Cooking & Health

Why should I soak grains, beans, nuts, and seeds?

A Answers (1)

  • AMargaret Floyd, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered
    All grains, as well as beans, nuts, and seeds, have something called phytic acid in them. Phytic acid plays an important role as a protective coating that prevents the grain from breaking down prematurely. Ultimately, the grain’s biological purpose isn’t to make us delicious bread, but to create another plant. It’s biologically designed to hold together until surrounded by moist, rich soil. Phytic acid keeps the grain fresh until it’s in this environment.

    Nutritionally speaking, phytic acid is an antinutrient, something in our food that interferes with the absorption of other nutrients. In this case, those nutrients are important minerals -- iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Phytic acid binds with these minerals, making them unavailable to us. It also inhibits the enzymes pepsin, amylase, and trypsin, all of which are needed for the proper digestion of both protein and carbohydrates. This means it’s more challenging for our bodies to digest our dinner when phytic acid is present

    The most basic way to neutralize these antinutrients is to soak the grain, bean, nut, or seed. An easy and basic example of this is oatmeal. Instead of putting the water and oats in the pot first thing in the morning, put them in the pot the night before. In the morning, simply turn on the heat to low, and you have your oatmeal -- minus most of the phytic acid. You can also soak grain in liquids other than just water. Traditional muesli is made by soaking oats, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit in either yogurt or raw milk for up to two to three days.

    Another common example is rice. When making a pot of rice, I'll set it to soak it in some water and leave it for at least eight hours. Before cooking the rice, I drain and rinse it. Then I add the required amount of water (or stock) for cooking, bring it to a boil, and proceed as normal.

    You can (and, I would argue, should) soak any grain, bean, nut, or seed before using it. Admittedly, certain grains don't contain as many antinutrients -- these are the gluten-free grains such as rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat. So if you're not able to set aside the time for soaking, these are the grains to choose.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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