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Why You Should Start Soaking Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds

· Real Food,Blog,Cooking,Ancestral Food

Soaking beans, grains, nuts, and seeds is a practice used in traditional cultures for many centuries. In the era of fast and easy food prep, this step has been largely forgotten, but it’s making a comeback as we learn how important it is to properly prepare these foods.

The Health Benefits of Soaking Beans, Grains, Nuts, and Seeds

Your body will thank you when you start soaking these foods before cooking. Here are just a few important things that happen when you soak beans, grains, nuts, and seeds:

Soaking Breaks Down Phytic Acid

Grains, nuts, legumes, and seeds are all high in phytic acid, which binds to important nutrients like iron, zinc, and calcium. This makes it impossible for your body to absorb these nourishing minerals. This can actually lead to nutrient deficiencies over time (source). 

Soaking and sprouting are the best ways to greatly reduce the phytic acid content in your beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Soaking activates enzymes that break down phytic acid. The longer the soaking process, the more phytic acid is removed from your foods.

Soaking Breaks Down Hard-to-Digest Compounds

Did you ever experience gas, bloating, or digestive upset after consuming beans, nuts, or whole grains? These symptoms are often caused by irritating compounds that are difficult for our digestive system to break down. Some people are especially sensitive to these compounds, which can cause even more digestive woes! 

What are these hard-to-digest compounds?

  • Tannins: astringent substances that restrict digestive enzymes
  • Enzyme Inhibitors: these compounds block important digestive enzymes that help you digest food and absorb nutrients
  • Lectins: can damage the gut walls and cause digestive discomfort
  • Cellulose: an indigestible fiber that causes bloating and gas
  • Gluten: a difficult to digest protein that causes digestive issues

Luckily, soaking helps break down and reduce the presence of these irritating substances! If you’ve given up eating foods like beans and whole grains because of digestive issues, soaking could make a world of difference for your gut health.

Basic Soaking Instructions for Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds

Once you’ve done it a few times, soaking becomes second nature and is very easy to do. Here are some simple tips and instructions you can follow for best results:

General Tips

  • Purchase organic options.
  • Always soak beans, grains, nuts and seeds in their raw state, which helps activate enzymes that break down phytic acid and irritating compounds.
  • To really reduce the negative compounds, you’ll want to let things soak for at least 7 hours. Some foods benefit from soaking as long as 12-24 hours (see more below).
  • Longer soaking time is also better if you have digestive issues so that more compounds are broken down during the soaking process.
  • Use plenty of water, as most beans, grains, nuts, and seeds will expand during the soak.
  • You’ll need to add a small amount of salt or an acidic medium to facilitate soaking (more on that below).

Soaking Beans

  • Soak in cold water for 8-24 hours before cooking.
  • For more effective soaking (especially if you have digestive issues), add one tablespoon of an acidic medium (apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or whey liquid).
  • Pour out and refill the soaking water 2-3 times during the process for even more effective results.
  • Lentils and split peas need to soak for about 10 hours.
  • Chickpeas, black beans, white beans, pinto beans, navy beans, and kidney beans need 18-24 hours of soaking time.
  • Always drain, rinse well, and add new water before cooking.

Soaking Nuts and Seeds

  • Nuts should be soaked in saltwater. Use about one teaspoon of sea salt per two cups of nuts. Dissolve the salt into the water and then pour over the nuts or seeds.
  • After soaking, dehydrate nuts in a food dehydrator (or the oven at the lowest temperature) for 6-12 hours or until dry. Check out my 

Super-Charged Snack: Almonds post for more details. 

  • Sunflower seeds and cashews only need to be soaked for 3-6 hours.
  • Other nuts and seeds should be soaked for at least 7 hours (including pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts and peanuts).
  • Soaking Grains:
  • Most grains (wheat, oats, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, brown rice) should be soaked for 7-12 hours (up to 24 if you have digestive issues).
  • Add 1-2 tablespoons of an acidic medium (apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, whey liquid, kefir, or yogurt) to your water.
  • Always drain, rinse well, and add new water before cooking.

Will you be incorporating this ancestral food preparation technique? It's really easy! You just have to think ahead a few hours. Let me know your favorite recipes for beans, grains, nuts & seeds. PS. We are 100% gluten-free here. 😉