Properly Prepared Grains and Beans
Beans, beans the magical fruit... I know, I cannot help myself sometimes. Seriously though, I have not had a bean induced toot from the legumes I cook at home in years. There is a magical secret and it is so easy.
When preparing beans, I buy them dry in bulk because they are cheaper and I can control the preparation. Simply measure out 1 cup of beans and soak them in a large bowl covered in warm water overnight. Add 1 Tbsp of an acidic medium such as whey (the liquid floating above your yoghurt), lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Drain the beans in the morning and place them in a pot with 3 cups of fresh water or bone broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently for an hour or until soft with the lid cracked to let out steam. The secret is to add a piece of Kombu or seaweed to the beans and water while simmering. The beans should be salted after cooking and can be eaten plain or added to any recipe. You can discard the seaweed, or eat it like we do, there is really no flavor at that point, just a bunch of essential minerals for the body.
Grains, nuts, and seeds all benefit from the same soaking because they are all part of a plant with the biochemical nature to deter predators from eating them and preventing their legacy. They contain phytic acid which binds to minerals in the body and prevents them from being ingested. Contrary to the Paleo belief that disregards these grains and legumes as food, I think they are gems of nutrition when properly prepared. The problem is that in the last 50 years we have ceased to prepare our grains properly.
Historically, most cultures fermented their grains before eating them. It was not until the 1940's when the US began bleaching, stripping the germ which held the nutrients, and adding in the wrong forms of the vitamins back into our white enriched flour that we started to develop problems with wheat. Before then, cultures simply ground the whole wheat grain and then soaked it in an acidic medium to ferment. This process removed much of the phytic acid and made the grain not only edible but more nutritious. It is for this reason that you may have heard me praise sour dough breads as the best choice.
Sour dough is fermented and then baked into a nutritious bread. Of course a whole grain sour dough starter is an even better choice. You can buy or start a wild sourdough starter by yourself and bake bread or buy from a reputable bakery that uses sour dough starters. On the label, the bread should state if it contains a starter or if they just used a yeast.
This soaking process can be applied to other baked goodies. If you are going to make pancakes in the morning out of wheat flour, try soaking the dough overnight in the milk. If you are using pasteurized milk which has destroyed the live enzymes, then add to the dough 2 Tbsp whey, cultured yoghurt, or homemade kefir. The wheat or grain flour needs an acidic and warm environment to neutralize the phytic acid so do not put the dough in the refrigerator.
Leave doughs on the counter overnight, then add the rest of the ingredients in the morning for a healthier fermented food. Oatmeal is a great example of a food that benefits from soaking. In fact Quaker used to list soaking the oats as part of the instructions on how to cook. Of course now most of us eat an oatmeal like product that gets thrown in the microwave. Please note, that is not nutritious food, you may as well eat a cupcake for breakfast. Steel cut oats are a nutritious food, but must be soaked overnight. This is easy, simply place 1 cup oats in the pan, cover with 4 cups of water and 2 Tbsp whey, apple cider vinegar, yoghurt or lemon juice. The best part is when you are stumbling around in the morning all you have to do is turn on the pot and cook on low for about 20 minutes. These oats will be done faster, more nutritious, and super delicious. Remember to add a healthy fat to slow down the absorption of the glucose or sugar which is very high in grains. Historically, butter and cream were added to oats.
I cannot think of a grain, nut, seed, legume or pulse that does not benefit from a traditional soak. Think of ways you can soak these doughs, or foods ahead of time and you will decrease the burden of phytic acid in the body. Muesli, which originally meant nuts, dried fruits, and oats, soaked overnight in yoghurt is a wonderful treat on a hot summer morning. You can even keep your soaking muesli in the fridge if you are afraid to jump into "counter cultures" on your first attempt. Muffins are a breeze to bake in the morning when the batter has set overnight.
We have gotten so afraid of leaving our food out on the counters overnight. I get it. Much of our frankenfoods these days do not follow the laws of real food. We are so focused on killing bacteria that we have forgotten how important beneficial bacteria is in our systems. I encourage you to try soaking. Start with something small like oatmeal, muesli or beans where you cannot really go wrong. In no time, you will see the benefits of these traditional foods.