What you need to know: Soaking grains is a traditional method of food preparation. Once widely used throughout cultures of the world, this practice has now been mostly lost. It involves submerging the grains in warm filtered water and an acid medium in order to make them easier to digest and their nutrition more available. It’s an ancient practice used for all grains including wheat, buckwheat groats, farro, oats, kamut, quinoa, millet, bulgur, rice, amaranth and barley.
Why you should try it: By nature, grains contain anti-nutrients called phytates, or phytic acid, that block the absorption of key minerals. They bind to important minerals, such as zinc, magnesium and iron, which can lead to mineral deficiencies, and poor bone, teeth and immune health. While cooking the grains does break down phytates to a degree, it’s not enough to prevent them from influencing mineral levels. That is why soaking grains is such an important step in grain preparation. Soaking grains before cooking activates an enzyme called phytase. Phytase effectively reduces the phytic acid content of the grain so that the minerals are available and easy to absorb.
Let’s make some: Soaking grains is an easy process, but must be planned ahead of time. Take your chosen grain and add to a bowl. Add enough warm water to cover the grain, and then add your chosen acid medium (about one teaspoon of acid to one cup of water). There are quite a few acid mediums to choose from, both dairy and dairy-free. Dairy options include whey, cultured buttermilk, raw yogurt or kefir. Non-dairy options include lemon juice, non-dairy kefir, water, coconut water, or unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Once the acid is added, cover the bowl and soak between 12-24 hours. Once ready to cook, rinse the grain thoroughly, and cook as normal.