Benefits of Soaking and the Dangers of Phytic Acid
You’ve most likely heard of people soaking or sprouting their beans, grains, nuts and seeds. You can now find sprouted bread in the super market. So, you might be thinking, “what is it and why are people doing it?” We are here to answer those questions for you!!
Whole grains, beans, and nuts/seeds are all super healthy and beneficial for health, right?! Well that answer is yes and no! There are a ton of nutrients in these foods that the body needs such as fiber, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. However, these foods also contain anti-nutrients which bind those nutrients up and can cause malabsorption and/or deficiencies.
One of the main anti-nutrients in beans, grains, and seeds is phytic acid. Phytic acid does not serve humans well but it acts as a protective agent for plants, warding off insects and pests because once ingested it makes the insect or pest sick – so just imagine what phytates are doing to us! Phytates are an unstable form of phosphorus, and phosphorus is a vital mineral for the human body. Phytates bind with calcium in the body, as wells as blocks the absorption of zinc, iron, copper, and magnesium. All of these are common deficiencies for vegans and vegetarians that consume a lot of legumes, grains, and seeds as protein sources. Phytic acid also interferes with some digestive enzymes, specifically amylase which is needed for carbohydrate breakdown and trypsin and pepsin which are needed for digestion of proteins.
Other anti-nutrients include polyphenols and lectins which can contribute to a leaky gut and autoimmune conditions because it triggers an immune response. As you can see, these anti-nutrients make these potentially healthful foods into harmful foods. UNTIL…. We SOAK!! Soaking is a way of reducing anti-nutrients in beans, grains, nuts and seeds, and then allowing for all those great minerals to be absorbed by the body, and aids in the digestion process.
How to Soak:
- Pick what you want to soak – beans, grains, nuts, or seeds.
- Rinse first with water, then place rinsed beans in a clean and sterile bowl or jar (glass preferred).
- Cover with fresh, clean water (usually a 3:1 ration, 3 cups water to 1 cup of the item being soaked) and add an acid – apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. **The acid helps to activate the enzyme phytase which helps to breakdown phytic acid.
- Cover bowl or jar with a clean kitchen towel.
- Soak and wait!
- If soaking for long periods of time, change the water out every 12 hours.
Soaking times can depend on what you are soaking, but most items need about 9-12 hours; nuts can sometimes be done for shorter periods of time and beans and seeds usually need a little longer. Mung beans need the longest, at least 24 hours. You can always soak for longer if you want to.
Once you have finished soaking, make sure to toss the water out! NEVER cook with the soaking liquid! From here you can either cook up your beans and grains, use your nuts and seeds in various preparations. Another option would be to take it a step further with sprouting – which I will save for another blog so stayed tuned!