An Exploration of Soaking Grains: The First Debate

This post may contain affiliate links, including Your price won't change but it enables free content & supports our family business.

Last week I introduced you to five experts on the issue of properly preparing grains, by soaking or sprouting. This week you’ll hear where the drama all began. (Catch up on all the soaking grains research here.)

You can read Dr. Teri O’Brien’s article and my question that started the whole thing here. Dr. O’Brien is a grain scientist Ph.D. from Australia.

We proceeded to have an email conversation that really got me digging about the whole “soaking grains” and phytate/phytic acid issue. I suddenly mistrusted everything I was reading from the Weston A. Price Foundation and wanted to see the research for myself.

Dr. O’Brien

The good doctor addresses this quote from Nourishing Traditions that I directed him to (any emphasis is mine):

Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, clocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. (Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon Morell, Pg 25)

“This is a bit confused: in the bran of the dry grain, the phytic acid is actually present as crystalline deposits( called “globoids”) contained within the  highly specialized protein bodies that are rich in arginine. These reserves are extremely insoluble forms of the Ca Mg salt of phytic acid, which is indeed rich in phosphorus, and contains traces of iron and probably the other ions mentioned by her.

Until this material passes the stomach, where it is exposed to strong acid (pH 1 hydrochloric acid) these Ca-Mg phytates are insoluble. Once through the stomach, the acidity will tend to release the phytic acid as free phytic acid, and the previously bound minerals. Phytic acid has 6 atoms of phosphorus on it and a useful precursor of a lot of lipids, but there is very little information on whether or not it can pass through intact cell walls in bran or not. And it may be that the phytic acid that turns up in digesta has come from damaged cells. There is a literature that suggests that as soon as the phytic acid reaches the small intestine where its acidity is neutralized, that it can now recombine with minerals and may make them indigestible again! If only things were simple! (Me: Phytic acid needs much stronger than a pH of 4, the recommended acidity for soaking, to release its minerals.)

Given that phytic acid is a precursor of certain lipids, it may be that it is capable of being absorbed in the gut somewhere, either with or without its load of minerals. As the free acid it would carry a very strong negative charge and would be difficult to absorb across the cell surfaces of the gut, but just how much it is rebound to minerals along the length of the gut, and would therefore find absorption easier, is not clear.

The presence and role of seed-based digestive inhibitors varies a lot with the type of grain, and mere soaking is unlikely to change that unless it is long continued. Fermenting the grain ( overnight soaking will get most grains beginning to germinate) starts up the processes whereby the embryo combines with the bran layer to release starch and protein digesting enzymes from both the embryo and the bran layer. These processes have been studied in great detail for wheat and barley. The embryo in all grasses so far studied absorbs the products of this breakdown of the starchy endosperm, as well as mobilizing its own reserves of high quality protein, but once again, the embryo cells are enclosed in a wall that is extremely resistant to digestion. If whole grain, cracked grain, or even pollard rich in embryos is added to the bread dough after soaking the contents of intact cells ( some can be broken by chewing) will not in general be attacked in the digestive track. However, any  sugars (such as maltose)  or amino acids (glutamic acid) that are still in the digesting soup of soaked endosperm  have a good chance of being absorbed during eating as they will survive baking.

I know of no reason to suppose that the process of pre-digestion (partial) that accompanies prolonged soaking will “neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors “. What is important to understand is that prolonged soaking starts the grain germinating if it is intact or cracked, so we are now dealing with processes that accompany natural germination. 18 hours at 20C is sufficient to get soaked grain well on the way. (Me: This would mean flour wouldn’t be affected, as it could no longer germinate.)

Fermenting or soaking grains prior to cooking is indeed a well-recognized tribal behavior and strongly recommended by Bill Mollinson of Permaculture fame in his book on fermentation. When long continued, specialized bacteria often accompany the process and are capable of rendering a poor quality food material (eg., cabbage) into the highly nutritious sauerkraut, but a lot of the extra nutritive value comes from the addition of microbial protein that arises from the fermentation. (Me: soaking for only 12-24 hours doesn’t seem to fit the bill of actual fermentation.)

We could summarize it like this: prolonged soaking begins to transform a dormant seed into a growing one, and reserves that were perhaps very unavailable in the dry grain may be rendered  a bit more available in a human digestive tract. After all, the grain’s embryo is starting to digest its reserves. But the devil is in the detail in this kind of discussion and unfortunately, the published literature on how the human digestive tract behaves, is not always helpful.”

Sally Fallon Morell

When I asked Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions, for her response to the direct challenge to her work, she replied:

“I think if you go to Handbook of Indigenous Foods, you will find that soaking in acidic medium indeed reduces phytates. It also increases mineral availablity, lysine availability, and B vitamins. Aflatoxins and pathogens are reduced or eliminated. (I’ll share her sources, along with Dr. O’Brien’s specific thoughts on them, next week.)

For our take on grains see here.

There are many reasons to soak or sourdough grains–these processes not only neutralize phytic acid, but also enzyme inhibitors and lectins and seem to miraculously reduce the problems with gluten.”

Me:  In summary, Sally Fallon promotes that whole grains are dangerous unless properly soaked in an acidic medium or sourdoughed.

Dr. O’Brien

“I wonder why one would go to a Handbook of Indigenous Foods to discuss anything about wheat (or any other cereal) since these plants have not been indigenous foods since perhaps 3000 years ago in the Middle East.

Wherever phytates are present in wheat in dry grains, they are not there as free phytic acid, but as the CaMg double salt as highly crystalline “globoids”. To dissolve those by acids requires quite an effort and a fair dose of acid: to drive Ca and Mg from phosphate groups I would guess you would need a pH of at least 2.5, easily achieved in the stomach at pH 1, but for example,  1% vinegar is only pH 4.5. I do not believe the lysine figure: lysine occurs as part of a protein that is also rich in arginine, and these are not in the least bit soluble in acids such as to release their amino acids. There are large, highly insoluble reserves of niacin in wheat called “niacytin”: I don’t know how resistant they are to acid digestion, but they would release only niacin, just one of the B-vitamins, not ” B-vitamins”. I’ll check on aflatoxins, which of course are not common in cereals but are a real threat from badly stored peanuts. They are not destroyed by boiling so I’ll be amazed if they are by soaking, but let’s see the evidence.

As for “pathogens”: what pathogens? Stored grain contains some remnants of fungi that lived on the starch released when the out bran layers died as the grain ripened but these are not pathogenic to the plant or to us.

I wish to make it clear that soaking is not the same thing as fermenting in my mind. Prolonged soaking may lead to fermentation starting since cracked or whole grains are not sterile, and fermentation for protracted times (several days) has the capacity to transform poorly digestible material into something that may be better digestible by a human digestive tract, but no microscopy has been done to see what happens in practice. Without the facts, speculation is idle.”

Tired Yet?

More next week on the hot debate, plus three takes on why white bread might be a viable option!

Here‘s a cool article on a restaurant that actually soaks oatmeal before cooking!

Have you seen my new eBook, Healthy Snacks to Go? It includes soaked grain recipes for those of you not tired of the whole thing by now!
See my full disclosure statement here.

I’m pleased to participate in Fight Back Friday.

Click here for my disclaimer and advertising disclosure - affiliate links in this post will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price.

90 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Co says

    Once again Katie, this is what I love about you. Instead of just quoting Sally Fallon and Weston Price (like everyone else), you actually do some research and give us a lot of information from other sources.

  2. says

    Thank you so much for doing this great research for all of us! I’m sure you are in deeper than you ever planned, but that’s life-long learning for you! I read every word you write and look forward to each post. Thank you.
    .-= Cori´s last blog ..who is this kid anyway? =-.

  3. says

    I really appreciate this. It was confusing to me that everyone only cites the same source, and that source didn’t seem to have the best research materials. After reading your post it seems that sprouting our grains might be better than soaking?
    .-= marcella´s last blog ..What’s Been Cooking =-.

  4. says

    So glad you are exploring this further. I have Celiac Disease and I can indeed tell you that no amount of soaking or fermenting will make a grain that contains gluten acceptable for me – especially if it is them processed into bread. I do however, like the texture of soaked oats, corn and quinoa in baking much better than unsoaked – and it seems that it makes it through my gut easier when they are soaked. I have fermented as well and experimented with gluten free sourdough with some success. this is great research – I’m not a Sally Fallon follower for a few reasons, so I’m very interested in Dr. O’Brien’s opinion. Thanks again.

  5. says

    Katie –

    On the site you referenced, Dr. O’Brien writes, “There is little evidence to suggest that soaking grains actually make those trapped nutrients more accessible.”

    This is a ridiculous statement. There’s tons of information out there if you go look for it.

    Read about the history of pellagra on Wikipedia:


    “The traditional food preparation method of corn (maize), nixtamalization, by native New World cultivators who had domesticated corn required treatment of the grain with lime, an alkali. It has now been shown that the lime treatment makes niacin nutritionally available and reduces the chance of developing pellagra. When corn cultivation was adopted worldwide, this preparation method was not accepted because the benefit was not understood. The original cultivators, often heavily dependent on corn, did not suffer from pellagra. Pellagra became common only when corn became a staple that was eaten without the traditional treatment.”

    PS: It’s Sally Fallon Morell
    .-= Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE´s last blog ..New Podcast: Finding Safe Organic Beauty Products with Joanna Runciman =-.

    • tonya says

      Who cares if it’s Sally Fallon Morrell. She’s up against a PhD who knows his stuff. Go Dr O’Brien!

      • Katie says

        Actually, Dr. O’Brien may have missed the phytase (enzyme that hydrolyzes phytate) connection entirely. But he does have an impressive resume. More to come!

        I do like to be sensitive to people’s name preferences, as a matter of fact.

        • boris says

          Dr O Brien is a doctor and if you look at the doctors of this world not many can be trusted doctors are only new to this world if we love the dirt and worms we all can regain what we have known for hundreds of thousands of years we need to trust our instinks and eat food from the dirt we dig our selves life is simple we need not listen to the doctors …Burn The Doctors Bring Back The Witches

    • Katie says

      Ann Marie,
      Yes, I understand the value of nixtamalization, but that is hardly related to the soaking grains process in a “slightly acidic medium”. That’s all I’m looking at here.

      I’ll edit the post for Fallon Morell, that was a slip on my part.


    • Emma says

      I do enjoy a good debate with research and good resources to back up one’s point of view. For accuracy’s sake though, one would get severely penalised if one used Wikipedia as a reference in an academic paper. It is not peer-reviewed and any old person can list information against a topic.

        • says

          I know this is an old post, but I feel compelled to comment. Nixtamalized corn is not merely soaked. It is soaked with an alkali solution, usually lime or wood ash, in order to transform the nutrients. This is a chemical transformation, it is not fermentation or mere soaking.

          Often the nixtamalization process actually takes place as a cooking process: the corn or corn meal is cooked in hot, alkali water, sometimes for days. This is also clearly not the same thing as soaking in an acid solution.

  6. says

    I, also, am grateful to see a discussion on this topic. After jumping on the “soaking bandwagon”, I’ve been a bit puzzled to find, as the previous poster states, everyone sites the same material (i.e. Sally Fallon). If soaking was such a huge health benefit, how come other authors and scientists haven’t jumped onboard?

    I checked out the new “Green Food” book from our library, and the author suggests soaking rice for an hour before cooking – I forget why she states that is beneficial. I thought that was interesting!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Our little family: soon-to-be FIVE! =-.

    • Christine says

      Soaking whole grain rice will soften it and assists in cooking, especially at higher altitudes where it can be difficult to cook whole grains. There is also a process for what is called GABA rice -gamma-aminobutyric acid.”A nutritionally superior method of preparing brown rice known as GABA Rice or GBR (germinated brown rice)[19] may be used. This involves soaking washed brown rice for 20 hours in warm water (38 °C or 100 °F) prior to cooking it. This stimulates germination, which activates various enzymes in the rice. By this method, a result of research carried out for the United Nations International Year of Rice, it is possible to obtain a more complete amino acid profile, including GABA.” (wiki quote, still valid info-don’t hate on wiki 😉 GABA can have a calming affect on the nervous system.

  7. says

    Dr. O’Brien is also incorrect in his statement that grains have only been indigenous foods for 3,000 years and then only in the middle east. First, grains have been cultivated for about 10,000 years (not 3,000) and while they started in the Middle East, the cultivation of grain quickly spread.

    As for Fallon-Morrell and her book Nourishing Traditions and WAPF being the only source on the value of soaking grains, that is patently false. Anybody who clings to that notion simply hasn’t put one iota of effort into their own research on the issue. There is considerable evidence surrounding how soaking or germinating grains and legumes make minerals more bioavailable:

    A 2002 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that once phytate is degraded (i.e. through the activation of enzymes), legumes become a good source of iron and zinc. A 2007 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that sprouting coupled with fermentation resulted in zinc and iron becoming more bioavailable – and noted that these were traditional practices. Researchers publishing their findings in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (2002) concluded, “Simple traditional food processing methods can therefore be used to increase mineral availability [in grain].” I could go on and on.
    .-= Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen´s last blog ..A Recipe: Sesame-Honey Candy =-.

    • Michelle says

      Hi Jenny,

      I have put some effort into looking into this (more than an iota, but not really that much!), and all the references that I found seemed to eventually link back to WAP or Fallon Morrell. If you have links on this issue I’d love to see them! Maybe you could do a post on them, I subscribe to your feed. I’m really interested in any research on soaking flour (vs. sprouting whole grains).


      P.S. Your soaked oatmeal recipe is a hit at our house!

    • Katie says

      I am not the only person who, after scouring the blogosphere and Internet, continued to find source after source ultimately lead back to WAPF. I’m certainly not saying NT is wrong, but I have found some inaccurate and outdated science in their work. My honest goal is to figure out 1. Does soaking grains help? and 2. What are the honest-to-goodness conditions under which soaking grains impacts phytic acid?

      Thank you for those sources – I will be sure to check to see if I’ve read them already and look them up if I haven’t! I am amazed you could come up with those so quickly.

      It’s been fun!
      :) Katie

    • Julie S says

      It seems clear in his statement that Dr. O’Brien is saying that wheat *ceased* to be indigenous about 3000 years ago, not that this was the date of its first cultivation by humans.

      I am not entirely sure what definition of “indigenous food” either Dr. O’Brien or Jenny is using, but I would guess that it is meant to refer to a crop native to a particular geographic region, used by a particular people, in which case, its “widespread use” indeed negates the indigenous status.

      I’m also very interested to see links to the articles mentioned and the conditions under which researchers made the findings that Jenny has discussed. I’m most curious about whether these results were in vivo or in vitro: the most important part of Dr. O’Brien’s discussion, in my opinion, is that even if mild acidification of grains is shown to increase the availability of vitamins and/or minerals for absorption prior to consumption, the alkalinization that naturally occurs in the small intestine (where nutrient absorption begins) may reverse the process…

      In other words, showing that soaking works to free up nutrients prior to consumption, doesn’t mean that the human body doesn’t have a diabolically ingenious way to undo all the good work you did by locking them all up again before you even have a chance to absorb them. I would like to see some studies that show circulating nutrient levels before and after consumption that prove what’s going in is staying in.

  8. says

    Keep up the good work, Katie! There is such a mantra of soaking out there in the NT world, but I have long wondered how much good it does. It seems a lot more complicated than just, “soaking reduces phytic acid.”

    Thanks for keeping us informed!
    .-= Terri´s last blog ..Chicken Stock Epiphany =-.

  9. Liz says

    I’m so confused. I read and re-read these grain soaking posts of yours and I’m thankful for not only the time you’re putting into it, but for your objective attitude.

  10. Annie says

    I’m thankful for your objective approach, too. I’m so curious to read more. Unfortunately, though, just reading this took me a LONG time and I definitely need to re-read it to even begin to understand what O’Brien is saying). For now I’ll still soak – I suppose it can’t hurt and seems to be a traditional practice, but what or how much does it really do?! Thanks again for your hard work!

    • Katie says

      I’m still soaking, too – sorry ’bout those loooooong quotes! I tried to distill Dr. O’Brien down for you all, but my brain just shut off. 😉

  11. says

    I have felt for awhile — and this post seems to agree — that sprouting was more beneficial than soaking, because you’re dealing with the grain in its unaltered form. I never soak, I always sprout.

    I don’t like Dr. O’Brien’s attitude about grains only being consumed/cultivated for 3000 years, though (assuming that’s even a correct figure!). Doctors use procedures and drugs on us that have barely been tested for 3000 DAYS, let alone something that’s as established as 3000 YEARS. I’d say it’s a pretty good track record!
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil Review =-.

      • Katie says

        Ann Marie,

        Thank you for that! I had no idea. I do appreciate your traditional societies perspective and information. I think that, hopefully, we’ll all end up standing in the same circle at the end of this, stronger because of all the various sources of information we have in our toolboxes.

        I DO value traditional societies, but it’s hard to say what made braces, glasses unnecessary, or was it just that people let their teeth be crooked and fall out?! On the other hand, there are MANY diseases that are absolutely of the modern world, unfortunately. Most likely, it’s diet. But it could always be lifestyle, sleep, chemical load in the environment in general… I don’t think grains alone can be a culprit in all those things. It’s one piece of a vast puzzle.

  12. says

    Hello! I am a fairly new reader (through the Real Food Network RSS feed), and I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your “investigative reporting.” I look forward to reading what you have learned.

    I have done a fair amount of reading on this subject lately, as I thought all of this soaking was going to help our health, but my 5-year-old just showed up with…SEVEN cavities at her dental exam. I have pretty much decided through my own reading that it is fermentation, and not soaking, that has impact. Wish I had known that before we had to fill cavities in baby teeth! :(
    .-= Brandy Afterthoughts´s last blog ..Intellectual Snacking: The News Binder =-.

    • Katie says

      Oh, ouch! Poor little one…

      Definitely sourdough is the most research-based effective for grains. Do you have a starter?
      :) Katie

        • Katie says

          The basic idea is that if the grains are intact, the phytic acid is binding up most/all of the minerals, including calcium, in what you’re eating. Without those minerals, you’re susceptible to tooth decay. Some have found that once they’re soaking all their grains and avoiding phytic acid as much as possible, their tooth decay problems are reversed.

  13. Rebecca in Michigan says

    Question. I pretty much use the sprouted flour. Do I need to soak this also? When I do, it becomes firm and stiff. Does this happen to normal w.w. flour?

    • Katie says

      As far as I know, sprouting and soaking achieve the same results, so you do not need to double up. More research coming, though! What kind of recipe becomes firm and stiff? For most of my breads recipes, I don’t find that result.
      :) Katie

      • Rebecca in Michigan says

        I made muffins the other day. I was to use w.w. pastry flour and I didn’t have that. So, I used the w.w. sprouted flour. I used 1 1/2 cups of sprouted flour and combined it with 1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of raw milk. Covered and soaked overnight. This part became firm and stiff. Like I needed to have more milk or something.

        • Katie says


          I do notice that sometimes it’s hard to get the other ingredients to combine into already soaked flours…when I adapt recipes that weren’t originally for soaking, I often add a bit of extra liquid. Had you soaked with this recipe before? The grains soak up so much of the liquid that it really changes things in the morning. Does that make any sense? I doubt it has to do with the sprouted flour, but I’m SO not an expert! 😉 Katie

  14. says

    Thanks so much for your time and effort on this. It seems not at all a simple issue, and I appreciate reading your posts and (at the very least) knowing more about opposing opinions.
    .-= Danielle´s last blog ..Playin’ Outside =-.

  15. says

    Who does Dr. O’brien work for? It says in your post that he is a PhD grain scientist from Australia. I just want to know who pays his salary. If he works for his government or an university, who sponsors his work/research? That will usually determines what one will say.

    Traditional food groups all had some kind of feremented, sprouted, or soaked grains. They may not have had a PhD and know the reason why they did this but they were healthy.

    We do follow WAP priniciples and have been healed of many illnesses. I did not get paid to say that either!
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Toady is National Day of Prayer =-.

    • tonya says

      do real foodies believe that every phd/scientist is a paid mouthpiece for someone? They do have ethics, just like everyone else.

      • says

        Tonya, I do not question just PhD’s/scientists but everyone that puts opinion/research out there. I have even questioned WAPF/Sally. I do not take anyone’s research without doing my own first. After my family was severely chemically poisoned last year and working to correct the problem so it does not have to happen in the future, I am finding out some people are being paid off to say what corporate American wants to be said. I also found that not everyone has ethics, unforunately! I have also found that many people can take the exact same research and come up with two very different answers depending on their education, upbringing, and personality.

        Katie, I appreciate you looking at both sides of the coin. But I am confused. Are you supporting soaking or not? I feel that you need to state from the beginning where you stand and then tell us why you are giving us the information you are. Some of your comments seem to favor soaking and others do not. Could you please clarify this!

        Thank you!
        .-= Amy´s last blog ..Toady is National Day of Prayer =-.

        • Katie says


          I appreciate your question and perspective. Short answer: I don’t have a “side” yet, but I will eventually post something called “To Soak or Not to Soak” with my opinion after all this research. For now…I soak most of the time. I think that anecdotally, it does make a difference in my own digestion. Whether that has to do with phytates, minerals, fiber, or what, I don’t know! I’m such a science geek… 😉 Katie

    • Katie says

      I actually have his entire resume, and he has been in and out of universities and self-propelled projects for over 3 decades. I kind of get the feeling he’s not paid for by anyone right now, and I’m still amazed that he took so much time with me.

      Eventually I’ll post on anecdotal research – I would love to have yours on file. Would you email me (kitchenstew at a brief story that I can compile with others I’ve collected? Be sure to include your blog URL, too.


  16. Jessie says

    Looking forward to reading more posts – from your other experts – and rereading this one – I was getting a little confused – but need to go more slowly and probably make notes as I go to help me assimilate the info.

  17. Cam Pyper says

    This is very valuable work. I am a farmer working to provide plant based nutrition for reasons of compassion. However, devotion to any particular idealogy will only inhibit our understanding of the truth. I revel in your approach to bring the two poles into the same realm. I suspect the truth lies in some middle ground with both having their roles to play. Specificially, I very much value the opportunity to make the most of our grains which, for better or worse, have provided the foundation for civilization as we know it.

  18. Pamela Pollack says

    Katie- Thank you so much for researching this! It sounds like just soaking whole grain flours may be pointless, making it better to use sprouted flour or sourdough preparation. I’ve read Nourishing Traditions cover to cover and always felt that it is light on references for some of its recommendations. I LOVE Weston Price but I don’t assume that those people interpreting/disseminating his work today are always right. Can’t wait for your next post about this!

    • Katie says

      Don’t stop reading yet! I haven’t given up on soaking flours based on this one fellow’s opinion. There’s more to come!
      :) Katie

  19. says

    I like soaking wheat because it has a leavening effect, kind of like yeast. See my recent post,

    I showed my Bolivian friend how to soak grains, and she loves it, even told me today that it is an ancient method from her country (but one that she rediscovered thru Sally Fally’s teachings {this is what she calls Sally in her broken English}.

    Katie what made you suddenly distrust WAPF teachings? It is quite common for academia to pooh pooh these ideas. Sometimes these ivory tower intellectuals will deride anything they didn’t learn in school. I have seen it many times over since joining the WAPF.
    .-= Kimberly Hartke´s last blog ..Ohio Governor Moves to Deny Consumers Right to Know about Hormones in Milk =-.

    • Katie says


      I only read NT a year ago, so there isn’t really any suddenness to this. I always like to know the background for what I’m doing, and although I’m more or less soaking everything (sourdough as much as possible), I just want to know if there’s research, and what it says. I have found a few other topics where the WAPF is still relying on outdated science (homogenized and powdered milk is one issue that I will post on soon), and I always like multiple sides to every story.

      I pay 3x store prices for raw, organic, grassfed, unhomogenized milk, in spite of what I’m learning about old science. I love the concept of traditional foods, and I embrace working with historical evidence and whole foods, the way God intended them. Have you read the back posts on this issue? There are many, many sides to the story and some incredible conversation in the comments at some earlier soaking grains posts.

      • says

        Unfortunately, Katie, most of the small villages where these traditional principles have been practiced for thousands of years don’t have research labs.

        What I’ve been doing is paying attention to people who come from small villages from the third world. Every time I meet someone from the third world, I grill them.

        Do they have cavities? Did they need braces? Did they know anyone who needed braces or, for that matter, glasses? The answer is, invariably, no.

        I go on — What did they eat? What did they not eat?

        The answer is always the same Every single time. No cavities, no braces, no eyeglasses, no allergies, no autism. Regardless of where they came from (whether it be Russia or Honduras or Mexico), they tell me they ate lots of pastured eggs, lots of fermented foods, organ meats, raw milk, soaked/sprouted grains & cod liver oil.

        For millennia (thousands of years) people have not needed braces or eyeglasses. Suddenly, in our modern day & age, eyeglasses, braces and cavities are commonplace. In fact, the norm. Not to mention autism, ADD, alcoholism, etc.


        Dr. Weston Price (and others, including the paleo nutrition researchers) theorized that perhaps it was the foods they were eating — and not eating.

        Asking a PhD whether we should soak and sprout grains is like asking Louis Pasteur if we should drink raw milk. Their heads are full of knowledge and theories — but practical application? Not so much.

        This is why I enjoyed reading Dr. Price’s book “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” — it’s all about looking at the data. It’s not just theories based on nothing. If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to.

        Do we need scientists to tell us that something has gone awry here? I think not. Honestly, what do they know? Theories are theories. But proof is proof.
        .-= Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE´s last blog ..New Podcast: Finding Safe Organic Beauty Products with Joanna Runciman =-.

        • says

          “Asking a PhD whether we should soak and sprout grains is like asking Louis Pasteur if we should drink raw milk. ”

          Just for the record, Pasteur recanted on his deathbed.

          “It was Bechamp who discovered the pleomorphic nature of germs, and later on Bernard described the “milieu” or environment that affected/caused those changes. Bernard is the one responsible for our theories today on pH and how the nature of the microorganisms change as the body moves from an alkaline pH to an acidic pH. (This is covered in depth in our article The Lost History of Medicine.)

          On his deathbed, Pasteur recanted, saying that Bernard was right; the Terrain is everything, the Germ is nothing.”

          Maybe if Pasteur finally saw the light, there’s hope for PhDs (hopefully before they’re on their deathbeds). 😉
          .-= Laurie N´s last blog ..The Original Common Sense Home =-.

        • Julie S says

          If people appear to be free from bad teeth and poor sight in the past, or in less “modernized” societies today, it’s not necessarily because they don’t develop these types of problems, it may very well be that they simply don’t survive them.

          People in the Amazon rainforest with impacted wisdom teeth, or truly bad eyesight would likely die before they reach adulthood. Modern medical intervention is powerfully subversive of natural selection. By this, I mean that we artificially keep the genes for “weaknesses” in the gene pool by keeping affected people alive (and subsequently having children).

          Impacted wisdom teeth can be an example of this. Personally, I have a congenital absence of the bottom two wisdom teeth, and my top two have never come in and probably never will (I’m over 30). It’s a pretty good thing, since my jaw isn’t big enough to have them and the consequences of lack of treatment can be fatal. Since people who do develop impacted wisdom teeth sometimes don’t begin to have problems with this until their 20s, after they have been in their reproductive period for some time, it’s not a really strong selective evolutionary pressure, but it would have the disadvantage of a shorter reproductive period, plus of course, the accompanying illness and pain before it became fatal.

          I am not disagreeing in any way that chemicals and processing do not harm us. Indeed, I think epigentics will eventually show us exactly how artificial environmental triggers are causing the normal expression of our genes to malfunction and are at least indirectly responsible for the prevalence of apparently modern illnesses like autism, ADD, addictions, etc.

          What I am disagreeing with is the deductive relationship between Dr. Price’s findings and the conclusion. He found a correlation in certain societies between between good health and a certain diet. Fair enough, I don’t dispute his findings. But a trained researcher knows that correlation is not causation, and finding a relationship between two things (like one goes up while the other goes down, or both go up together) doesn’t automatically mean that one causes the other. Dr. Price’s theories MAY mean that this particular diet causes good health, and that would be great, because his diet appears to be better for the environment and for simplicity of living (which I support). However, it MAY also mean that one does not *cause* the other, but that they simply both increase due to another, unknown variable.

          For example, if we found that as living in the suburbs increased, rates of obesity also increase, that doesn’t mean that’s there’s something intrinsically fattening about living 20 miles from the city centre. It may mean, though, that driving everywhere because you’re so far away from the city, means that you are not walking as much as when you lived in the city.

          So one could ask: Why does it matter if both theories lead to the conclusion that, by some means or another, living in the suburbs makes you fat? Well, the difference is that if it’s lack of exercise that is making you fat, then you can exercise and still live in the suburbs, which might have other benefits (less crime, more affordable housing, better schools, whatever). You can optimize your situation and get the best of both worlds if you know exactly what’s causing your problem instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. That’s what research is for and why it’s great that people like Katie are still asking questions even when the matter seems dealt with.

          I apologize for the length of this post and the fact that I’m writing all this and yet not actually disagreeing with anyone about whether food processing is bad (because I actually agree with that)! But I do have to speak up about criticisms of a professional researcher’s research methods when the WAPF research methods (and deductive conclusions) are not exactly sound themselves.

          • Cam Pyper says

            Further to Julie S.’s critique of the general reasoning of Price et al regarding isolated communities. While much can be determined from such analysis, the fact that they have long been isolated would lead them to be highly selected for well being on that particular regime. By way of an extreme example, the Inuit diet is often cited as sound for all because they were healthy before European contact. Such an extreme diet no doubt exerted tremendous evolutionary pressure when these asiatics first moved into the area. If you were to examine their health then you might not come to the same conclusion. Put any people on a fixed diet and they will select for health over the generations, change it constantly and you will have a bit of a mess. While there is much to value in Price/WPF insights, this fundamental tenant is flawed and potentially dangerous.

          • Katie says

            Thank you. Truly.

            Here’s my rather unrelated, random comment: My wisdom teeth started coming in at age 26 or so, and the 4th one is just now poking through at age 29! I’m teething when my babies ought to be. 😉 They take about a year each to fully emerge. Who can explain why our bodies do what they do!
            :) Katie

      • says

        Katie, I thank you sooooooo much for all of your research on so many topics. I have read a lot of things over the last year or so, and it all can be very overwhelming. It’s refreshing to have someone else walking through many of the same questions with us.

        And I look forward to what you have to write about milk. Raw milk is illegal in our state, and those who sell it for animal consumption have to add dyes and junk to it in order to prevent people from getting around the laws. So, as you can imagine, I have yet to figure out a way to get raw milk in our area.
        .-= Crystal´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning and Dreaming =-.

      • Maria says

        I’m really interested to know what you have found out about homogenized and powdered milk.
        I keep buying unhomogenized and avoid anything made with powdered milk, based on WAPF recommendations, but now your comment made me wonder.
        I hope you make a post about it soon. Thank you so much for all the research.

        • Katie says

          Maria, The Excalibur giveaway pushed it off a week, but that post is coming late next week! I certainly don’t know if I have all the answers, but it’s not a simple black and white issue. :) Katie

  20. says

    Wow, this is controversial!

    I think even in NT she says that some people do fine without soaking their grains. I know in our house, it ‘goes through’ way too fast if it’s not soaked/fermented, so I do that. I also make soaked wheat bread for a friend who gets stomach cramps from store bought wheat, but not mine.

    Based on just speculation, I’d think that sprouting is better than soaking (because it’s a using something already within the seed), but I haven’t tried sprouted flour yet.

    Regarding ‘it must not be true because nobody else recommends it’ – we have seen awesome success with the GAPS/SCD diet regarding allergies and developmental issues, yet it still isn’t recommended in the mainstream autism community.
    .-= Cara @ Health Home and Happiness´s last blog ..Fluoride Research and Why We Don’t Use It =-.

  21. says

    Katie – THANK YOU!

    It’s not that I think there’s necessarily anything wrong with soaking or sprouting, and I do notice some benefits at times (oatmeal is one that is very dramatically different). I just really want to know the science behind things. Let’s have some current research to add to the mix.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to research and discuss this.
    .-= Laurie N´s last blog ..The Original Common Sense Home =-.

    • Annie says

      How do you notice oatmeal being dramatically different? Do you mean different taste/texture/to eat, or different to digest? I notice it being different to chew/taste, but recently read on Amanda Rose’s Rebuild from Depression that oatmeal being soaked only decreased the phytic acid somewhat… I *think* that’s what I read. Just curious :)

      • says

        I don’t have a full-blown lab in the house (yet! – but the boys are almost teenagers, so maybe it’s time ;-), so I can’t do any heavy duty nutrient analysis. Oatmeal is one of the few grains I eat “straight” (i.e., as “just oatmeal”). I see a decrease in cooking time and a change in texture. When I eat soaked oatmeal (or other soaked whole grain cereal), it seems to fill me up longer and give me less gas (some of the multi-grain mixes can cause a bit of a rumbly in my tumbly). I assume that part of this has to do with the fiber of the grain having more time to thoroughly absorb the liquid, like when you throw one of those super shrinky-dink sponges in a bowl of warm water and it blows up into a dinosaur shape.
        .-= Laurie N´s last blog ..The Original Common Sense Home =-.

      • Julie S says

        I believe Katie herself posted that she noticed a “dramatic” difference in her digestion after soaking the oatmeal first. I can’t remember how she put it exactly, but it was clear what she meant while still being delicate! :)

        I soak oatmeal for my daughter and also noticed something of a change in the contents of her diapers: more bulk and not as dry/constipated. I also notice a huge difference in the volume of the cooked oatmeal itself when I have soaked it first versus not soaking it: it absorbs much more liquid then just cooking alone. This has happened regardless of whether it was properly soaked before cooking (with flour added for phytase) or not (oops, forgot the flour!).

        I am not completely convinced that this digestive change isn’t just a result of a lengthy soaking time, period.

      • Katie says

        Digestion end – when it’s properly soaked, I am less constipated. You ever notice any difference? Oats need phytase from wheat flour to decrease the phytates, possibly what Rose was referring to.
        :) Katie

  22. tina says

    I can’t wait to read what you have to say regarding grass-fed, non-homogenized raw milk.

    I have a friend who thinks fermenting any food is dangerous, raw milk is dangerous and feeding animals grains is just dandy. She has some science nutrition degree and thinks all the traditional food practices are crazy. We are evolving and GMOs are the way of the future according to Becki. She has IBS but would never consider GAPS diet – that diet is simply just too unhealthy and weird for her.

    I’m going to have her read your blog. I think she’ll enjoy your debate on the silly practice of soaking grains. And if you have anything against raw milk, she’ll love that too.

    My boys and I are on the GAPS diet so we can’t eat grains. But when our guts are healed, I will go back to soaking/sprouting grains. I will always believe the soaking/sprouting grains makes them more alkalizing in the body. And just having them more alkalizing is good enough for me.

    • Katie says

      I love pushing the envelope. We do drink raw, grassfed, unhomogenized milk…

      Tell me about alkalizing – what exactly does that mean? I would love to hear more about your family’s experience with soaking/sprouting grains.
      Thank you!

  23. Leslie says

    Just thought I would post my thoughts on this controversial topic. I have been soaking, sprouting and sour-leavening our grains and breads for six years now. All I can say is that our sprouted/sourdough bread is tolerated well from my son, but just plain soaked grains cause tummy trouble and potential behavior problems. I know this is just anecdotal, but that has been our personal experience. And he actually does better with white breads, than store-bought whole grain breads. It goes in this order, with the most tolerable type of grain first: sprouted, sourdough, white flour, soaked, unsoaked whole grains.
    I appreciate your commitment to finding out the truth. I look forward to learning more information going forward.

  24. Emma in Oz says

    Katie, I just wanted to add my thanks to the growing list here.
    I have recently read NT and have changed many things in my kitchen as a result, but I don’t blindly accept what I read as gospel. It is the public’s unquestioning acceptance of what our governments tell us is ‘healthy’ that has led to many of today’s health problems. It doesn’t make any more sense to unquestionably accept another viewpoint without doing some research into their sources.
    I look forward to seeing where this discussion takes us all.
    Thanks again!

  25. Julie S says

    I’ve said it before, but thank you for investigating this issue so openly, Katie. No matter how old you get, sometimes you find yourself back in the high school cafeteria enduring snarky comments because you haven’t picked which table to sit at yet. Who knew there was a food clique?

  26. Sarah W says

    Perhaps we need to define “soaking” a little more specifically… In rereading some of Dr. O Brien’s comments, it sounds like when he says soaking he is talking about soaking in plain water, which we do as the first step in sprouting something. However, the primary “soaking” process outlined by NT for whole grains and flours calls for a couple tablespoons of what is usually referred to as an “acidic medium” but are truly “fermented mediums.” The preferred innoculants are whey, yogurt or kefir (I think some people use Kombucha too) and then vinegar or lemon juice for the dairy intolerant. Aren’t whey, yogurt, kefir and kombucha all fermented foods? Is this analagous to Stephen Guyenet’s “accelerated fermentation” technique for brown rice where he prescribes reserving some of the soaking liquid? I know the first time it is just plain water, but I imagine the reserved water has some bacteria and yeast in it that jump start the fermentation process for the next soak – hence the “accelerated fermentation.”

    I had been wondering to myself if SG’s technique could be applied to other grains, but maybe that’s what NT’s soaking method is getting at too: an accelerated fermentation b/c we are adding in a “fermented medium” not for it’s acidic properties, but the fermented ones. …I don’t know in that case how well “soaking” works with vinegar or lemon juice, unless raw vinegar also counts as a fermented food.

    These are sincere questions! When I try to think about it logically, that is what I wonder. I know when I was first learning NT techniques I was totally befuddled by the difference between “soaking” and “soaking” (for fermenting or sprouting) because I had never heard of such things before. So maybe we need to clarify terms and go from there.

    • Katie says

      My mom has noticed that there’s a difference in her body’s response to oatmeal soaked w/whey and w/ lemon juice, so I think there IS something big to be said about fermenting vs. acidic medium. Dr. O’Brien does address the acidic medium in some other comments, later – he just doesn’t think it would do very much.

      I love your analysis – thank you!
      :) Katie

  27. Robin says

    I remember when quaker oats had soaking instructions on the package when I was a young girl. I ground my wheat in the early 70’s in college and in recent years returning to grinding my flours. We have avoided the typical American diet overall thru the years. We have been drinking raw goats milk for 25 years, raised our daughter on it. We grow as much food as we can, know many other producers of quality meat, eggs and vegetables in our area. Inspite of leading a good healthy life I have hypothyroidism and was recently diagnosised as severely vitamin D deficit. I have begun soaking and hope that will help my intestional absorption. I’ve also had to ajusted my thyroid medication as I’ve increased my fiber intake. For my self it comes down to your personal journey and what works best for your unique body.

    • Katie says

      So funny that you mention that, because Stephan is one of my other 5 “experts” on the “panel”! 😉 Katie

  28. says

    Wow… I love studying all this stuff, and truly, my head is spinning. I think there is a reason why I (and my blog) focus on practical application and not nearly so much on researching/studying/explaining the science behind it all! Way over my head! :)

    I admit that I have been convinced by what I have read through WAPF/NT, and also by my own experience with soaked/sprouted/sourdough grains. For me and my family, they have resulted in better digestion, by far.

    That said, I still LOVE that you are researching this and continuing to dig into the issue. I’m glad there are people like you out there who really want to push the envelope and try to understand all of the WHYs behind what we do.

    I do truly value the work that Weston Price did in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. I think there is much wisdom in traditional cultures and their practices. I also think there is value in modern science and technology that allows us to dig in and explore and understand things in a way that traditional people have not been able to. I think that somewhere between the two, we will find a common sense balance. At least I hope we will! :)

    Keep on going, Katie, and I’ll keep reading even though it makes my brain tired. Love your tenacity!
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s last blog ..Video Blog: How to Wash Your Face Using the Oil Cleansing Method =-.

  29. Jennifer says

    I’m suprised most of you are unfamiliar with Amanda Rose’s phytic acid research. According to her research (that is completely backed up with western scientific research), phytic acid is broken down with proper soaking. 24 hours, starting with hot water, and an acid work to break down most of the acid. Oats specifically need a bit of freshly ground wheat flour to break down the acid as it is naturally low in enzymes. It just so happends traditional cultures ferment/soak too…

    • Katie says

      Rose’s work is awesome, but I was still looking for more. One commenter pointed out that we need to know if the phytic acid remains separated, as Dr. O’Brien pointed out, and what impact that actually has on mineral absorption once inside the body. Rose’s paper is also largely based on research from the 50s, and I wanted something more recent. I’ll talk about her stuff soon enough!
      :) Katie

  30. Bryan W. says

    Keep up the good work, Katie. From an outsider’s perspective who discovered several blogs in a search for crock pot yogurt methods (and then got hooked on following related links), the “real food blogosphere” often seems more like the WAPF/NT echo chamber. I’ve been disappointed at the lack of differing opinions and the amount of repeated/rehashed information from one blog to the next. Without any new information or ideas, it quickly becomes a case of the blind leading the blind.

    Too many articles on these blogs read something like, “I used to think that [guilty pleasure food, such as pancakes] was bad for me, until I learned from [other blogger] over at [other blog] that a few simple changes could turn [guilty pleasure food] into a healthy, nourishing meal for my family. Who knew that [guilty pleasure food] was ACTUALLY a superfood! Here’s my mouth-watering recipe for HEALTHY [guilty pleasure food]”

    I’m not saying that everything I’ve read seems that way, but there are just too many people applying “traditional techniques” to foods that our ancestors probably never ate, and too many more mistakenly suggesting that if a food is “nutrient rich”, then there should be virtually no limits on it’s consumption (this applies especially to butter, cream, cheese, fatty meats, etc, all of which I eat daily–but in moderation). I don’t doubt that some of these techniques are beneficial to our health (or might just make food taste better), but they seem to be used as an excuse for the over-consumption of recipes that even Cookie Monster would call “sometimes foods”.

    I hope that in the future, you’ll challenge more of the “wisdom” that gets passed around on these sites. It would be a great benefit to the many families that look to real food blogs for nutritional guidance.

    • Katie says

      Well, my new friend…I hope you’re sticking around here, because I do very much appreciate the encouraging comment and apt description of what sometimes is blogging reality.

      Watch for my step into homogenized milk in a few weeks! 😉 Katie

      • Bryan says

        I’m looking forward to that step, Katie. I’ll be following this blog as regularly as I follow any other blogs I care about (not daily, but I always try to catch up when I can).

        Again, keep up the good work, and I’ll check in soon!


        PS: On the subject of milk, you might want to check youtube for Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” episode on milk. He explains the processes of pasteurization and homogenization, and talks about the science behind them. He’s obviously aware of the debates, and has some fun joking about the raw milk debate (you’ll just have to watch it to appreciate it).

        • Katie says

          Great idea! You’re the third person to mention Alton Brown to me, and I had to Google who he was the first time. Now I want to be on his show….mwaahahhahahah! 😉 Katie

Take a Bite (of conversation)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *