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Originally published February 17 2009

Soak Up the Goodness of Life: Start Soaking Your Grains

by Elizabeth Walling

(NaturalNews) In recent years, countless warnings about refined grains have led many people to make the switch to whole grain foods. Whole grains contain far more fiber and nutrients than refined grains that have been stripped of their natural goodness.

However, the answer isn`t that simple. Even whole grains have been linked to health issues such as celiac disease and digestive problems. There are some nutritional sects which completely ban grains from the diet, believing that even whole grains are nutritionally unsound. This is a mistake easily made in our society. However, there are traditional societies which exhibit blooming health in spite of their grain-based diets. If we examine their practices, we will see we are missing a crucial step in preparing our grains: the soaking technique.

From Africa to Mexico to Ireland, traditional civilizations have made a habit of soaking grains for a period of time before cooking them. These people don`t need scientific data to know soaking is a crucial step in grain preparation.

In our fast-paced society, we`ve quickly lost sight of the benefits of these old ways. Out went overnight soaking, and in its place came microwave oatmeal and quick-rise bread. In an instant we lost so many of the benefits whole grains have to offer.

The importance of soaking your grains is no myth. In fact, now that we have a better understanding of the composition of grains, we can see clearly from a scientific standpoint why soaking them is so vital.

Soaking breaks down phytic acid, a substance that binds to phosphorus and prevents the absorption of vital nutrients in grains like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Phytic acid is in the bran, which is why frequent consumption of bran by itself can cause serious digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors which prevent proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Soaking activates phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, breaking them down until they are no longer harmful. As grains soak, their vitamin content increases, especially the B vitamins that are so lacking in our modern diet. Soaking grains makes nutrients easier to digest and absorb.

Water for soaking should be warm and slightly acidic. Adding a small amount of apple cider vinegar or cultured buttermilk to the water will improve acidity. Grains like oatmeal and rice should be covered with water and soaked for 7-12 hours before cooking. Whole grain flour for baking should be soaked in acidic water or cultured buttermilk for 12-24 hours. A general rule of thumb is use one cup of soaking solution for every two cups of flour.

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 more palatable. Baked goods made with soaked grains are also much lighter and more savory.


Fallon, Sally and Enig, Mary G. Be Kind to Your Grains. Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. (1999)

About the author

Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more:

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