Sold on the benefits of fermenting for health and have a cupboard stuffed with kombucha and sauerkraut? (See here if you need more convincing) There’s something far simpler you can do to improve the health and nutritional benefits from the food you eat and it won’t cost you a thing.
Soak your nuts, seeds, grains and beans.
Why you ask? Because it improves digestion, unlocks nutrients and reduces cooking time, producing far better flavour and texture for yummy nut milks, smoothies, dips, stews and sauces.
If you’re eyes start to glaze over at the technical talk about enzyme inhibitors and anti nutrients–the bit you need to know is this: mother nature’s brilliant protective agents that ensure nuts, seeds, grains germinate when the conditions are right can also cause problems in our digestive systems. Ever felt bloated after lentils or flatulent after kidney beans? Then you know what I’m talking about.
Some of these protective agents, such as the phytates found in the outer layers of whole grains, reduce our ability to absorb nutrients like iron, calcium, copper, zinc and magnesium. Which is not at all what we want when switching from nutrient poor refined flours and grains to tasty, nutritionally dense whole grains.
And there could be more serious health issues at stake with recent coverage in the media about arsenic content in rice. While arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in soil, consumption over certain levels has been linked to cancer, heart disease and developmental problems. Rice absorbs arsenic more quickly than other crops, with uptake from pesticides and other industrial toxins adding to the overall quantity. Yet simple soaking and correct cooking can reduce arsenic levels by eighty percent.
Once again our grandmother’s and the traditional diets of our ancestors have something very important to teach us. For the full low down on soaking (and sprouting) see Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions but for now you can simply follow these simple steps for greater health – and less tummy aches, bloating, and fatigue.
Simple steps to soaking for your health
- Soak beans, grains, nuts and seeds in twice the amount of water–for one cup of almonds use two cups of water. Use a glass or ceramic container and cover with a tea towel.
- Different foods require different soaking times so soak items separately and combine later for cooking. There are a number of tables suggesting soaking times – see example table here – and these might vary slightly. However the general principle is the same, the harder the food the longer the soaking time required; almonds need to soak longer than hazelnuts which need to soak longer than cashews. Optional: add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or a teaspoon of salt to help breakdown the phytic acid.
- Following soaking rinse off the soaking water in a colander. Place soaked food back in your clean bowl and cover with fresh water, swish ingredients around, strain and rinse again.
- Now cook or prepare your seeds, nuts, grains and beans. Note that for soaked grains cooking times and amount of liquid needed will be reduced – a one to one ration is good. Soaked nuts and seeds can be used directly to make milks, soups, sauces and smoothies. Or dehydrated for later consumption in snacks, flours, and crusts.
- The best time to soak is at night before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning for that day’s evening meal.
Once you get in the habit soaking grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is a simple way to enjoy these tasty nutritious foods and reap the benefits. More on sprouting (and activating!) next time!