If you have ever thought you might have an intolerance to grains or wheat, in particular, you may be surprised to find out that you can eat foods containing sprouted or soaked grains.
Sprouted grains are a raw, living food with enzymes intact, and therefore contains more nutrients and is easier to digest. Soaked grains are those that have been soaked overnight in water with some type of catalyst such as apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt or kefir which neutralizes the phytic acid in the grain to render it more digestible.
Both soaked and sprouted grains are full of nutrients needed by the body, and those elements are made more available because the process of soaking or sprouting achieves the following amazing transformation –
Protein and fiber content goes up while reducing enzyme inhibitors, total carbohydrates, and anti-nutrient content – which occurs in all grains.
The process of sprouting actually alters the state of the grain from a starch into a vegetable. How magnificent is that??
What’s so bad about the refined, processed types of grains? Many of these foods are extruded (damaged through processing, which renders them indigestible) and stripped of most of their nutrients. Also, the bran and germ are removed during processing. The method of processing most flours causes over half of the the vitamins B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fibre to be removed. These types of grains are the ones you’ll most likely find in the grocery store in the form of these foods – most breads, cereals, crackers, bagels, English Muffins, pastas, desserts, and any other food you might find that is packaged containing grains.
What happens when a person eats refined grains over time? Eating refined grains has dire effects on your health. It directly contributes to many health issues like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and a host of auto-immune disorders which are more common than most people believe.
There are many people diagnosed with a wheat allergy or celiac disease who, because they are told they can no longer eat wheat or gluten, begin to start eating breads and other grain products containing alternative grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, millet, amaranth, sorghum flour, rice flour, and even almond or hazelnut flour, or soy flour. The problem with “alternative” grains or flours is that since they are processed and nutrients are still locked in the food (due to phytic acid content), over time consuming those foods will also cause health problems. Read more about gluten-free mania and how it is primarily a marketing term used to sell products to consumers.
Why should you soak and sprout grains? Doesn’t it take too much time? What if my schedule is too busy? Well, our ancestors prepared grains, legumes, seeds, and rices in the traditional way of sprouting. Sprouted foods contain as much as ten to twenty times more nutrients than their processed counterparts. Historical evidence shows that over 2000 years ago, wheat seeds were processed (not soaked or sprouted) and eaten by people. However, this practice was done only in times of famine or by large groups of people on the move such as armies. The predominant practice of eating grains included soaking and sprouting.
So yes, it does take a bit more time and planning. But the nutritional benefits you gain by soaked and sprouted grains is significant! It’s enough of a difference that once you understand just how unhealthy eating processed grains is, you may never want to go back to eating them.
Here are some important reasons why soaking grains is helpful for your health:
- Soaking and sprouting alters the composition of starches in grain. This converts starch sugars into vegetable sugars – making it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients because they are in vegetable form, not grain form.
- The process of soaking and sprouting creates enzymes to help your body digest the food. It breaks down complex sugars so absorption of nutrients increases, and abdominal issues decrease (i.e., bloating, cramping, and bowel problems).
- The presence of phytic acid in grains is neutralized through soaking and sprouting. Phytic acid actually inhibits absorption of important minerals like magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, and copper. It also prevents enzyme inhibitors and carcinogens contained in phytic acid from having free-reign in the body.
You can choose to buy processed grains at the store and greatly increase the chances you will develop chronic health problems over time, or you can learn about the traditional methods of preparing and serving grains at home that are healthier and over time will yield much better health for you and your family.
How do you soak grains?
This is something anyone can do, even someone who is not terribly comfortable in the kitchen. Here’s what to do:
1. Place the seeds or grains in a large pot overnight in filtered water. To help neutralize the phytic acid in the grains, use a bit of plain, whole milk yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, or a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Cover the container with a clean towel.
2. When you come to look at your grains after soaking overnight, you will notice that your grains have expanded and some, if not all of the liquid, has soaked into your grains. Pour grains into a colander or sieve and rinse with filtered water.
If you want to use your soaked grains for hot cereal, you can now pour your rinsed grains into a pot and add a bit of fresh, filtered water. Cook your grains on the stove.
If you would like to continue on to the sprouting process, rinse the seeds or grains two to three times daily until you see sprouts forming. Sprouts should be about a quarter inch in length. Here is a wonderful description of this process from GNOFGLINS. She explains it much better than I can, since I have not yet attempted this procedure. All grains and seeds take different times to complete the sprouting process.
You can use your sprouts fresh or you can dehydrate them to use in breads or for baking purposes. If you’d like to dehydrate the sprouts, rinse them one more time and place them in a dehydrator (Excalibur is a great brand and you can buy one for just over $100). This process can take four to six hours. Avoid using the oven as the lowest temperature on most ovens is about 170 degrees. Dehydration temperatures generally need to be at around 150 degrees. Use them right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
What about the taste? Don’t worry, flavor and texture won’t be compromised in sprouted and soaked grains. In fact, I think the quality is better than conventionally processed breads and grain products. And remember, taste and texture vary widely in different preparations of soaked and sprouted grains and breads.
Looking for places to buy sprouted flours and breads?
Here are some good resources.
I’d love to hear your comments and reviews of any of these products: