Relearning Traditional Wisdom
I learned about soaking grains and nuts after college- a time when the bulk of my diet came from the cereal aisle or a trail-mix bag. College was also a time I found myself perpetually bloated with painful cramping attacks, inconsistent bowel movements, and constant confusion about my digestive situation: How could this be? I was eating so healthy- all these whole grains, nuts, and veggies - so why am I in so much pain?
Fast forward a few years to my first time seeing a Nutritional Therapist Practitioner (NTP). Diagnosed with IBS at a very young age, I was quite familiar with the routine visit to the doctor. This experience, however, was unlike any other. It was the first time a health professional spent more than 15 minutes asking me questions about my actual diet and lifestyle. My NTP spent a whole hour engaging me in detective-like work, digging deeper into my relationship with food and self. With his thorough, thoughtful questions, he was cluing me into the obvious (but overlooked) truth that if we don’t talk about our problems, they will never go away.
My visits to my NTP inspired a whole new trajectory for my health journey. Whereas I had previously been hyper-focused on herbal medicine (which is pretty easy to do because healing plants are amazing!!!), I realized now that if I didn’t seriously address my diet, then all my herb allies could never live up to their potential, and nor would I! I decided to become an NTP myself, and with it, I have acquired a whole new library of research and techniques focusing on ancestral preparation of food, bio-individuality, and intuitive eating.
Which brings us to the main point of the article:
SOAKING GRAINS AND SEEDS This ancient technique has gotten lost in the hustle-bustle of modern life, but there is a growing wealth of science-driven information confirming traditional wisdom. In this article, I am just going to focus on a few main points and give you the full-proof recipe for QUINOA, but check my resources for further research.
What Are Anti-nutrients?
The name says it all: anti-nutrients are highly biologically active substances that impede the absorption of nutrients and micronutrients, interfering with optimal organ function. Interestingly, they are found in virtually all seeds, nuts, grains and legumes and serve as a sort of defense mechanism for the plant to combat predation. These substances protect the plant’s offspring from being consumed by causing digestive irritation to whoever is brave enough to eat them.
For example, a prominent class of anti-nutrients are called phytates. They inhibit minerals like Zinc, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, and Copper from being absorbed. A recent study of 36 common grain products confirmed consistently high phytate levels in processed cereal- and legume- based products (Roos et al, 2013). This study confirms the need for people to reduce processed food intake and increase properly prepared food at home. Quinoa’s main anti-nutrients- saponins and protease inhibitors (which impede digestion of proteins)- are concentrated on the outside of each kernel. When we slow-soak our quinoa before cooking and eating, we serve to breakdown this tough exterior.
But never fear, a ridiculously simple technique ensures the elimination of these anti-nutrients. Ancestral food prep takes a bit of forethought at first, but that is the most difficult part. Once you get into the habit of soaking your grains and nuts, it will become second nature. In fact, I have found that my transition into a more ancestral way of cooking/living has made me more organized and thoughtful. Ancestral wisdom in the kitchen gives you the skills to flawlessly meal plan and prep, eliminating food waste and falling into a natural rhythm with the seasons.
Easy Guide to Soaking Grains
1. Rinse your grains
2. Cover completely with warm filtered water
3. Add 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of water used.
4. Let soak overnight (I like to used a quart jar so I can over with a lid and set on my counter without fear of dust or bugs getting in).
The larger and tougher the grain, the longer the soak needed. 12-24 hours should be sufficient for most grains.
5. The next day, drain the soaked grain. Add to a pot with more filtered water to cover. Add a pinch of sea salt and fresh herbs to taste.
6. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, and let simmer away with a lid halfway on until the water is evaporated and the grains are tender and tasty. At this point I like to stir in butter or olive oil and more salt and pepper to taste.
***As the water comes to a boil, foam will appear. The foam is bitter and filled with anti-nutrients, so do your best to scoop it off. ****
The great thing about soaking grains is that it cuts the cook time in half. Soaked rice takes about 20 minutes and quinoa takes about 5.
***If soaking legumes, add a pinch of baking soda ***
Roos, N., Sørensen, J. C., Sørensen, H., Rasmussen, S. K., Briend, A., Yang, Z., & Huffman, S. L. (2013). Screening for anti‐nutritional compounds in complementary foods and food aid products for infants and young children. Maternal & child nutrition, 9, 47-71.
Creative commons, flickr. Michael T. (photo credit); allispossible.org.uk
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
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