Proper Preparation of Grains, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds
I'm sure by now, many of us have heard of the terms "gluten-free" or "grain-free". While it may be a fad for some, it's clear that more and more people are having a difficult time digesting what is supposed to be healthful and nutritious. When looking back to our ancestors, many of them ate grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. We've forgotten one important step along the way: they prepared them very intentionally. Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients in the form of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. These anti-nutrients actually grab onto minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron and blocks their absorption and inhibits the body's ability to digest them. When we consume these anti-nutrients over time, our bodies become mineral deficient and can lead to gastrointestinal issues, allergies, digestive disorders and even autoimmune disease.
Most of these anti-nutrients are part of the seed’s natural way of preservation—they prevent sprouting until the conditions are juuust right. Nature set it up in a way where the grains stay intact until the proper conditions for germination take place; this way, they don't sprout prematurely (pretty cool, right?). We forgot an important step throughout the years, though. We were never meant to consume and digest them without proper preparation.
"...The well-meaning advice of many nutritionists, to consume whole grains as our ancestors did and not refined flours and polished rice, can be misleading and harmful in its consequences; for while our ancestors ate whole grains, they did not consume them as presented in our modern cookbooks in the form of quick-rise breads, granolas, bran preparations and other hastily prepared casseroles and concoctions" (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions).
Grains, legumes, nuts and seeds need to be soaked, sprouted, fermented, or naturally leavened. In order for this to take place, they need four things in order for those anti-nutrients to be neutralized: moisture, warmth, slight acidity and time. Proper preparation of the above is a kind and gentle method that imitates the process that normally occurs in nature. This not only helps our body digest them more easily but it actually makes vitamins, specifically vitamin B, more available to us.
Keep in mind that taking a break from grains (and the like) can be extremely beneficial for some people - this gives our guts the chance to heal from years and years of consuming denatured, indigestible foods. Slowly reintroducing properly prepared grains, seeds, nuts and legumes with the help of a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner can be a great way to benefit from all that these guys have to offer!
Below, you'll find the soaking times for grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. (Each one soaks at room temperature. No need to put them in the fridge! It's also important to start with RAW nuts and seeds.)
Side note: If you find yourself pressed for time, look for "sprouted" grains, seeds, nuts or legumes in the store or online. Thankfully, there are so many options nowadays! Look at your local health foods store or The Sprouted Flour Co.