It is a huge accomplishment and something to give yourself credit for when you make the switch to from white flour products and refined grains to whole grain flour and grain products. I love when I hear about people snacking on almonds instead of potato chips. You are doing your body a big service by ditching the refined stuff that does nothing for you (except rob you of much minerals & upset your blood sugar), yet, there are other important steps to preparing grains, nuts and legumes, that must eventually be incorporated into any holistic lifestyle approach. Without taking these steps, those whole grains may actually lead to mineral deficiencies and associated issues such as tooth decay! Not what you are going for!
Grains, nut and legumes contain anti-nutrients (substances that interfere with nutrient absorption or cause us to lose more nutrients than we gain by eating them) such as phytic acid (phytates) & lectins, the primary anti-nutrients I am going to focus on in this post. These anti-nutrients bind important minerals and prevent them from being absorbed as well as can act as enzyme inhibitors, interfering with digestion. The good news is that there are plenty of things we can do when preparing foods to minimize the presence of phytates and lectins.
Firstly, let's deal with the issue of trying to neutralize or reduce the overall amount of phytates in our grains, legumes and nuts. There is an enzyme called phytase that neutralizes phytates. Human's do not produce enough of it to safely consume high volumes of phytates, and different grains contain varying levels of the enzyme. Furthermore, heat destroys it. For grains, sprouting (malting) reduces some of the phytates by activating phytase, but fermentation is the best way to reduce the most phytates. I generally try and sprout my grains, or start with a sprouted flour and then put that up for a long soak with sourdough starter, freshly ground rye flour (rye contains the most phytase enzyme) or whey before cooking. Oats contain almost no phytase and require a very long soak with rye starter. Rice also contains very little and requires a long soak in hot water (a mason jar with a lid will do). Be sure to cook brown rice in bone broth with kombu sea-weed and add a generous amount of butter. Remember, we are not trying to eliminate all phytates, but simply trying to reduce them to safe and acceptable levels.
For beans, sprouting seems to reduce phytates the best. Soak your beans over night and then sprout them using proper sprouting guidelines for 2-5 days. When my beans are finished sprouting, I soak them again for 12-24 hours in warm water with a few tablespoons of whey before cooking.
Nuts require a long soak (18 hours) before dehydrating and a light roasting to minimize phytates as much as possible. It is not recommended to eat more than a handful of nuts or seeds per day- especially if they have not been properly soaked first.
Here is a table to help you remember general soaking guidelines:
|Grain/Legume||Soaking Times||Neutralizer & Water Amount||Cooking Guidelines|
|Rice & millet||8-12 hours minimum||at least twice as much water: grain||40-60 minutes|
|Quinoa||24 hours min w/ 1x rinse||1:3 water + 1 Tbsp acid (whey, ACV)||30min|
|Oats||12-24hours||warm, add acidic, add rye||20-40min|
|All other grains||12-24 hours||1:2 water; add something acidic||20-60 min|
|Lentils||7-24 hours, warm||add whey, APV or lemon juice||45-60min|
|Garbanzos||24-48 hours in warm (rinse every 7 hrs)||Add whey, ACV, or lemon juice||4-6 hours, shorter the longer soaked|
|Kidey-shaped beans||18-24 hours warm||recommend to use 2 Tbsp Baking Soda for every cup||Simmer 4 hours or until soft|
|Nuts & seedstd>||18-24 hours warm||Add salt & something acidic||Dehydrate & gentle roast|
The soaking and fermenting of these foods will help reduce anti-nutrients such as phytates and lectins and increase the available mineral content of the foods. To minimize the risk of these anti-nutrients further, cook with bone broth and sea-weeds for added minerals, add grass-fed butter and make sure your diet contains plenty of vitamin D, vitamin A and Vitamin C. These nutrients have all been shown in studies to help mitigate the effects of phytates. For example, vitamin D is used up in the body to reduce impacts by phytates and consuming extra vitamin D had a positive effect on phytate impact. For more information on this, research the Mellenby Studies.
Soaking and fermenting grains and beans may seem like a lot of work- but once you start doing it, you'll realize that it actually saves you cooking time and improves the flavors in the food- two added bonuses that make it well worth the extra few minutes it requires to improve the nutritional content of your food!