If you eat grains, you should be eating whole grains, not refined grains.
Whole grains are the seeds of grasses that are not processed. They contain all of the parts and nutrients that occur naturally in the seed.
Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is chock full of refined grains…grains that have been stripped of these nutrients. Making the transition to a Real Food diet definitely means replacing your refined grains for more whole grains.
Whole grains can be a very healthy part of the diet, provided you can tolerate them. Properly preparing grains can help to increase the digestibility of whole grains. What is ‘properly preparing grains’? Soaking them.
What does it mean to soak grains?
Soaking grains means taking the whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, millet, etc) and soaking them for 7-10 hours covered in water and a splash of something acidic (liquid whey, lemon juice, vinegar, etc.). I usually do this in the morning, for preparation that night…but many people prefer to soak their grains overnight.
You then rinse the grains and cook as you normally would.
Why soak grains?
Whole grains can be a valuable part of many people’s diets. Unfortunately, grains contain many anti-nutrients which can cause health problems and make the grains hard to digest. Our ancestors typically soaked (or sprouted or fermented…steps to talk about in a later post) grains before making them into their meals. This soaking helps to reduce the anti-nutrients naturally present in grains.
According to the Weston A Price Foundation,
“Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid, for example, is an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound. It is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.
Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness.”
Soaking will help reduce the anti-nutrients and make consuming whole grains more nutritious and healthful. Soaking can also reduce cooking time, which is an added bonus!
Now let me be clear, I do not *always* soak my grains. Let’s face it, some days I am scrambling to make dinner and was planning something with rice and realize I have not soaked the rice. I don’t freak out and change plans…I just cook some rice. I do, however, prefer to try to take the time to soak grains as often as is practical. It is one extra step but can become second nature once you are used to it!
Directions for soaking grains
Soaking whole grains is simple. Most whole grains can be soaked. I have heard not to soak kasha as it becomes too mushy.
• Take whatever grains you are going to be cooking (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.) and put them in a pot.
• Pour room temperature, filtered water until they are covered by a couple of inches.
• Add a a few tablespoons (no need to strictly measure) of an acidic medium (lemon juice, vinegar, whey) and soak overnight (or during the day for at least 7+ hours).
• You may want to cover with a dish towel or paper towel if you have flies in your kitchen.
• Strain, rinse and cook as usual. (I do not rinse oats…they become too mushy and are hard to rinse).