Why do you even need to soak and/or sprout grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in the first place?
These foods contain anti-nutrients (ex. phytic acid) that bind to certain nutrients making them less available for your body to absorb. They also contain enzyme inhibitors which prevent them from sprouting but also prevent your body from digesting them fully. Soaking them in warm water in either an acidic or basic medium removes these anti-nutrients which makes the nutrients more bio-available (meaning easier for your body to absorb). This is especially important for vegetarians and vegans who rely on these foods for protein, iron, zinc, calcium, and B vitamins, as well as for anyone who experiences digestive discomfort after eating these foods. Sprouting these foods further increases the nutrient content and bioavailability.
Preparing your legumes, grains, nuts and seeds this way is not difficult, but it does take some time and a bit of planning ahead.
A note about phytic acid: while this anti-nutrient binds to certain minerals making it harder for your body to absorb them, it also has a protective effect against cancer. Soaking and sprouting doesn’t remove it entirely, it simply reduces it so if you eat these foods regularly you should still consume enough phytic acid to reap its benefits. However, if you do not rely on these foods for iron, zinc, calcium, and protein, and eat them only occasionally, then you may be better off not soaking and/or sprouting them to get the beneficial effects of phytic acid.
Grains are actually seeds and they can be soaked and sprouted to increase their nutrient content and reduce enzyme inhibitors. Sprouting has also been shown to reduce allergens and increase antioxidants in grains. They need to be soaked in an acidic medium so add 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of water that you use. If you do not have time to sprout your grains then simply soaking them overnight (or up to 24 hours) in enough warm acidic water to cover them before cooking is still quite beneficial as it significantly reduces the phytate content, making it easier for your body to absorb the minerals that are in the grains. Soaking your grains will also reduce cooking time. Just be sure to rinse them thoroughly and replace the water with fresh water every 12 hours to prevent mold and harmful bacteria growth.
If you want to take it a step further and sprout your legumes for added nutrition (sprouting also allows you to eat them raw), then use the following method:
- After soaking, rinse thoroughly and place in a colander or sprouting jar (placed upside down at an angle to allow it to drain). Keep in a cool, dark place.
- Rinse thoroughly 2-3x/day for 2-3 days until little tails begin to sprout, then dry and store in the refrigerator for up to a week (or you can dehydrate them to make them last longer).
- If you are storing them in the refrigerator be sure to rinse and drain daily to prevent mold growth. As with any sprouts, hygiene is extremely important to prevent contamination so wash your hands thoroughly before handling them and rinse/drain thoroughly to prevent mold growth. Also be sure to sanitize any dishes/containers that you plan to use. Smaller batches are less likely to get mold growing on them.
Raw sprouts are nutritional powerhouses but if you are pregnant it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid eating them (unless they are cooked) due to the risk of food poisoning.
|Soaking Time||Sprouting Time|
|Wild and Black rice||9 hours||3-5 days|
|Oats (whole groats)||6 hours||2-3 days|
|Quinoa||4-6 hours||1-3 days|
|Millet||8 hours||2-3 days|
|Amaranth||8 hours||1-3 days|
|Buckwheat||20-30 minutes for sprouting,||up to 6 hours for cooking||2-3 days|
|Wheat berries (hulled wheat kernels)||7 hours||3-4 days|
To soak legumes such as beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, place them in a jar or large bowl and cover completely with warm water. Add 1 tbsp of salt per cup of legumes and soak for 12-24 hours (if you opt for longer than 12 hours then drain, rinse, and replace the water after 12 hours). If you are cooking your legumes, add a strip of Kombu (a type of seaweed) to the pot which adds iodine and makes them easier to digest. Preparing and cooking beans from scratch can be time-consuming so I make a few weeks worth at a time and freeze them in 1 1/2 cup portions (which is the same amount you would get from a 14 ounce can).
If you wish to sprout your soaked legumes, then use the same method I listed above for grains.
|Soaking Time||Sprouting Time|
|Lentils||8 hours||2-3 days|
|Mung Beans||4-8 hours||2-5 days|
|Chickpeas||8-12 hours||2-3 days|
|Black beans||8-12 hours||3 days|
|Navy beans||9-12 hours||2-3 days|
|Pinto beans||8-12 hours||2-3 days|
|Peas||9-12 hours||2-3 days|
If you don’t have the time to prepare your legumes this way, Eden Foods canned beans are pre-soaked and cooked with Kombu. I make most of my beans from scratch but I keep a few cans of their chickpeas and black beans in my pantry for the occasional instance when my freezer stash is out and I need them in a pinch.
Note: Red kidney beans, cannellini beans and butter beans are toxic when sprouted so stick to soaking only for these legumes and never eat them raw. The toxin they contain (phytohaemagglutinin) is eliminated by either soaking for several hours and then rinsing the beans or boiling them for at least 10 minutes so they are perfectly safe to eat after soaking and cooking.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts cannot be sprouted (except raw almonds – all almonds grown in the U.S. are pasteurized) so you can either soak a few days worth to store in the fridge or dehydrate them after soaking to make them shelf-stable and give them a slightly roasted flavour. The texture of soaked nuts is not everyone’s cup of tea so if you are not planning on dehydrating them then only soak a handful at first to see if the taste/texture is to your liking. Use raw nuts only, as roasted nuts have been treated with high temperatures that denature the nutrients and can possibly cause rancidity.
Method: Place nuts or seeds in a large bowl and cover with water. Add 1 tbsp of sea salt for every 2 cups of nuts (the salt helps to release the phytic acid). Soak according to the table below, then rinse and either refrigerate or dehydrate. This works for most nuts and seeds, but not for cashews, chia or flax seeds as they get rather slimy and gel-like when soaked. Nuts and seeds can be dehydrated using either your oven (if it allows you to set the temperature below 150* F) or a dehydrator machine for 12-24 hours (until they are dry and have a crispy texture). I personally use this one because it has stainless steel trays and a timer. It is more durable than my old Salton that I started with a few years ago (although it did last a good 4 years) and I like the fact that my nuts and seeds are heated on stainless steel instead of plastic. If you’re looking for a smaller and less expensive starter dehydrator then the Salton does a great job. Be sure to set the temperature no higher than 120*F to preserve beneficial enzymes. Also be sure to store your dehydrated nuts and seeds in air-tight glass containers.
|Soaking time||Sprouting Time||Dehydrating Time|
|Almonds||8-12 hours||2-3 days||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Walnuts||6-8 hours||N/A||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Pistachios||8 hours||N/A||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Hazelnuts||8 hours||N/A||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Brazil nuts||4 hours||N/A||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Pecans||6 hours||N/A||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Pumpkin Seeds||8 hours||1-2 days||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Sunflower seeds||8 hours||2-3 days||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
|Sesame seeds||8 hours||1-2 days||100-120*F 12-24 hours (until dry and crisp)|
Alternatively, if you don’t have the time to prepare nuts and seeds this way and would rather just pay a little more to have it done for you, then you can buy them pre-sprouted from health food stores, Amazon, or The Nut Hut.
Our ancestors used to soak nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes in seawater and then lay them out to dry in the sun so the concept of soaking these foods in order to get more nutrients out of them is not new. Unfortunately these methods have been lost over time and in modern society speed and convenience have won out over ancient wisdom.
Thankfully, modern science has allowed us to understand the benefits of these traditional food prep methods so we can see the value in taking the time to prepare foods the traditional way rather than taking shortcuts.
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