If you read anything about cooking or preparing food you’ve probably heard something about soaking or sprouting grains. From packaged “sprouted wheat” bread to sprouted lentils or mung beans at Costco, sprouting beans and grains has been making headlines.
What’s the difference between soaking and sprouting?
What are the benefits of each, and the differences in benefits?
And what about souring?
It’s all very confusing. Soaking, sprouting and souring all have similar (and overlapping) functions: to neutralize anti-nutrients such as phytic acid, use up some of the starch, and make the nutrients more bio-available.
Soaking is the easiest thing to do and can be done to all grains as long as you start early and make a habit out of it. If you’re going to eat something, you might as well get the biggest nutritional punch out of it that you can, right?
So how do you soak grains? The concept is really easy: you basically just soak them in water with some sort of acidic medium to activate the process.
You take the whole, raw grains and place them in a bowl (like the VitaClay pot) and pour in warm water. One way you can continue this is to put it in the VitaClay housing and turn on “warm” for a few minutes, and then let it sit in there sealed for a few hours. It keeps it warm for a long time, and I find it’s the most efficient way to soak grains.
The acidic medium can be lemon juice, a splash of vinegar, or a bit of whey from your latest batch of yogurt. I usually also sprinkle a little salt in there which keeps it acidic and inhibits any bacteria growth.
This is beneficial for every type of raw grain, seed, nut, bean and legume. Keep in mind pretty much any grains, seeds, nuts beans or legumes that you find in the store that are ready to eat (cooked, canned, or roasted) are not going to be pre-soaked.
The only grain I’ve read about that is any different than the others is rice. Brown rice is the only rice that needs to be soaked, since it still contains the bran, or outer layer of the grain. It seems rice is resistant to soaking, but the phytic acid will break down over time.
Soak your raw brown rice, then when you drain the water from the soaked rice, save it. (I put it in a labeled jar in the fridge). Then the next time you soak whole-grain rice, use the same water. Something in that water will make it break down faster each time, so I’m just constantly using the same “rice water” when I soak my rice.
When you’re finished soaking, just drain, rinse and add your broth or cooking liquid to cook (I love to cook rice in brothto boost the nutritional profile and flavor). An added bonus is that it usually cuts cooking time down by about half as well as making your food more digestible and your nutrients more bio-available.
While soaking may add another step to the cooking process, and you have to start a few hours or a day early to have it ready for when you'd like to cook, the results are worth the wait: the cooking time is reduced, the flavor and digestibility is enhanced, and the anti-nutrients are neutralized, opening up the vitamins and minerals from the food to be absorbed by our bodies.
Once you begin to incorporate this easy step into your routine, it will become like second nature, and you will notice the health benefits and flavor differences right away.