In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig claim that brown rice is low in phytates and therefore does not need a very long soak time; seven hours is sufficient for increased digestibility, or even just a long, slow cook time of an hour and a half. Unfortunately, rice is also dismally low in phytase, the enzyme that is the most efficient proven way to neutralize phytic acid and truly release the nutrients contained in the bran of the grain. Look how low the phytase, the enzyme that neutralizes phytates and phytic acid, is in rice compared to wheat! It doesn’t get significantly better as you look across the chart at soaked or germinated rice, either.
Luckily for us, white rice isn’t the only other choice.
During this “Get out the Gluten!” week, it’s only appropriate to discuss proper preparation of a popular gluten-free grain. I spoke with Rebecca Wood, the Julia Child award-winning author of The Splendid Grain and The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, and she clued me into GBR, or germinated brown rice, a preparation method that the U.N. is recommending for its much increased vitamin and mineral content.
What is Germinated Brown Rice (GBR)?
Germinated brown rice has been soaked long enough for the process of germination (growing a seed) to begin. According to Japanese Food Economist Ito Shoichi in his 2004 presentation for the Rice Conference held by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it is likely that ancient peoples in Japan ate their brown rice soaked. GBR is easy to prepare at home and allows the nutrients in the rice to be more assimilated in the body.
What Nutrients are Increased in GBR?
The most highly touted nutrient that is doubled or even magnified ten times in germinated brown rice is an amino acid called gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA for short. Other remarkable improvements are shown in the amounts of dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, zinc, Vitamin E and many B vitamins.
The Health Benefits of Germinated Brown Rice
Researchers Kayahara and Tukahara concluded in 2000 that “continuous intake of GBR” can lower blood pressure, improve brain function, and relieve some symptoms of menopause. It also may prevent headaches, relieve constipation, regulate blood sugar, and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease and some cancers, including colon cancer and leukemia.
How Do I Make GBR?
Making germinated brown rice is not much different than the NT recommended soaking, but with some key changes.
- Soak brown rice in water at about 85-105 degrees F (30-40 C) for 20 hours.
- Change the water a few times during the process.
- Rinse rice before cooking.
- Cook as usual with a little less water, because rice will have absorbed some of the soaking water.
- No acidic medium is necessary, because your goal is germination, or starting the seed to sprout.
- To keep the water at such a high temperature, you can use a basking light like those sold for reptiles or a cheap hot plate rigged with a thermometer.
- If you choose not to go to such measures for rice (seems complicated to me), you can soak at lower temperatures for longer – perhaps 2-3 days – and achieve nearly the same result. You can tell you’ve had success if you can see the end of the rice changing color, bulging a little, and perhaps even a tiny sprout (see image above).
- Note: It is important to use rice that is as fresh as possible; old rice harvested long ago will not germinate.
Can I Sprout Brown Rice?
Although sprouting brown rice shows positive impacts on reducing phytic acid and increasing mineral bioavailability, it takes many days to achieve the best results. When I sprouted brown rice for 5 days (below), I hated the taste. No one in my family could eat it because it was so sweet, just not appropriate for a stir fry (maybe for a sweet dish like rice pudding? Haven’t tried that yet.)
When you soak your brown rice, be sure to give it at least 20 hours in very warm water, longer if you can, especially at room temperature. This will reduce the binding properties of phytic acid and make the rice more digestible and more nutritious. UPDATE: You can also buy germinated brown rice (called GBR) ready to go, no soaking needed. See details here.
I’m excited to share another, even MORE effective and more simple method for cooking rice tomorrow, along with research into rice and phytates. Stay tuned!
- Catch up on all the soaking grains research.
- If you’re interested in Nourishing Traditions, Jenny at Nourished Kitchen published a must-read article on the man behind the science, Weston A. Price.
See my full disclosure statement here.
Sources: 1, 2 Chart from The Influence of Soaking and Germination on the Phytase Activity and Phytic Acid Content of Grains and Seeds Potentially
Useful for Complementary Feeding by I. EGLI, L. DAVIDSSON, M.A. JUILLERAT, D. BARCLAY, R.F. HURRELL