Soaking Grains: An Exploration

soaked oatmealSome say soaking grains increases nutrient content and makes whole grains more digestible.  Others say that’s bunk.  I looked into the issue extensively via research, personal success stories, historical evidence, Scripture and scientists themselves.

Here’s a wrap-up of my findings:

Information Posts
Soaked Recipes

If you decide you don’t need to soak: How to Read a Bread Bag for Whole Grains

52 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Annie says

    I appreciate all your research about soaking grains. I look forward to reading the emails between S.F.M. and Teri O’Brien. For now I think I’ll try to just reduce our grain consumption…

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  2. says

    Katie — The whole grain versus milled grain issue is covered in my white paper. I think I even have a graph that displays an experiment comparing the two. You can see that it is easier to reduce the phytic acid in the milled grain, so the botanist is definitely on to something there.

    Amanda

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    Katie Reply:

    Thank you! That’s one of my many resources, to be sure, and I just made a “note to self” to look for that particular issue. :) Katie

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  3. Joanna says

    I have a question with your soaked granola bar receipe. How do I soak the oats… do I just soak them in the honey since that is the liquid in the receipe or do I add water as well?

    Also if I do not have Whey can I just use a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar?

    Thanks so much for your help.

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    Katie Reply:

    Joanna,
    For the granola bars, I soak oats and dehydrate them (in the oven) first, so they’re dry again before they go into the bars. (See instructions here. ACV is a great choice instead of whey, and lemon juice would work too.
    :) Katie

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  4. sclindah says

    I was wondering in your research on soaking the grains if you have ever seen anywhere that soaking them helps reduce blood sugar levels after eating it. I am diabetic and find that I have to use whole grains sparingly!

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    Katie Reply:

    Sclindah,
    I don’t think I’ve seen any research to that end – BUT – sprouting grains decreases the starches/sugars and thereby the carbs, so I bet sprouting grains would be a great option for you. If you take your blood sugar after meals, you could sort of experiment on yourself with small amounts and see if if affects your sugar. You might want to read these posts:
    How to Sprout Grains and Legumes
    The Health Benefits of Sprouting
    How to Make Sprouted Flour

    Hope that helps!
    :) Katie

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  5. Susan says

    Have you ever soaked almond flour? I would like to know if soaking almond flour in water with yogurt will remove phytic acid.

    Also, would you use about 1 tablespoon of yogurt in the soaking water per cup of almond flour? I’ve been soaking almond flour this way, but I’m wondering if it’s really effective.

    The bread I make from the soaked almond flour has a strong yogurt taste, which I don’t really like. Do you have any suggestions about how to counteract the yogurt taste? I’m afraid to cut down on the amount of yogurt, because I’m afraid it won’t be as effective in removing the phytic acid.

    Thanks

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    Katie Reply:

    Susan,
    Great question – if the almond flour is from “blanched” almonds, first of all, without the “skin” or seed coat, it shouldn’t really have phytic acid problems, because that’s in the outer covering of the nut/seed. Otherwise, soaking as any other flour should do the trick. I find that whey is much more mild in flavor than yogurt for soaking. You could also try buttermilk or lemon juice.

    :) Katie

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  6. says

    I too love to “hear” your brain work and thank you for your study. This is a site that you might find interesting
    http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com/
    She has many graphs etc. where she shows how grains have been tested. blessings Erin

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    erin Reply:

    I feel a little silly. Amanda who I was referring to as my new expert in the above comment, already wrote you a note here! Oh well Amanda if you come back here I really am learning alot from your work.

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    Katie Reply:

    Thanks Erin! I do work with Amanda Rose of Rebuild from Depression and have her phytic acid white paper. Fascinating stuff!

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  7. Noelle says

    Question? I need to start adding solids to my baby’s breast milk meals. His doc says to add baby cereal to the milk but what would the “experts” say? How do I soak grains for him? Any advice for starting him right?

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    Katie Reply:

    Noelle,
    Most traditional foods folks say to avoid all grains for babies under one year old anyway. You could soak oatmeal and grind it finely with breastmilk once it’s time. Here’s a good post on feeding a baby: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/10/01/feeding-a-real-food-baby-breast-is-bestbut-then-what-guest-post-from-emily-at-live-renewed/
    (and see part two)
    :) Katie

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  8. says

    Umm…I know I’ve seen it somewhere. I’m looking for one of your soaked whole wheat bread recipes without a sourdough starter. We started eating grains again and all of our health problems have returned but we just can’t afford a grain-free diet so I was hoping soaking would help. I’m going to start a starter too but that will take awhile. Thanks for being an amazing resource!

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    Katie Reply:

    Frances,
    All the whole wheat bread recipes I’ve been posting lately are listed at the bottom of this post: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/01/04/introducing-seeking-the-perfect-homemade-whole-wheat-bread/ or a breadmaker soaked version: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/recipes/soaked-breadmaker-bread/
    I really, really hope soaking helps! Sourdough will be a worthwhile effort too, for sure.
    :) Katie

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  9. shannon says

    Hi Katie; well, I’m doing my own looking into this area again and am glad to have started sourdough. But, now after doing some browsing online, I’m wondering if phytic acid is even as bad as it sounds. Yes, I gather that it’s an anti-nutrient but it also sounds as if it’s an antioxidant. So, the idea that soaking is even necessary starts with the assumption that the phytic acid is “bad” to begin with and I’m not sure I’ve even come to that conclusion yet myself. I don’t know. I find this all fascinating but I know processed for sure isn’t the answer!

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    Katie Reply:

    Shannon,
    I know, I know…there is some research that phytic acid is good for you. The thing is, it is good because it detoxifies, which is kind of saying the same thing as “leaching things from your body.” So it’s just a matter of what you want from grains, in some way – put things in or take things out?

    Certainly it’s not that simple – but I’m still glad sourdough has such good research and history behind it, too! ;) Katie

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  10. Beth says

    thanks for all your research! did you happen to come across anything that said soaking grains made wheat tolerable for people with wheat allergies? i would think it would be so for celiac dis, but wheat allergies are a reaction to the wheat itself, not it’s digestibility…trying to find answers! :) thanks so much for your great content!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Beth,
    Unfortunately, for celiacs, there is nothing known that can help. Gluten sensitivities are another story, and properly preparing grains can make a huge difference, as can cutting out grains for a time to allow the gut to heal. Two posts you should read:
    gnowfglins.com/2009/09/11/reverse-allergies-through-nourishing-foods/
    http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/10/27/the-comparison-the-specific-carbohydrate-diet-scd-gaps-diet-gut-psychology-syndrome-and-the-makers-diet/
    Good luck! :) Katie

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  11. says

    I have looked a little at soaking grains and the conclusion I came up with, albeit somewhat uneducated, is that the argument for soaking grains is like the argument for cooking vegetables; It seems to have benefits, yet there are also benefits to not doing it. Historically, people have done both, so I think that it is a matter of what is the needed nutritional help at the moment, and also personal preference.

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  12. Lisa says

    Hi there. I just found your blog and I am excited to have another resource for traditional cooking and food prep. However, all the links on this post are not working. Thought I would send up an FYI.
    ~Lisa

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  13. says

    Thank you for putting together a great collection of information sources. I’ve been reading and re-reading your “Is your flour wet?” ebook. So far, every time I soak my flour, it gets dark on the top if left for more than 6-8 hrs. Is this OK? I’ve read through many websites on the subject and the comments and can’t find anyone else with a similar experience. I’d love to get your thoughts and those of your readers. Thanks!

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    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Felicia,
    Actually, that almost always happens to me, too – I always just figured it was a partial drying out or whatnot. I just mix and forget it! ;) Katie

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  14. Nia says

    So when I use Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, using whey as my water, does that count as soaking, or am I supposed to soak my flour before mixing a batch of dough?

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    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Nia,
    Sort of. A long, long soak in the fridge does it, but you might leave the dough on the counter for a time too – http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2010/02/24/whole-wheat-artisan-bread-in-5-minutes-a-day-reviewand-soaked/
    :) Katie

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  15. Beth Lopez says

    Thanks for the info! I currently mill my own grain but do not soak. I am trying to figure out what is best before I change what I am doing. I found this article on phytic acid at the Bread Beckers website that I thought was interesting (breadbeckers.com). Sue Becker presents a case against soaking…
    http://info.breadbeckers.com/phytic-acid/

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sal Reply:

    I’m afraid it’s an extremely flawed case Becker presents. For example, she misrepresents sara Shannon by stating that phytic acid is good for chelating radiation etc and that as long as you keep a quality diet all will be well. However, Shannon says the opposite, that you will actually need to supplement with zinc to counter the counter nutritive effects of phytic acid. Becker also claims that humans have the enzyme phytase –err.. no, we are not cows or sheep,. But perhaps Becker is used to regurgitating her food and reswallowing the vomit to ferment it somehow to imitate ruminating animals? She also claim sourdough left to ferment for several hours before baking will not be fermented! All in all Becker is a fruitcake.

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  16. Andrea Hewitt says

    I recently purchased a five pound bag of One Degree Organics -sprouted whole wheat flour from whole foods market. Is there any additional advantage, in your opinion, to soaking this? I’m mainly interested in trying your bread machine recipe, but a little scared that it won’t turn out if I soak the sprouted flour. Thanks for you input.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Andrea,
    Soaking sprouted flour is pretty much redundant…so you don’t need to, and you’re right, it might be too sticky. I’d use a sprouted flour recipe like this one: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/01/11/seeking-the-perfect-homemade-whole-wheat-essential-eatings-sprouted-bread-and-rolls-no-2/

    It’s super easy and so good, too! :) Katie

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  17. Deanna Furrey says

    Hi, I have what is probably a silly question but if you are soaking a recipe to make later, is it considered “soaking” if it is not wet? I made pizza dough to soak and it looked almost like regular dough. The word soak makes it seem to me like it should be a pretty wet batter. Thanks Deanna

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Deanna,
    A common question when new to soaking! Yes, you’re just right if it looks like dough. It doesn’t have to be soup to soak. ;) Any moisture will do. :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

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