours, then drained and rinsed. Some recipes use the whole berries while they are wet, such as cracker dough ground right in the food processor. You can also dry sprouted wheat berries in a low-temperature oven or dehydrator, and then grind them in your grain mill and use the flour in a variety of recipes. Nuts, grains, seeds and legumes can be ground up to use as flour in many recipes after they have been dried.
Any advice on what to do with legumes?
Maureen Diaz recommends soaking any beans or legumes in water and vinegar for at least twelve hours before cooking. Soaked and dried beans may be ground up and used as flour for thickening and baking. This is helpful for those on a gluten-free diet.
One recommendation includes placing soaked kombu or kelp seaweed in the bottom of the pot when soaking legumes. Add one part seaweed to six or more parts legumes. This is for improved flavor and digestion, more nutrients, and faster cooking. “Soak legumes for twelve hours or overnight in four parts water to one part legume. For best results, change the water once or twice. Lentils and whole dried peas require shorter soaking, while soybeans and garbanzos need to soak longer. Soaking softens skins and begins the sprouting process, which eliminates phytic acid, thereby making more minerals available. Soaking also promotes faster cooking and improved digestibility, because the gas-causing enzymes and tri-saccharides in legumes are released into the soak water. Be sure to discard the soak water. After bringing legumes to a boil, scoop off and discard foam. Continue to boil for twenty minutes without lid at beginning of cooking to let steam rise (breaks up and disperses indigestible enzymes).”
Source (pdf): wss.nourishingconnections.org
PERSONAL NOTE: I highly recommend using structured water for soaking because it has the ability to neutralize anything that would be non-beneficial to the body.
And here’s an excerpt and chart that also addresses the issue of phytic acid; it’s from my post on pumpkin seeds:
–….In the article by Dr. Mercola it mentioned that pumpkin seeds, like grains, nuts and seeds, contain phytic acid that can cause a number of health problems and render nutrients less bio-available. That’s why whenever you eat any of these types of foods you should really soak and/or sprout them first to help lower phytic acid.
Soaking the seeds at home is one way to get around the issue of phytic acid; another way is to buy Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds. That way the work is already done for you and they are the best tasting seeds I’ve ever had. The only problem is you may have a hard time stopping with just a handful! They aren’t cheap, but they are nutrient dense, so a little goes a long way. And you can get them at a discount from iHerb.com (use code CJG192, if you are a new customer, and spend more than $40 and you will get $5 off your purchase). Plus, shipping is free on orders of $20, AND you get an extra 5% off on orders over $60.
You can also get them at Vitacost, which is another favorite store of mine for health supplements, many food items, and personal care products. Great discount prices, ever-expanding inventory, free shipping on $49 and up, and if you sign-up for an account at Rakuten (formerly eBates) and then shop there (or at iHerb or 100s of other stores), thru the Rakuten portal, you will get a $10 reward for your first order of $25, plus earn cash back from the store where you’re shopping. And Rakuten now has an easy to activate “Shop Smarter” button that lets you know when you are on a site that offers cash back. Great idea!
FYI, Go Raw also makes sprouted sunflower, watermelon, and flax seeds, plus a spicy seed mix. With flax seeds being touted so regularly as something everyone should add to their diet, I think it’s good for people to know that they are really not easily digestible unless they are sprouted, otherwise you are missing out on a lot of their nutritional value. So I’m grateful that they are now available already sprouted, in case we forget to, or don’t want to, take the time and effort to soak and sprout them ourselves.
Read the rest of the post:
And here are a couple of more links for learning about the pluses and minuses of phytic acid and ways to off-set it:
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Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.