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Real Food Transition: Are You Soaking Grains?

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Real Food Transition - Soak Your Grains - www.ohlardy.com

If you have been following Oh Lardy, you probably know by know that, if you eat grains, you should be eating whole grains, not refined grains.

Whole grains are the seeds of grasses that are not processed.  They contain all of the parts and nutrients that occur naturally in the seed.

Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is chock full of refined grains…grains that have been stripped of these nutrients.  Making the transition to a Real Food diet definitely means replacing your refined grains for more whole grains.

Whole grains can be a very healthy part of the diet, provided you can tolerate them.  Properly preparing grains can help to increase the digestibility of whole grains.

What is ‘properly preparing grains'?  Soaking them.

What does it mean to soak grains?

Soaking grains means taking the whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, millet, etc) and soaking them for 7-10 hours covered in water and a splash of something acidic (liquid whey, lemon juice, vinegar, etc.).  I usually do this in the morning, for preparation that night…but many people prefer to soak their grains overnight.

You then rinse the grains and cook as you normally would.

Why soak grains?

Whole grains can be a valuable part of many people's diets.  Unfortunately, grains contain many anti-nutrients which can cause health problems and make the grains hard to digest. Our ancestors typically soaked (or sprouted or fermented…steps to talk about in a later post) grains before making them into their meals.  This soaking helps to reduce the anti-nutrients naturally present in grains.

According to the Weston A Price Foundation,

“Grains require careful preparation because they contain a number of antinutrients that can cause serious health problems. Phytic acid, for example, is an organic acid in which phosphorus is bound. It is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. Untreated phytic 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. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects.

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.”

Soaking will help reduce the anti-nutrients and make consuming whole grains more nutritious and healthful.  Soaking can also reduce cooking time, which is an added bonus!

Now let me be clear, I do not *always* soak my grains.  Let's face it, some days I am scrambling to make dinner and was planning something with rice and realize I have not soaked the rice.  I don't freak out and change plans…I just cook some rice.  I do, however, prefer to try to take the time to soak grains as often as is practical.  It is one extra step but can become second nature once you are used to it!

Directions for soaking grains

Soaking whole grains is simple.  Most whole grains can be soaked.  I have heard not to soak kasha as it becomes too mushy.

  • Take whatever grains you are going to be cooking (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.) and put them in a pot.
  • Pour room temperature, filtered water until they are covered by a couple of inches.
  • Add a a few tablespoons (no need to strictly measure) of an acidic medium (lemon juice, vinegar, whey) and soak overnight (or during the day for at least 7+ hours).
  • You may want to cover with a dish towel or paper towel if you have flies in your kitchen.
  • Strain, rinse and cook as usual.  (I do not rinse oats…they become too mushy and are hard to rinse).
How about you?  I'd love to hear your feedback on your experiences with soaking grains? Do you notice a difference in the digestibility?  Leave your comments below!

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Real Food Transition - Soak Your Grains - www.ohlardy.com


  1. I love your blog! Thanks for sharing all these great tips and recipes. I haven’t been using that much acidic medium. I thought it was about 2 tbsp. I want to be sure Im using the right amount to make them healthy and digestible. So its a whole 1/4 of a cup? Is that amount to per cup of dry rice? I cant use dairy, so I have been using ACV. Thanks!

    1. Hi there! There really isn’t a strict recipe. It is just water, temperature, time and acidity. 1/4 cup is 4 tbsp. 2 tbsp is probably fine for a cup of grains. I usually cook more than that so use more. I don’t measure, to be honest, and just eyeball it….I use about 1/4 cup for 2-3 cups of grain. You are fine doing what you are doing!

  2. We tried this last week with oats using lemon juice for the acid (we are dairy free right now) and our oatmeal tasted very lemony. Is that normal? Is it better with ACV? Just concerned it will taste worse with a vinegar. Any help would be appreciated. We are new to this journey and my husband is not loving some of the changes. He loves oatmeal so if I can get this right it will aid me in battle 😉

    1. I would try less lemon juice or give it a go with acv. We have a recipe for soaked oatmeal but it uses yogurt. https://ohlardy.com/soaked-oatmeal-breakfast So that probably isn’t very helpful to you. You may also want to try rinsing the oats after soaking with filtered water. Put them in a strainer and rinse. That could remove some of the sour flavor. Let us know how it works out!

  3. Hi! Should I be soaking and dehydrating my wheat grains also before grinding them? I’m trying to figure everything out! It’s all a little overwhelming!

  4. I just soaked brown rice for the first time the other day.
    I have recently been adding to my collection of helpful blogs around the internet that I follow and soaking had started coming up.

    I decided to try it because I had recipe in the cabinet that likely would not have been used otherwise. (Not been a fan of it)

    I actually soaked the rice for almost 24 hours using filtered water and about 3 tablespoons of sugar water from my water kefir storage mason jar in the fridge. (Kefir has been chilling out waiting for us to finish the last batch of sparkling juice before I made more)

    Anyway, long story cut down to a medium length: Made the pot of rice with the soaked grains, stored most of it, toss it in a saucepan with butter and a selection of farmer’s market veggies, fry until rice absorbs the butter, and enjoy!

    I am happy with the results and plan to start soaking more of our grains and likely as a result more often incorporating them into our meals.

  5. Good morning Tamara. I have been soaking my grains for years, as I read about it in Donna Gates’ book ‘The Body Ecology Diet’. I have never heard, however, of adding an acidic component. What exactly is the purpose of doing this and the ramifications if you don’t use an acidic component?

    Thank you,

  6. Hi, I had a question. Recently I soaked some oats when I was making oatmeal cookies. The finished cookies were real spongy, should I just soak oats when making oatmeal?

  7. I soak, then dry my spelt before I grind for flour to make bread, and, yes, I can tell a difference

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