I came across some earth-shattering news a while ago that I tried to block out. It altered the way I viewed one of my favorite hobbies… baking… and the nutritional content I was always so sure I was reaping from it. A friend sent me a link which brought me to other links and spiked my interest in the topic of whole grains and digestion. I mean, I never really considered that grain is a seed. And that means something when it comes to digestion.
Now, before I go on I will point out that the internet is an excellent place to sound like a expert on anything. I am not a dietitian or a doctor and am certainly not claiming to be an expert on this topic. The information below can be cited from this source. Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions is also a wealth of knowledge. This dietitian writes about why soaking grains isn’t important. Read up!
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Like in nature, seeds are meant to pass through the digestive process mostly undigested so that they can be planted elsewhere. To make it possible for seeds to pass through digestion, they contain anti-nutrients that make the seeds (and in my case, flour and oats) difficult to digest.
Seeds also need to be preserved until the time is right for actual sprouting. Phytates are enzymes that bind phytic acid to phosphorus and are found in the bran part of the whole grain. Phytates prevent the seeds from sprouting until it is ready.
When we eat foods containing phytates, the minerals we think we’re getting aren’t bioavailable.
So how do we counteract the phytic acid in our grains?
Phytatse will go to work for you to break phytic acid apart and free the minerals in whole grains and legumes. They just require a few simple conditions to be activated:
• Slightly acidic environment
In other words, all you need to is soak your grains and legumes to begin germination. It just takes some warm water, some vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk or another acidic additive, and a 12-24 soaking period.
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So, why exactly should you soak your grains?
Soaking the grains renders the enzyme inhibitors unnecessary since they exist to protect the seed and prevent early sprouting. The inhibitors are neutralized so that the seed can sprout, making everything more accessible to our bodies. Levels of phytates are also reduced in soaking because the acidic liquid helps to break the bonds they form with minerals. Properly soaked grains are easier to digest and allow your body to absorb more nutrients from the whole grain and other food sources.
This news was earth-shattering for me because I bake almost daily. Whether I am whipping up an impromptu batch of muffins from leftover oatmeal or making cupcakes for an afternoon activity, I bake with flours constantly. I eat oats in raw form almost every day. This information meant that regardless of my effort to swap in whole grain flours for the every trusty all-purpose white, my body wasn’t reaping the full benefits. This meant that baking would require a little more planning than I was used to… like 24 hours ahead more. Which meant if I wanted to make a batch of whole-grain pancakes, I couldn’t just whip them up that morning, I would have to soak the flour the day before.
I was perturbed. But I decided that before gnashing my teeth and dismissing this information as crazy, I would give the soaking process a 2 week trial. I realized that I wouldn’t necessarily feel the the benefits of soaking my grains and legumes. But I wanted to know how much it would change my routine and perspective once I started soaking everything a day in advance. I started with something very simple. Soaking my oats.
I set out a small saucepan containing 1 cup or raw rolled oats and added 1 cup of warm (110 degrees F) and a Tablespoon of yogurt (for the acid). Oats are low in the enzyme phytase, needed to neutralize the phytates so your body can absorb all the nutritional benefits of a bowl of oatmeal. Therefore, you are supposed to add a Tablespoon or two (10%) of whole wheat flour to your soaking oatmeal.
I let them soak for 24 hours, then at 7 the following morning (breakfast time) I added another cup of water, cooked my oats and ate them with my son the same way we do every morning.
There couldn’t be a simpler way to add nutritional value to my every day. It just required a little planning ahead.
I also experimented with soaking my flours for 12-24 hours before baking. I just had to plan my baking projects ahead of time. It was kind of fun anticipating tomorrow’s morning pancakes. It felt more intentional that just whipping something up willy nilly.
I soaked my flours and baking soda/powder in the liquid ratio (usually milk, oil or melted butter) and the acidic additive (buttermilk or a little vinegar) over night on the kitchen counter. After 12-24 hours, I would mix in the remained ingredients and bake away.
I also soaked my beans and other grains for a 12-24 hours before a meal. I simply drained them before cooking.
I am aware that I will not always be ambitious or organized enough to plan every baking/cooking endeavor 12 hours in advance. There will be plenty of impromptu cupcakes in the future. And I am not quite sure if this process would work with your standard chocolate chip cookie. But when I am feeling ambitious and organized, I will take advantage and carry out the simple process. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes. Here is a recipe to start you out with!
Yield: about 9-10 4-inch panckaes
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk (plus 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar)
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or spelt flour
- 1/2 cup corn flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
In a medium bowl, whisk flours with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add vinegar and honey to milk and pour over flour, then briskly whisk the ingredients together.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm room for a 12-24 hour period.
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Beat egg into melted butter then fold evenly into soaked batter.
Heat your skillet or saute pan to medium. Brush the pan with butter and ladle 1/4 cup batter at a time, 2 inches apart. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over and cook them until golden brown underneath. If they seem to be cooking too quickly (dark on the outside, raw centers) turn your heat down to low for the next batch and inch it up as needed. Repeat with remaining batter, and serve immediately with a pat of salted butter and a healthy dose of maple syrup.