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    Archive for the ‘soaking’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrient Losses in Beans

    Kidney-BeansHTMy boyfriend recently bought some dry beans.

    After watching him soak and cook the beans, I couldn’t believe that beans are considered good sources of anything – copper, manganese, iron, and whatever else, because they get soaked for so long, and then they’re boiled for soooo long!

    I would expect for a lot of the “good stuff” to have leeched out through all of the preparation.

    Can you explain why this is not the case?

    — Christine Ho
    (Location unknown)

    Great question, Christine!

    I find it a little odd that your boyfriend boiled the beans for a very long time after soaking them, since part of the reason for soaking beans is to significantly cut down on cooking time.

    Another benefit to soaking (and this also applies to grains and nuts) — making nutrients more bioavailable!

    Whole grains and beans contain phytates, which interfere with absorption of certain nutrients, like zinc.  Soaking significantly reduces phytate content.

    FYI — that is why why sprouted whole grain breads offer more nutrition than regular whole grain breads.

    While phytates are only a concern in mono-diets (diets that mainly consist of one food, as is the case in some under-developed third world communities), there certainly is no harm in soaking these foods if one has the time and desire to do so.

    Soaking does not, however, reduce beans’ mineral content.

    While cooking beans in boiling water does leach out some minerals, the amount is insignificant — roughly two to four percent.  Even after boiling, beans are an excellent source of many minerals.

    Remember — the nutrients most affected by boiling are vitamin C as well as all B vitamins.


    You Ask, I Answer: Soaking Grains & Phytate Levels

    I just ran across a website that advocates soaking or sprouting whole grains prior to using them to neutralize the phytic acid and make the nutrients in the grain more bioavailable.

    Since the person blogging about this stuff is NOT a doctor, scientist, or nutritionist of any kind, I wanted to get a second opinion on the value of the methods described/benefits obtained, etc.

    The article quotes someone by the name of Sally Fallon, who writes:

    Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.

    Other antinutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness.

    Is this true or mumbo-jumbo?

    — Kristina Hartman
    Concord, NC

    It is true that soaking and sprouting grains greatly reduces their phytate content.

    However, I don’t see any reason to soak grains prior to eating them, and here is why.

    Number 1: simply cooking grains reduces their phytate content to some degree.

    Keep in mind, too, that when you are cooking whole grains (whether it’s brown rice, whole wheat cous cous, or quinoa), they are already immersed in water.

    Number 2: phytates cause mineral deficiencies only when the diet is largely made up of grains (as is the case in many third world nations.)

    Eating whole grains as part of a diet that also includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, meat/meat alternatives and dairy/daily alternatives is not a health concern.

    Lastly, studies have shown that phytates offer some health benefits, including decreasing the risk of certain cancers (mainly colon, cervical, liver, and prostate) by slowing down and inhibiting maturation of cancer cells.

    As for “complex sugars the body can not break down” and gluten causing mental illness, I have no clue how the author came to such conclusions.

    Some people are allergic to gluten, but that does not make it a dangerous or unhealthy component in food for those who can eat it without experiencing symptoms.


    You Ask, I Answer: Soaking Almonds

    My sister-in-law buys only raw nuts and then soaks them for 24 hours and dehydrates them before eating them.

    This apparently helps them to germinate and then consequently helps us to digest them better (or at least absorb more nutrients)??

    Is there any validity to this?

    Am I getting the same nutritional benefit from a nut whether it has been soaked/dehydrated or not?

    While the soaking philosophy makes sense to me – I’m not sure I have the time/energy for this added step.


    — Katie Bandelin
    El Paso, TX

    Raw food advocates claim that almonds – and other nuts – should be soaked for approximately 12 to 24 hours before being consumed so as to “neutralize enzyme inhibitors”.

    More extreme followers of raw diets go as far as believing that non-soaked almonds are “empty calories” since, without the enzyme inhibitors removed, our bodies do not absorb vitamins or minerals from them.

    Soaking almonds, they say, makes digestive enzymes, amino acids, B vitamins, and vitamin C (which, by the way, is not present in almonds) more readily available.

    In case you haven’t caught on yet, a large component of the raw food movement surrounds enzymes.

    Followers claim that heating foods to high temperatures – and, in this case, not soaking beans and legumes prior to eating them – renders naturally occurring enzymes in these foods useless.

    A lack of enzymes in our diet, they claim, causes us to accumulate toxins in our systems and become sick.

    From a nutritional biochemistry standpoint, enzymes are necessary for many metabolic processes.

    And, raw food advocates are right — heat does kill some enzymes.

    However, they are referring to plant enzymes, which our stomach acids destroy anyway.

    So, roasting a potato kills some enzymes – the same ones that would be destroyed once they encountered our acidic gastric juices.

    We need human enzymes. Fortunately, our bodies produce them. Consequently, we do not need to seek them out in food.

    In the specific case of almonds, soaking certainly eases their digestion for some individuals and makes their minerals more bioavailable and absorbable.

    Keep in mind, though, that all research on the health benefits of almonds has been done with non-soaked almonds.

    If soaking were required to absorb all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, then those studies would have shown no benefits from consuming unsoaked almonds.

    Recent research at Tufts’ Antioxidants Research Laboratory, for instance, determined, via blood samples, that the flavonoids and vitamin E in (non-soaked) almond skins help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol (a process linked to the clogging of arteries).

    In short, almonds (and other nuts and seeds) are healthy, whole foods that offer plenty of nutrition without human intervention.


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