Soaking Grains Will Help Your Digestive System

There are many good reasons and benefits for soaking grains, prior to cooking them. Grain foods require soaking and fermentation processes so that our bodies can easily digest the sugars and starches found within them.  Cultures all over the world have used these processes for thousands of years, but many no longer follow this practice especially here in the U.S. where we want our food fast and we want it now.

Most of us are familiar with soaking beans prior to cooking...and just like beans are actually seeds, grains are also seeds. All seeds contain enzyme inhibitors. These enzyme inhibitors are what prevent seeds from sprouting when in a dry environment. Just like seeds require watering when you plant them before they can sprout, grains should also be "watered" to allow the seed to open up (sprout a bit) before cooking. Grains can also be sprouted which takes the preparation a bit further, but at a minimum, we want to soak the grains in water to remove some of the enzyme inhibitors.

Ideally corn grains should be soaked in lime water which can be created using pickling lime (also know as hydrated lime, usually found in the canning section of grocery stores) which is a food-grade calcium hydroxide solution. This process of preparing corn is know as nixtamalization. As explained in Wikipedia, "Nixtamalized [corn] has several benefits over unprocessed grain: it is more easily ground; its nutritional value is increased; flavor and aroma are improved; and mycotoxins (toxic compounds) are reduced." You can see the difference in the second photo below. You can taste the difference (if you try this yourself). The food recipes that I create after properly soaking the corn have a really good flavor without any bitterness. I personally find that the corn tastes just the opposite - even sweeter. It also bakes higher and fluffier.

The grains should be soaked in lime water for at least 7 hours, then you can rinse it prior to a second soaking with water or other liquid of your choice that will be used to bake or cook the corn, plus about 1 - 2 TBS of an acidic solution such as apple cider vinegar, kombucha, or lemon juice.  Here is a good recipe for cornbread which follows this traditional cooking method.

Properly soaked corn grains (left) vs. non-soaked corn grains

Quinoa Grains
Other popular grains such as rices, quinoa and oats don't require as much work. Simple soak the grains overnight (or about 7-8 hours) in filtered water with 1 - 2 TBS of an acidic solution (lemon juice or apple cider vinegar) prior to cooking. If a recipe calls for two cups of water, then soak the grains in two cups of water. Just before cooking, pour off the water into a measuring cup and then replace the amount poured off with fresh filtered water. Then cook according to directions.
Millet Gluten Free Sourdough Starter
And another form of soaking grains is to ferment the grains thus, creating sourdough. I've been fermenting grains for about a year now. On this journey I immediately began fermenting vegetables without hesitation, but I was afraid to try fermenting grains. Silly me for waiting so long because it is also an easy process. Here is a very useful article that contains good information about how to begin creating sourdough either by using a sourdough starter that you purchase or begin your own sourdough starter from scratch and as to why sourdough will benefit you (more nutritious, naturally preserves the baked loaf and it breaks down gluten proteins).

Sourdough Millet Waffles
I hope I have inspired you to take another step toward preparing nutritious food for your health and healing journey. If you over consume whole grains that are not properly prepared, these foods can work against your nutrition goals.

There are a few foods that you can purchase that are already fermented or sprouted. Look for "Sprouted Grain" and "Sourdough" breads that have been prepared using the natural processes described above. I have found these in the fresh bakery section of HEB and in the frozen food sections of most grocery stores. I am also seeing more sprouted grains available in the grocery stores. Packaged grains in their natural state that haven't been pre-boiled or have added oils, preservatives, etc are good choices for your food pantry. Masa corn flour has already been pre-treated with lime and so has many corn tortillas and corn tortilla chips.