5:56 AM

Whole Grains: To Soak or Not to Soak?

Posted by Nicole |


I felt it was time for a post on the theories behind one of our uncommon baking techniques - soaking. It starts with the chemistry and history of whole grains. (I felt like I was back in school researching... But this is more fun!) Grains have a few stigmas attached to them. Either they are seen as really healthy, the ultimate in good nutrition or as to be avoided. This theory rests on our ancient, ancient ancestors who did not eat grains (weren't they nomads?) and we now have many who are intolerant of gluten and cannot digest grains well. Nearly everyone acknowledges white flour is an empty food. Devoid of nutrients, complex carbohydrates, and is simply extra calories. White rice is up there with white flour, although a huge population of our world consumes white rice on a daily basis (and they still have fewer chronic diseases than us in the West!). Nourishing traditions cites a difference in the digestion of rice between Asian people and Western people due to a physiological difference.

So lets take the position that grains became to the civilized world, a wonderful way to live comfortably and were a welcome food. These societies prepared their grains by soaking or fermentation. These were then used in recipes such as porridge, bread, cakes or casseroles. There is no record of quick rise breads, bran muffins etc... Europeans are known for sourdough bread, a fermented, long rise bread that prepares the grains for optimal nutrition. Pioneers in the West made sourdough bread, pancakes and biscuits. Apparently oatmeal packages in a time our grandparents may remember recommended overnight soaking before preparation.

So why was soaking and fermenting of grains a way of life? Grains are a complex food, without the entire grain, you run into problems, especially when removing the germ, or the bran. There is a lack of vitamin B in the final product when this happens, yet when we consume just the bran or wheat germ without the rest of the carbohydrate, we cannot digest it properly.

If grains are so good for us, why do thy sound so bad? Well most of the anti-nutrients found in grains are present because that is how God made them able to preserve themselves until conditions became right to sprout. Soaking in warm, acidic liquid for a period of time imitates what happens in nature. It neutralizes the phytic acid which inhibits the absorption of minerals. Soaking breaks down things like tannins and gluten so they are easier to digest. Sally Fallon, author or Nourishing Traditions goes on to explain the stomachs of animals who rely on grain. In brief, they have four. We have one. We need to do some of the work of digestion before it reaches our one stomach.

There is much more to read/write about grains, the apparent short shelf life of ground flours, the rancidity of highly processed grains, and the utter horror of extreme heat, rolling, and processing of such things as breakfast cereals. There is even a train of thought which sugests that eating whole grains with fat, such as butter on bread, milk on porridge is benificial! I hope this brief introduction encourages you to research more about this topic and share what you have learned!

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