Monday, March 24, 2008

Soaking Nuts and Grains

Whenever I tell someone that I soak my nuts, they either think I am 1. a squirrel, 2. nuts myself, or 3. inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on my husband. Thankfully, the answer is D. none of the above. Basically, I soak all of the grains, nuts, and seeds that I will consume. It takes some foresight, yes, but I believe it's well worth it.

Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors that put a strain on the digestive track, and make the nutrients less available. In order to neutralize the inhibitors, we can copy the practice of ancient peoples who soaked nuts and seeds in a saline solution. The salt activates other enzymes that act to neutralize the inhibitors. Usually, I dry out the seeds in my dehydrator so that they will last longer. The process is pretty simple, and just requires some counter space. I throw the seeds or nuts into a large bowl filled with filtered water and a tablespoon or so of sea salt. I let them rest for about 12-24 hours; then I drain through a colander, rinse, and fill the bowl back up with water and salt. Sometimes I drain again, but usually not. There's no exact science about when to rinse. I keep an eye out for the small appendage that tells me the seeds are sprouted. That's when I do my final rinse, and lay the seeds out on my drying racks. Before I had a dehydrator, I put them in a low temp oven (150 degrees), or else I only sprouted a small amount daily, so that they wouldn't go rancid. Remember, sprouting the nuts means they're living - and living food decomposes quickly!

As for grains...all grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer, or bran, of the grain. If the grain is untreated, as in whole grain cereals and breads, the phytic acid remains intact, and combines with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc in the digestive tract, rendering these minerals unabsorbable. A diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies or bone loss! So that "whole grain," enriched cereal you thought was providing you with all your daily vitamins? Think again. The vitamins are only valuable if they are bioavailable, as in whole, unprocessed foods...OR if you soak and ferment your grains. When you soak, the enzymes, lactobacilli, and other helpful organisms break down and neutralize the phytic acid. If you soak in warm, acidulated water (such as with a T of whey, yogurt, or lemon juice), you'll vastly improve the nutritional benefits of your grains.

I eat organic rolled oats about 3-4 times per week. Before I go to bed, I throw between 1/2 and 1 cup of oatmeal into a bowl, cover it with water, and put in a dollop of plain yogurt or whey. By the time I wake up, the oatmeal has absorbed all of the water and will cook up in about 5 minutes. I usually add a banana and some cinnamon too. Yum!

The only grains I don't soak are rice and millet, because they contains lower levels of phytates. Mark and I don't like millet though. It has a weird consistency. However, I do cook my rice in a highly gelatinous broth for about three hours. More on good stock later!!

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