I'm a big advocate of whole, whole grain consumption. So many diet related diseases that plague people today, could be reduced, or eliminated by regularly consuming high quality whole, whole grains. Yup, I said it twice now and it isn't a mistake. What I mean by whole, whole grains is consuming the whole grain berry, for example: brown rice, quinoa, oat groats, millet, sorghum, amaranth, wild rice, buckwheat, einkorn etc. Read more here about how to consume grains in a healthy way.
Although, as much as I would love everyone to dive right into consuming whole, whole grains on a regular basis, I'm going to suggest that you move into this whole grain thing gradually. If you've been living on the Standard American Diet, your body is going to need time to adjust to more fiber. Add a small amount of one new grain at a time. When you've got that down add another one. Even when you're consuming whole, whole grains on a regular basis, you don't need to add a large amount to every meal. Whole grains are nutrient and fiber dense! A little goes a long way. Once, you ditch the cereal, refined pasta, refined bread products in favor of whole, whole grains, you may begin to catch the vision that healthy, environmentally friendly, and economical foods go hand in hand.
Whole grains are fiber dense, something severely lacking in a Standard American Diet. Healthy fiber from real food sources is a great thing, but it would be irresponsible to promote fiber without also calling attention to healthy fluids! Fiber & Fluid work best in harmony. It's absolutely essential, that when you increase your fiber consumption, you also increase your healthy fluid intake! Fluid is critical for fiber to function effectively. Together they move material efficiently through your system. It's not something we like to think about, but healthy elimination is more important to our health and wellness, than most people realize. So add more whole, whole grains, and drink up!
Grains are seeds of certain types of plants. Seeds have a protective nature. This is beneficial in allowing them to not begin growing before the conditions are right. However; when it comes to eating them, it's a different story. This protective nature, or anti-nutrients, as they are often referred to, keep the nutrients from being well assimilated. While many of these so called, anti-nutrients, have beneficial properties, they are best when kept at a reasonable level. In particular, Phytic Acid can bind minerals, preventing them from being absorbed. Lectins can cause inflammatory reactions. To counteract these anti-nutrients, many traditional cultures have fermented their grains. Just like a seed that is planted in the soil and watered, the many beneficial properties of the seeds that we consume are not active until they become wet. Cooking briefly in boiling water, or pressure cooking, is not long enough to activate these beneficial properties. Sprouting, soaking and fermenting activates, or unlocks the nutritional potential of grains, and reduces, or eliminates other adverse affects. It makes grains more digestible and more gentle on the digestive system.
I know people who panic when they've forgotten to soak their grains and instead of eating grains, they avoid them altogether. Let's keep things in perspective. Anti-nutrients are not unique to grains, most healthy foods have anti-nutrients to some extent, even vegetables. Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting will help you get the most nutrients when consuming grain, as well as making them easier to digest, but don't panic if you forget to soak grains now and then; it's better than McDonalds. Try to use organic grain as much as possible, as the anti-nutrients are higher in conventional grains due to the modern high phosphate fertilizers and other synthetic substances and processes.
When you're ready to take your whole grain consumption to the next level, you can begin soaking, fermenting and sprouting. Sprouting, soaking and fermenting are all slight variations on a theme, to activate these little seeds, making them more digestible and nutritious. Today, I'm going to introduce soaked grains. Soaking
produces a grain product that's not sour like fermented grains: a product more preferable to a western palate. You may notice an added benefit of fluffier, lighter grains, that are easier to digest and slightly faster to cook. My husband and I are big fans of soaked oat groats, over un-soaked oat groats. The superior texture may not be very noticeable to most people, but for two people who don't love oatmeal, it makes all the difference! If you've had problems in the past, you may notice an improvement in digestive issues when consuming soaked, sprouted, or fermented grains. Soaking also improves the flavor. This is most noticeable in amaranth, which has a very grassy flavor un-soaked, but a more palatable flavor after soaking. I hope you'll join me on this journey of consuming nutrient dense and fiber rich whole grains. Please read more here about grains.
1 to 1 1/2 cups whole grain
Water to fill jar
2 Tbsp. whey, kefir, cultured buttermilk, or 1 Tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar.
1 quart jar
1. Soak grains in water and whey for 12-24 hours at room temperature. Mark on the jar if you used 1 or 1 1/2 cups of grain as this will dictate how much water you need to use to cook.
2. The whey discourages bad bacteria from forming. The water activates the grains; the acid helps break down the grains, while the good bacteria works a little bacterial pre-digesting magic of sorts.
3. I usually soak grains in a quart jar without a lid; however, if it's fruit fly season, and you have a problem with flies finding their way into the jar, place a coffee filter on top of the jar and then the ring portion of the lid, to secure the filter on the jar.
3. After 12-24 hours, place an airtight lid on the container and store grains in the fridge, soaking liquid and all, for up to a week, or until you're ready to cook them.
4. Drain grains in a large fine mesh strainer, a colander lined with a kitchen towel, or a nut milk bag and rinse well.
5. Cooking soaked grains is different than the traditional method, as they require less time and less water. Each type of grain varies as well, find instructions for cooking each individual type of grain here.
Each week, I spend 1 hour doing food prep. The first part of food prep. I spend on vegetables and the second half, I spend on other types of food. One strategy with grains is to start soaking 2-4 different types of grains during your food preparations. That way, they'll be ready to cook when you're in need of a whole grain during the week. I soak a batch big enough to cover 2 meals. Remember, you don't need a lot of whole grains to make you feel satisfied. You may eat more brown rice with curry for dinner, but for lunch, just a scoop of brown rice on a green salad, would give the salad more nutrition and staying power.
Another strategy is to begin soaking 1 type of grain at night that you would like for the next evening. You can soak it right in the pan you will use for cooking for less clean up. I usually soak and cook enough for two meals, storing what is not used for the first meal in the fridge
It's best to start slow if you're not use to consuming whole grains. Begin by adding a tablespoon to each meal and increasing as your body adjusts, remembering to also increase your intake of healthy liquids. You can freeze excess cooked grains, in portions while you are going through this adjustment period. While it may seem odd to increase a healthy and beneficial food slowly, the Standard American Diet has wrecked havoc on our digestive system. Unfortunately, it can take time to adjust to healthy and fiber rich foods. If your digestive system is particularly sensitive, you may need to start your whole grain journey with fermented porridges.
While some grains can be soaked longer, some reach a fermentation point rather quickly. Twenty four hours is a good happy medium. You can then store grains in the fridge for up to a week before cooking.
Quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth do not require as long of soaking time and begin to enter a fermentation stage in about 24-36 hours, depending on the temperature of your home. Millet, brown rice and other grains can be soaked longer at room temperature, if desired, to increase their digestibility if your stomach is very sensitive. You can soak them for up to 5 days, or until you notice a change in the smell of the liquid, and/or a lot of foam forming on top. You can then cook them, or store them in your fridge as described above.
If you let your grains go longer than 24 hours and notice a lot of foam on top and a fermented smell, your grain has begun to ferment. If this happens, you have two options. One, you can rinse and cook the grains right away; or you can rinse the grains, replace the soaking liquid and store in the fridge for up to a week before cooking.
If your home's temperature is very warm, fermentation will happen more quickly. It's best to let grains soak in a moderate temperature- not too hot and not too cold.
Grains that have foam on the top are fine to rinse, cook and eat. However, if there's any mold present, or a particularly bad smell, you'll need to discard the grains.
Each cup of dry grains will yield approximately 2 1/2 cups cooked grains.
If you really want to be an overachiever, save a portion of the soaking water as a starter for your next batch- much like sourdough starter, it will develop organisms that will be beneficial in breaking down the grain. If it's something that you use frequently, like brown rice, reserve some of the liquid as you drain the grains, add it back to the jar and start soaking another batch.