Soaking Impacts Nutritive Value

Soaking grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds is a traditional practice that can positively influence the nutritive value of these foods. Not many of us know the reason behind why our mothers soak grains, beans, legumes, nuts and even seeds are soaked for a short period or at times overnight. What we do know is that it is an essential routine.

Grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds can all add great value and variety to the diet, yet they contain anti-nutrients – particularly phytates and enzyme inhibitors – that detract from their nutritive value and can cause indigestion. Our intelligent ancestors passed on the tradition of soaking because it is an effective way of enhancing the nutrient profile of these foods – the secret to not only preserve their nutrition, but also make foods more digestible.

Why do all grains, beans and legumes require different amount of soaking times?

Grains, beans and legumes contain phytic acid or phytate – an antinutrient that prevents the body from absorbing all the useful minerals. However, certain grains like brown rice, buckwheat, and millet have lower levels of this acid and require only around 7 hours of soaking. All others like rice, barley, wheat, corn etc. require 12-24 hours and a change of water.

Legumes and Nuts have considerably higher levels of phytate, thus require a minimum of 12 hours of soaking, and preferably even longer, up to 24 or 48 hours. Warm water helps break down phytate and is released in the water. Therefore, it is necessary to change the water at least once or twice for legumes and nuts. Rinsing as well is an essential part to be followed as it will help wash off all the extra acid stuck to the beans. Kidney shaped beans also contain oligosaccharides (complex sugars) that our body cannot break to digest. Thus, it is advisable that we soak kidney and navy beans for around 24 to 48 hours. The longer soaking time and baking soda that is best for beans, helps get rid of these sugars.

Soaking TimeNot soaking has some long-term effects.

The long term effects of not soaking and gulping down all these anti-nutrients are as follows:-

  • Phytic acid can cause – mineral deficiencies, allergies, skin irritability, anaemia, decaying teeth, and impaired immune function.
  • Enzyme inhibitors (found in legumes) block enzyme absorption and cause – chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, impaired digestion and intestinal issues as well.
  • Oligosaccharides in general lead to – constipation, flatulence, heartburn, reflux etc.

Lectins (found in grains, beans, nuts) bind carbs and proteins in the lower intestine and cause – leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and crohn’s.

Therefore, when you soak your legumes and find a whitish scum or froth on top after boiling or simmering, it means victory! The scum comprises of all your unwanted elements, which can be removed by rinsing and draining.

Soak, rinse, drain, and cook away!


Why You Must Soak Beans Before Cooking


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