Enhanced flavor is the first of three important reasons to soak grains, beans, nuts and seeds. To further blossom the flavor of these seeds, they can also be fermented or sprouted. In your mind’s eye, mentally compare the full, rich flavors and aromas of fermented sourdough bread to the more simple aroma and flavor profile of bread leavened with yeast. In much the same way, you might consider soaking, fermenting and/or sprouting our many culinary seeds to heighten their sensory pleasure.
A second reason: Soaking, fermenting and sprouting makes seeds more digestible and nutritious by transforming or removing the bitter tasting antinutrients in the bran and/or hull of seeds. Soaking, sprouting and/or fermenting also increases vitamin content, particularly vitamin B, it encourages the production of beneficial enzymes, breaks down enzyme inhibitors and proteins for easier assimilation and neutralizes phytic acid, which binds with the minerals calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc and blocks their absorption in the body.
Lectins, sugar-binding proteins, are a particularly problematic antinutrient found in most foods; they can attach to the human intestinal wall and cause inflammation. While the lectin content is negligible in most vegetables, fruits and animal foods, it is high in the foods that happen to be our most common allergens: grains, beans, nuts, seeds and the nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers). It is hypothesized that a contributing factor to our increasing food sensitivities is that in recent decades we’ve overly consumed unsoaked, unfermented and/or unsprouted whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans. Current nutritional advice for people with autoimmune disorders (see below) is to avoid all high-lectin foods.
A third and final consideration for soaking, fermenting and/or sprouting seeds is that it often improves texture. For example, soaking rolled oats or lightly fermenting millet (see recipe) prior to cooking makes the porridge so creamy and smooth that you can easily bypass the dairy or faux dairy cream. And once sprouted, a seed seemingly becomes an entirely new food—for example a mung bean becomes a mung bean sprout—with its own texture and flavor. While soaked nuts and seeds are no longer crunchy, you can oven dry them after soaking to crisp them up.
In summary, soaking, fermenting and sprouting grains, nuts, beans and seeds takes a little advance planning but only requires a few minutes to set up, and in the end it will shorten your cooking time. And if you forgot to put the seeds up the night before, do it in the morning; even a few hours of soaking gives positive results. For little effort, it delivers quantifiably results of better flavor and texture and enhanced nutrition and digestibility.
*Autoimmune Disease — Many people suffering with immune deficiency problems report that they have a significant reduction of symptoms when they avoid foods high in lectins. They therefore willingly forego—or seriously reduce—their consumption of nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and potatoes). An increasing number of such people are also limiting their consumption of grains, beans, seeds and nuts.
Should your auto-immune symptoms persist despite a reduction of those high-lectin foods, consider reducing or perhaps eliminating all seeds from your diet, including culinary spices like black pepper, cumin and dill seed. Not to worry; there’s still an abundance of fine seasoning agents, including barks or stems (such as angelica, cinnamon and licorice), resins (asafetida), tubers and bulbs (such as galangal, garlic, ginger, horseradish, turmeric and wasabi), peel (such as citrus peel) and leafy herbs (such as bay, borage, chervil, chives, curry leaf, dill, epazote, fennel fronds, lemon balm, lemongrass, lovage, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, perilla, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme).
May you be well nourished,