Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Soaking and sprouting grains, seeds and nuts

One of the things I have discovered over the last couple of years on this journey to health through food, is the importance of soaking and sprouting grains, seeds, beans and nuts. This may seem like a complicated and time-consuming enterprise, but if you plan it well and have a sift and a dehydrator or an oven, it is actually one of the easiest things you can do to improve your diet.

I have talked in here about not roasting nuts and seeds, as it oxidizes them and can turn their fat content into transfats. Well, I found out that there are other issues with eating raw nuts and seeds, as well as grains that haven't been soaked and/or sprouted. And let me tell you that Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me.

You see, animals, which some of us eat, and which are eaten by other animals (predators), have natural defenses such as sharp teeth and claws, to protect themselves against predators that want to eat them. Likewise, certain plants have thorns and spikes, making them not so enticing to pick (think blackberries, raspberries, zucchini leaves...). When it comes to grains, nuts and seeds, like all plants, they have properties that allow them to survive to produce seed. When eaten by animals, they can pass through their digestive system and emerge on the other side as a pre-fertilized seed that can grow into a plant.

What allows plants to do this are things such as gluten, other lectins, enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. These substances allow the grains/nuts/seeds to pass through the digestive system without harm to the plant, but they can be very harmful to humans.

They keep the grain/nut/seed from germinating until it is in an ideal environment to grow, help them store nutrients and protect them from insects and pathogens. While this is good for the seed, it is not good for humans and constitutes an anti-nutrient component which, if untreated, can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This can lead to mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

When you soak the seeds, the phytic acid (which is not digestible by the human GI tract) begins to break down, making vital minerals available,  and the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized. This unlocks all of the needed enzymes for the seed to germinate and grow into a plant. When seeds are not soaked or sprouted, only a fraction of nutrients are available.

How long you should soak and/or sprout depends on each seed. To get a better idea, please refer to this chart.

The How To:

Soaking is easy. Just pour your seeds in a glass container and cover with filtered water, overnight. For grains and legumes, it's a good idea to add a tbsp or two of lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt or whey, as they will benefit from soaking in an acidic water. I usually soak most things for 12 hours, even if they don't need that long. Sometimes, things like quinoa or buckwheat already start sprouting while they are soaking in the water. After 12 hours, I rinse the seeds and put them in a colander or on my dehydrator tray. I lay the colander or sift over a big glass bowl and put a clean towel on top to protect from the light. I rinse the grains several times a day to keep it moist. Once I start seeing little tails growing on my grains, I know the sprouting has begun. Follow the chart to see how long you can keep it sprouting.

Here are some wheat berries, and I think this is after 2-3 days of sprouting:

Buckwheat is the easiest thing to sprout. I put it just like that, on my sift over a pot, covered with a cloth, and rinse 2-3 times a day. After three days, this is what you will see:

Little tails coming out of the sift. In this picture, they started fermenting so I had to sort through it.

Once sprouted, you can directly cook the grains, or if you want to make flour or keep them for later, you can dehydrate them and then store them in the fridge of freezer where they will keep for a while. Since it is now a live food, it needs to be kept in a cold place or it will go bad.


  1. Thanks, Alexine. That was interesting, educational, and well-written. It's rare to see all three of those things together! So, how about the taste of sprouted stuff? We've tried a few foods made from sprouted grains, and, as I remember, they tasted different than non-sprouted foods.Does this mean that we need to sprout peanuts, too? Does sprouting make the texture different, e.g., less crunchy or soggy? Can you ever get the image of sperm out of your head when looking at sprouted foods?! No wonder they call it "mother earth."

    Great job, as always. --Mike

    1. Hey Mike, good to see you here! About the taste of sprouted foods, I haven't noticed a difference, unless of course, you eat it raw. Sprouting beans or grains or seeds to put in your salad will taste different than just cooking them, but I haven't noticed a change of taste if you cook the sprouted stuff. What was it that you ate exactly?
      Regarding sprouting nuts, and peanuts in particular, yes, it's always beneficial to sprout them. The catch is that most nuts we buy in stores are not really raw. Like the "raw" almonds at Trader Joe's for example. They have been pasteurized at high temperatures, then dehydrated. The high temperatures probably kill a lot of the nutrients, might make them full of rancid stuff, etc... So to really benefit from the nutrients, buy nuts and seeds at farmer's market on in their shell, then you'll know you are buying raw stuff. Peanuts shouldn't be soaked or sprouted for too long or they will rot, but yes, go ahead and sprout!
      Thirdly, you have such a twisted mind, but that's just how I love you ;)