Whole grains like brown rice or rolled oats contain more fiber and nutrients than refined, processed grains so it makes sense to eat more of them.
However, grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause health problems. One of these is phytic acid, an organic acid that binds to phosphorus, and is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to mineral deficiencies, bone loss and digestive problems.
Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors which can prevent proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Most of these antinutrients are part of the grain's natural system of preservation, there to prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout.
Soaking grains is a vital step because it activates the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors present in them, neutralizing and breaking them down until they are no longer harmful. As grains soak, their vitamin content increases, especially the B vitamins, and soaking them makes nutrients easier to digest and absorb. Also, tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.
Tips For Soaking Grains
- Try to soak your grains for at least a few hours or overnight in warm water. Making the water slightly acidic, by adding vinegar for example, is thought to speed up the process, but is not essential.
- As an added benefit, soaked grains tend to cook much faster than grains that have not been soaked. Soaking also removes some of the hard, chewy texture of whole grains to make them easier to eat, and lighter in texture.
- Another way to prepare whole grains is by sprouting them, as they are in their pure and whole form, which is why refined grains cant be sprouted.