Bread is considered the staff of life, but like many foods it can be helpful or harmful. This is not about gluten or carb count, but the nature of all grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Though most modern people eat a lot of grains and legumes, they may be causing more harm than health if not properly prepared.
There are more cases of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) leaky gut disease, and Crohns disease than can be tracked. Many of those cases may be linked to the sheer amount of insufficiently prepared grains in the modern diet.
The Seed of Life
In addition to the obvious seeds, all nuts, grains, lentils, and beans are the seeds of plants. They are the part of the plant that is designed to carry the species forward. Most plants long to live forever and spread their genetic strain as widely as possible, and so seeds have evolved to pass through an animals digestive tract intact to allow this spreading.
Many seeds require the warm, moist, bacteria-rich environment of an animals nether regions to germinate and release their nutrients.
Most seeds are coated in phytic acid and other enzyme inhibitors to protect them during the digestion process. Phytates are basically natures preservatives. And while they are great for the plants and inconsequential to the animals, they are a big problem for humans.
Phytates make the nutrients in food seeds inaccessible to us while also creating micro-tears in our intestines.
Eating grains and legumes that are cooked dry, as most industrial foods are, is one of the biggest contributors to inflammation, infertility, dermatitis, acne, and high cholesterol levels.
Our digestive system is not designed to withstand the effects of phytates, so we need to pre-digest our seed foods by giving them a surrogate warm, moist, bacterial place. This is where soaking comes in.
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Woes
Back in the day, indigenous people would put their seeds, nuts, grains, beans, and lentils through a long process before eating them. Even cacao, also high in phytic acid, was usually fermented by the Aztecs and Maya before being consumed.
Traditional European sourdough is allowed to develop beneficial bacteria for days before being made into bread. And in India, you can still find street vendors fermenting vats of ground lentil porridge to make dosa pancakes.
These traditional ways of preparing grains and legumes are what allowed humans to be nourished by these foods for thousands of years. But modern convenience foods strip the nutritive properties and cut out the necessary preparation processes.
To healthfully eat these foods, we need to prepare them much the way our ancestors did. This will protect our digestions from the poisonous preservatives, and ensure we get all of the vitamins, minerals, and protein from our foods, which are rendered unavailable by the presence of phytates.
Turning Poison Into Food
To prepare your grains, legumes, nuts, and other seeds, you will need to stock up on jars with lids, and become close friends with apple cider vinegar. Start with a cup of grains or legumes at a time, as they bulk up more than you might think.
Rinse your food seed of choice very well, then put in a jar with 3 times as much water, and one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Seal the jar, give it a good swirl, and put it somewhere warm for at least two days. Tougher legumes like chickpeas and black beans need three to four days.
Then rinse the grains or legumes very well and cook as you normally would. The jar may smell a little strange when you first open it, this is normal and will go away when you rinse the food seeds.
If you are sprouting the food seeds to eat raw, after the two day soak, rinse them very well and let them drain completely, then sprout for another one to three days, rinsing them at least twice per day.
On a raw foods diet we dont have to worry about phytic acid as much, since we are not eating many grains anyway. But I try to limit even my sprouted raw grain, legume, and nut intake, since it takes both sprouting/fermenting and cooking to really break down the phytates.
So I eat raw buckwheat cereal and soaked nuts as treats, not staples. Peeling the skin off soaked raw nuts helps, too.
In general, too much of a good thing is a bad idea. But too much of an unprepared good thing is terrible over time. Researchers are discovering that many modern digestive diseases can be linked to insufficiently prepared grains, legumes, nuts, and other seeds.
But with a little care and planning, you can get the nutrition and health benefits of these foods.