Moderate consumption of certain whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes can be a healthy part of the diet, provided they are properly prepared.
Whole grains, nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients which include phytates (phytic acid), enzyme inhibitors, polyphenols (tannins), and goitrogens. These anti-nutrients protect plants seeds from premature germination, predators, and invasion by microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi).
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the GI tract and block their absorption. Phytic acid also has the potential to block protein absorption. Thus, a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to mineral deficiencies and cause a wide range of health problems including digestive irritability, impaired immune function, allergies, skin irritation, tooth decay, bone loss, anemia, and hormonal disruption.
Enzyme inhibitors can impair digestions and put stress on the pancreas, depleting the body of valuable enzymes, leading to insulin resistance, immune suppression, and allergies.
Once the plant seed germinates, the anti-nutrients are naturally deactivated. Soaking mimics the natural germination process, breaking down the phytic acid and neutralizing enzyme inhibitors.As an added bonus, vital proteins, vitamins (B mostly), enzymes and minerals found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes are released, making them available for absorption by the GI tract.
Below are some general soaking guidelines. A good indicator of sufficient soaking is the beginning of sprouting. For more specific soaking times please click here.
For grains, soak in warm water with an acidic medium (liquid whey, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) for 12 – 24 hours to release the phytic acid.
Nuts and seeds contain less phytic acid, yet they are high in enzyme inhibitors. Soak in warm water with sea salt for about 12 -18 hours to help deactivate the enzyme inhibitors.
Beans should be soaked in hot water (120-130 degrees) with an acidic medium for 24 – 48 hours.
After soaking drain the water, and rinse thoroughly.
Even though at first this extra step may seem a bit tedious and will require some planning ahead, soon it will become second nature as you begin to reap the benefits of sprouted grains.