More About Soaking Grains (or not)

Thank you all for a wonderful discussion on this post and through emails about whether or not soaking our grains is necessary. 

Talk about confusing.  :)

After reading all of the comments, did any of you reach any conclusions?

I’m not sure if I’ve reached any definite conclusions, but I’ve been researching it more and talking with my husband about it.

I also decided to try emailing Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions.  Guess what?  She wrote me back!

Here’s the main part of my email to her:

Recently on my blog I posted about whether or not it is necessary to soak grains in order to break down the phytic acid and aid in digestion.  There are differing ideas out there and I’d love to help my readers be well informed.

This is the post I wrote.   Because of reading Nourishing Traditions, I’ve believe that it is important to soak my whole grain before cooking.  However, I’ve never found any other
information that recommends soaking grains (aside from Dr. Mercola who simply recommends not eating them at all!).  I even found an article suggesting that soaking is completely unnecessary.

And here is Sally’s reply:

Before yeast became available, the only way to make bread was by fermentation–sourdough fermentation.  Also, if you look at Handbook of Indigenous Fermented Foods, you will see that the practice of fermenting grains–for breads, porridges and beverages–is practically universal.
 
Fermentation/Soaking not only neutralizes phytates (which DO block mineral uptake), but also tannins, enzyme inhibitors, etc, all things very irritating to the digestion.  Also, there is recent research on gluten intolerance, showing that sourdough fermentation makes bread tolerable to those with celiac disease.
 
Personally, I get very sick if I consume unsoaked/unfermented whole grains, but do fine when they are properly prepared.

Best, Sally

I felt it interesting to note that some of you mentioned that healthier or not, soaking whole grains can help breads to have a nicer texture. 

Here’s where I think I’ve landed on this issue:

As much as I can, I will soak my grains.  I truly can tell a difference in the way my stomach responds.  I love my soaked pancakes and waffles and biscuits.  Soaking homemade tortillas is easy.  Soaking my breakfast cookies and breakfast cake adds great flavor and isn’t any trouble.   I’m working on perfecting my sourdough bread which is the most traditional way of baking bread. 

But, if I don’t get around to soaking every single muffin or cookie, I’m not going to sweat it.  It’s still whole grain (since I use freshly ground whole wheat flour) and it’s still better than white flour. 

One thing I’m going to work on is simply not eating as many grains in the first place.  Fruits, vegetables, grass fed meats and raw dairy give us more nutrition and should be more of a focus than grains in our diets. 

I’d love to hear where you landed on this issue.  What do you think will be best for your family?

Now, regarding all of this talk about grains, I’ve received TONS of emails asking me to recommend a grain mill.  That post…coming up soon.

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Comments

  1. Jamie says

    My 2-year-old son is allergic to the brans of wheat, barley, and rye, but when I soak the whole wheat flour, he can eat it anyway. (I go into more detail on my blog: http://eatwithenthusiasm.blogspot.com )

    So, when I have time to soak the whole wheat, I do. When I’m in a hurry, or if a recipe is not easily converted to use the soaking method, I use spelt or other flours. Flexibility is very important in this family, as menu plans change as often as our daily schedule does. An added bonus is that we’ve discovered that we love the taste of spelt…soaked or not!

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    Randi Reply:

    I’m very interested in reading your blog but it won’t allow me on. :(
    Please come to my blog and send me a message or email so I can be added to your invited readers.
    I recently stopped eating gluten because I believe I have an intolerance to it
    but I’ve been thinking of trying soaked grains. Thanks so much! I can’t wait to hear from you!

    Randi Kiefer

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  2. says

    thank you for going through so much trouble to help us all out!

    Lately, we have been eating more bread products. We try to do alot of low carb, but sometimes it gets hard.

    I have to watch the carbs or they turn to sugar and diabetes runs in the family.

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  3. Sharon says

    I found her comment about fermentation being the way that they made bread before yeast was readily available to be very insightful. Just another instance of a modern convenience speeding up and spoiling a process that was meant to be slow and healthy to begin with. What I’ve finally concluded is that I need to be intentional about planning meals for my family.

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  4. says

    That is exactly the same conclusion I came to for my family. I try to soak, but I don’t stress when it doesn’t happen. And I am really working toward going more grain-free, although I doubt we’ll ever be there entirely.

    I struggle with the fact that it was consumed so much in the Bible. Jesus is the ‘Bread of Life’. But I think our grains today, and the way we make bread just isn’t good for our bodies. And we don’t like it cooked the proper way, so I am trying to eat more veggies in it’s place when possible.

    Thanks so much for going to so much trouble. You have a great blog!

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    Kim Reply:

    I am thoroughly enjoying reading this blog and comments. I have also been researching the grain issue. I am appalled that we could have become so ignorant so fast! If soaking grains and sourdough are really the best way, it is sad we have lost that so rapidly. I also have asked the same questions about the Bible. My husband is diabetic and grains have been a no-no. So how do I interpret the Bread of Life, that was given to save us? If these ideas are true it opens up something new to me about God. The best way to receive any benefit from Him is through “soaking” in Him, not a quick, fast-food approach. If our walk with Him is like our breadmaking, how we would benefit!

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  5. Janet says

    I have yet to really get into soaking my grains at all! I have been grinding my own grains for almost two years now. We do usually have yogurt on hand, but until these last two posts about soaking grains, I really had no conviction to do it! I guess I’m kind of back to the drawing board and will have to figure out how to work soaking grains into my life.

    Also, thanks for the info on coconut oil! I had no idea about chemical vs. expeller extraction, and now I just want to throw all my oil out and buy coconut!

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  6. says

    Laura, where do you purchase your freshly ground flour? Do you buy the grains and grind them yourself?

    I used your recipe for Honey Wheat bread on Tuesday to make bread. I soaked 6 c. of whole wheat flour with 4 c. of water and 1 Tbsp. of vinegar. I also made sure to be very careful not to add to much more flour to reduce stickiness or to overknead the bread since my first batch using a different recipe was very dense. This method turned out pretty good!

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    Laura Reply:

    I do buy the grains and grind them myself. I’ll explain more in another posts soon!

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  7. Barbara says

    I have slowly been ramping up my soaking, and now that my husband is ‘on board’ with the Nourishing Traditions way of preparing food, I think I’ve decided to ramp up quicker.

    I do have a question about Sally’s comment . . . does soaking the grain/flour mean that you don’t need yeast to make your bread? Or does it mean that only if you’re making sourdough bread? Or did I totally mis-understand that?!

    BTW – I do soak my brown rice. I didn’t do it the other day because I decided at the last minute to make it. What a difference soaking makes – it’s so much softer and fluffier, and even better tasting when it is soaked!

    I’m looking forward to your grain mill post. (Are you doing a comparison or just a recommendation for the one you have? Hubby wants us to get one that is electric AND manual – just in case we need one and don’t have electricity; in that case, we’ll bake the bread in the fire pit!)

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    Laura Reply:

    When Sally refers to yeast, she’s talking about the commercial yeast we now add to our breads to make them rise. Before that type of yeast became available, yeast in the form of sourdough was used. This is just the natural yeast that forms from the good bacteria in the air. I think it’s SO COOL that bacteria in the air can make bread rise!!!

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    Saul Reply:

    Bacteria doesn’t make bread rise, nor does natural yeast “form the good
    bacteria in the air.” Yeast and bacteria are two separate organisms.
    Both exist in the ambient environment, as well as on the flour itself.
    The yeast converts sugar (that results from the autolysis of flour
    starch occurring in the presence of water) to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
    The carbon dioxide traps within the water-gluten matrix on the flour,
    causing the bread to rise. The bacteria (mostly) produces lactic acid
    from sugars. These are the so-called souring organisms. A sourdough
    culture consists of a commensurate mixture of these two classes of
    organisms. There’s a pretty nice explanation of the processes at the
    following website: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/10375/lactic-acid-fermentation-sourdough

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  8. Rebecca says

    Have you looked into sprouted flour, or sprouting your wheat berries? The sprouting process accomplishes the same thing as soaking, and then you don’t have to convert your recipes or remember to soak.

    We’ve been doing some of each, soaking and sprouting. I much prefer the sprouted flour as everything we’ve made with it turns out SO light and delicious, which isn’t always the case for me with soaking. I still end up soaking a lot because the sprouted flour is so expensive, and we don’t have a mill.

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  9. says

    I do my best to soak our grains before cooking. There are still a couple of recipes that I don’t soak my whole wheat flour for (cookies and pizza dough). For those, I’m considering buying whole wheat flour that’s already been sprouted in bulk. I don’t soak my brown rice (it’s low in phytic acid) and for some reason forget to soak my lentils everytime LOL!

    I’m also moving towards the less grains direction – more vegetables and more grass-fed/pastured meats. So when we do have grains now, for the most part it’s soaked or sprouted.

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  10. Lois says

    Due to time constraints, I never waded through all the articles about soaking. You can’t soak grain if it’s going to be milled!!! So I was puzzled about that. I usually don’t soak for blender waffles (Sue Gregg cooking) because I don’t plan that far in advance! My settlement on the issue is Romans 14. Don’t make any laws concerning eating. Those who soak do so and are thankful. Those who don’t soak do so from the same heart attitude (the Lois paraphrase). Let’s just eat and drink to the glory of God.

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    Laura Reply:

    SUCH a great way to say that! Soaking or not soaking is NOT a salvation issue. Aren’t we glad?! :)

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  11. says

    Laura,
    Thanks so much for this post! I `ve known about soaking grains for a while now,but I`ve beeen lazy about it.I definatly am going to start soaking them again.Thanks so much for all the great recipes to try!!Blessings,Toni

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  12. says

    Another question:

    They say that the nutrients begin to oxidize from the wheat very rapidly once it is milled…within 24 hours, about 40% of the nutrients have oxidized and within 48 hours about 70% of the nutrients have oxidized, if I remember correctly. If we soak our grains, will the nutrients not also oxidize? I’m a little confused. Thanks!

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  13. says

    I disagree with this current trend toward reducing or eliminating grains/carbs. I believe God provided them for us (along with fruits and vegetables and meat and dairy) to provide necessary nutrients. Just because we use them the wrong way does not mean they are inherently wrong for us.

    I also noticed that Sally Fallon continues to mention soaking grains for bread as a historic practice, but as far as I have been able to discover, only a small portion of the grains were actually soaked, and then regular ground unsoaked flour was added to it to make the bread. In other words, the process of sourdough: soaking flour in water to create wild yeast and then adding regular flour to make a loaf of bread.

    I have noticed that other cultures and historically, people would soak grains and then eat them as a porridge, not baked into something (for example, oatmeal). Even the examples Sally Fallon often refers to are these types of foods, not baked goods.

    Anyway, for myself, I think it is helpful to reduce the amount of baked goods one eats (muffins, cookies, cakes, etc.) mostly because those are also often made with sugar and other unhealthy things. However, in my opinion it is not helpful or necessary to reduce grains altogether. And for soaking, I am definitely interested in sourdough bread and the possibility of soaking other grains, but not for baking purposes.

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  14. says

    My understanding is, if you keep your flour in the freezer, it stops the oxidization. I normally grind a week at a time and then just throw it in the freezer pulling out just what I need for a recipe. The question I have is, when I use my soft whole wheat (because I know the hard doesn’t work) I have problems with my regular cookie recipes. I have to let my pancakes soak a bit waiting for the griddle to heat, but it seems like every time I try to make cookies… a mess! Should I let my cookie batter sit for a while too?

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  15. Kori says

    I agree with Anne about not totally cutting out grains. They contain so much good stuff. And the fiber in true whole grains (if you are blessed enough to be able to grind your own or have a local fresh grinding place) makes up for a lot of bad! A lot of health problems (like heart disease) began not long after we in America began refining our flour (taking out the good parts and making it white). Moderation in everything, but balance in all. Don’t totally remove grains, they are a crucial part of your diet. Just try to make them healthier and don’t go overboard on them anymore than you want to go overboard on brownies (which you can also make out of whole wheat). :-)
    I have never soaked grains before but would like to try. But I don’t understand how it makes a huge difference if you only soak half of the grains (like your honey wheat bread recipe). I would like to try it as a variation and to use sometimes. I don’t think it is an all or nothing. Most things aren’t all or nothing.
    Moderation in all things – except for your belief in God! :-)

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  16. says

    I LOVE Nourishing Traditions. I reference and use that fabulous book often. If you would like some help with soaked sourdough bread, I make 4 or more loaves of fully soaked, whole wheat sourdough bread each week. It’s our bread – we don’t eat storebought.

    My recipe (with pictures) is here:
    http://myblessedhome.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-to-make-amazing-bread.html#article
    I have a link in my sidebar that tells how to make a WW starter, if you don’t already have one.

    A trick with sourdough, is that when you first use it, the bread may be STRONG, LOL. However, as you keep feeding and using the starter, it aquires a better taste. My sourdough starter is not too strong tasting, but it leavens my bread fast. Sometimes it rises my bread too fast, before it’s had a long enough soak, so I punch it down, let it rise again, and then bake it. :-)

    In other words, the older the starter is, the better the bread tastes. With new starters it takes 1 to 3 months before it starts to taste really sensational.

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  17. Julie says

    Since we eat pretty healthy, I soak when I can and don’t get upset when I can’t. So many times I decide to make a recipe spur-of-the-moment because I found I have a few minutes to do so. I am making homemade things for my family versus buying pre-packaged stuff, which cuts out a TON of junk.
    I haven’t noticed any difference in our digestion when I soak grains. I haven’t paid much attention either but will next time. I can totally see where those who are sensitive need to soak as much as possible. I, personally, won’t cut back on grains in our diet. They are complex carbohydrates and besides the nutritional benefits, they are what help us feel fuller longer. It is so amazing how all food groups play such a vital role for our overall health, especially when eaten together…the health benefits multiply.
    Grace to each momma as we try to feed our families the best way we know how!

    Love these posts, Laura!

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  18. Sarah says

    You said you like to soak your grains for your breakfast cookie recipe, I read your recipie but it doesn’t go into soaking. Could you expound on that? Thanks!

    Sarah

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  19. says

    Laura, I just found this post on a search while looking for answers on whether or not soaking grains is really the way to go. Great dialog! And Sally’s answer really helped me a lot. I’ve been very skeptical about this issue and yet, I wanted to understand why so many people were buying into it. Even after reading Sally’s book and Jordan Rubin’s, Still, I struggled.

    The thing that helped me… Sally’s mentioning that they did not have yeast products like we do today and therefore they had to soak them to cause the yeast to grow. Duh! How come I couldn’t get my brain around this before? Funny how one thing can make it all start to click. That said, I’m sure I’ll take the same approach you mentioned and not be legalistic about it. I think grains are great and I believe they were a staple in every diet. Whenever a famine is mentioned, it seems the abundance or lack of bread was the crucial issue for the people. Makes me think they ate plenty of grains! (I didn’t research this, just thinking in my head!).

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  20. says

    Hi Laura. Great post, great dialogue. I visit your site often. My teenage son likes to send me links for your recipes with a note attached. “Mom, can we try this one?” lol! Thank you.

    Here’s what I do. I make sourdough bread…not as often as my family would like, but that’s the only way I will make it. I try to soak when I remember and when I’m in a hurry, I grab some sprouted grains from my freezer (I sprout and dehydrate whole grains a few times a week), grind them fresh and use those in anything I bake or things like pancakes.

    I agree that grains should not be cut out of the diet. I think it’s very important to prepare them traditionally though. That’s my two cents. :)

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  21. kathy says

    Question: if you grind your own wheat for flour, do you soak the grains before grinding? Does that mess up the nutrimill? I thought once it is grinded you don’t want to expose the flour to air but use immediately for the most nutrients. After 12-24 hours it begins to lose most of the nutrients, isn’t that correct?

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    Laura Reply:

    No, you grind and then soak. Yes, it does begin to lose nutrients, but that’s when it’s not in use. Once you’ve ground it and stir it into the buttermilk or other cultured dairy product, it is “in use” and the soaking breaks down the phytates so that the nutrients can then be used better in our bodies!

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  22. Julie says

    Hi, I read your blog on this with interest. I was in a nice routine of soaking my flour for bread for maybe a year now when I came across this article: http://healthimpactnews.com/2011/phytic-acid-friend-or-foe-the-soaking-of-grains-health-claims-investigated/
    After reading it I stopped soaking my bread. Not sure I notice a difference either way with our health or the quality of the bread (but then again, I’m not the most observant). After reading your posts I thought maybe I’d go back to soaking my bread, but not worry about soaking anything else…. ??

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