Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Traditional Preparation Methods Improve Grains' Nutritive Value

Soaking or Germinating Grains

The most basic method of preparing grains is prolonged soaking in water, followed by cooking. This combination reduces the level of water-soluble and heat-sensitive toxins and anti-nutrients such as tannins, saponins, digestive enzyme inhibitors and lectins, as well as flatulence factors. It also partially degrades phytic acid, which is a potent inhibitor of mineral absorption, an inhibitor of the digestive enzyme trypsin and an enemy of dental health (1). This improves the digestibility and nutritional value of grains as well as legumes.

I prefer to soak all grains and legumes for at least 12 hours in a warm location, preferably 24. This includes foods that most people don't soak, such as lentils. Soaking does not reduce phytic acid at all in grains that have been heat-treated, such as oats and kasha (technically not a grain), because they no longer contain the phytic acid-degrading enzyme phytase. Cooking without soaking first also does not have much effect on phytic acid.

The next level of grain preparation is germination. After soaking, rinse the grains twice per day for an additional day or two. This activates the grains' sprouting program and further increases their digestibility and vitamin content. When combined with cooking, it reduces phytic acid, although modestly. Therefore, most of the minerals in sprouted whole grains will continue to be inaccessible. Many raw sprouted grains and legumes are edible, but I wouldn't use them as a staple food because they retain most of their phytic acid as well as some heat-sensitive anti-nutrients (2).

Grinding and Fermenting Grains

Many cultures around the world have independently discovered fermentation as a way to greatly improve the digestibility and nutritive value of grains (3). Typically, grains are soaked, ground, and allowed to sour ferment for times ranging from 12 hours to several days. In some cases, a portion of the bran is removed before or after grinding.

In addition to the reduction in toxins and anti-nutrients afforded by soaking and cooking, grinding and fermentation goes much further. Grinding greatly increases the surface area of the grains and breaks up their cellular structure, releasing enzymes which are important for the transformation to come. Under the right conditions, which are easy to achieve, lactic acid bacteria rapidly acidify the batter. These bacteria are naturally present on grains, but adding a starter makes the process more efficient and reliable.

Due to some quirk of nature, grain phytase is maximally active at a pH of between 4.5 and 5.5, which is mildly acidic. This is why the Weston Price foundation recommends soaking grains in an acidic medium before cooking. The combination of grinding and sour fermentation causes grains to efficiently degrade their own phytic acid (as long as they haven't been heat treated first), making minerals much more available for absorption (4, 5, 6, 7). This transforms whole grains from a poor source of minerals into a good source.

The degree of phytic acid degradation depends on the starting amount of phytase in the grain. Corn, rice, oats and millet don't contain much phytase activity, so they require either a longer fermentation time, or the addition of high-phytase grains to the batter (8). Whole raw buckwheat, wheat, and particularly rye contain a large amount of phytase (9), although I feel wheat is problematic for other reasons.

As fermentation proceeds, bacteria secrete enzymes that begin digesting the protein, starch and other substances in the batter. Fermentation reduces lectin levels substantially, which are reduced further by cooking (10). Lectins are toxins that can interfere with digestion and may be involved in autoimmune disease, an idea championed by Dr. Loren Cordain. Grain lectins are generally heat-sensitive, but one notable exception is the nasty lectin wheat germ agglutinin (WGA). As its name suggests, WGA is found in wheat germ, and thus is mostly absent in white flour. WGA may have been another reason why DART participants who increased their wheat fiber intake had significantly more heart attacks than those who didn't. I don't know if fermentation degrades WGA.

One of the problems with grains is their poor protein quality. Besides containing a fairly low concentration of protein to begin with, they also don't contain a good balance of essential amino acids. This prevents their efficient use by the body, unless a separate source of certain amino acids is eaten along with them. The main limiting amino acid in grains is lysine. Legumes are rich in lysine, which is why cultures around the world pair them with grains. Bacterial fermentation produces lysine, often increasing its concentration by many fold and making grains nearly a "complete protein", i.e. one that contains the ideal balance of essential amino acids as do animal proteins (11, scroll down to see graph). Not very many plant foods can make that claim. Fermentation also increases the concentration of the amino acid methionine and certain vitamins.

Another problem with grain protein is it's poorly digested relative to animal protein. This means that a portion of it escapes digestion, leading to a lower nutritive value and a higher risk of allergy due to undigested protein hanging around in the digestive tract. Fermentation followed by cooking increases the digestibility of grain protein, bringing it nearly to the same level as meat (12, 13, 14, 15). This may relate to the destruction of protease inhibitors (trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid) and the partial pre-digestion of grain proteins by bacteria.

Once you delve into the research on traditional grain preparation methods, you begin to see why grain-eating cultures throughout the world have favored certain techniques. Proper grain processing transforms them from toxic to nutritious, from health-degrading to health-giving. Modern industrial grain processing has largely eschewed these time-honored techniques, replacing them with low-extraction milling, extrusion and quick-rise yeast strains.

Many people will not be willing to go through the trouble of grinding and fermentation to prepare grains. I can sympathize, although if you have the right tools, once you establish a routine it really isn't that much work. It just requires a bit of organization. In fact, it can even be downright convenient. I often keep a bowl of fermented dosa or buckwheat batter in the fridge, ready to make a tasty "pancake" at a moment's notice. In the next post, I'll describe a few recipes from different parts of the world.

Further reading:

How to Eat Grains
A Few Thoughts on Minerals, Milling, Grains and Tubers
Dietary Fiber and Mineral Availability
A New Way to Soak Brown Rice


Peter said...

I'm wondering, as a follower of this blog who's been making a lot of sourdough, no-knead bread, how closely what you're describing here matches the bread I've been making. Specifically, using a live active culture, using a high hydration (in excess of 50%, usually in the 60%+ range), and a long rise - 12-18 hours to develop flavor, allow for autolyzation, and allow the small amount of starter to develop to a full flavor.

This method seems to be similar to what you're describing as a traditional method of dealing with grains.

Chris Kresser said...

What a pain in the $#@! Not worth it if you ask me.

I'd rather spend the time making yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and other traditional foods.

But then I don't really miss grains since I stopped eating them, and don't feel that great when I do.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Peter,

Yes, sourdough bread certainly qualifies. It's the traditional European version of what so many cultures do worldwide. I'm confident it's healthier than typical bread, although I still think wheat is problematic for many people.

Paul Ericson said...

Do you know how much sprouting reduces phytic acid? I assume the longer the sprouting occurs, the more PA is consumed.

Traditionally malsters sprout grain until the rootlet is the same length as the grain. This seems to strike the best balance between maximizing enzymes and preserving starch.

Also, it appears from this post that soaking, then sprouting, then grinding and fermenting is probably the best method. (Sprouting often starting with a soak).

BTW, the best sprouting system out there is the EasySprout by Sproutmo. I've used all the mainstream systems and EasySprout is handsdown the fastest and easist method. It truly is no rinsing. (Any one wan to buy a BioSnacky? :-)

Paul Ericson said...


Do you think it's the gluten in the wheat or some other wheat-specific components?

The Swiss that Price studied ate rye as their primary carbohydrate, but it was whole grain, fresh ground flour, likely somewhat sprouted from standing in sheaves and sour leavened.

Price also used fresh ground whole wheat flour to make bread in his mission and considered grains, in combination with fish, to be a superior diet.

I keep running across conflicting stories about rye. It has gluten, but I can't find consistent assessments of exactly how much. And gluten is not the predominate material in rye that gets developed during bread making. That material in rye are called pentosans, which are a vegetable gum. I suspect rye has less gluten than wheat, but I can't confirm this reliably.

Gyan said...

Surprisingly Indians/Pakistanis/Afghans dont soak wheat and eat unleavened flatbreads. Yet the wheat allergy and associated problems (celieac) are not more prevalent there than in West.

Many people do have digestive problems, which people (and doctors) should but do not attribute to wheat but frank celieac appears to be rare,

Perhaps the hot climate plus having no fridges makes for some fermentation naturally?

Ruth Almon said...

"Soaking does not reduce phytic acid at all in grains that have been heat-treated, such as oats..."

I have lately been making my own granola. I mix 6 cups of rolled oats with 2 cups of whole wheat flour, add 1 cup of yogurt and soak it overnight. Does this have no affect on the oats? How would I know if the oats have been heat-treated?

Stephen, I've looked all over the internet and haven't found very specific information about the effects of soaking/germinating/fermenting per grain or legume. Most sources make general statement for all legumes, or all grains, but I'm sure each one needs special consideration. Also, very few provide the numbers on how much phytic acid etc. is reduced, and I'm left feeling unsure my efforts are doing any good, like with the oats.

Do you know where I could find this info online. Alternatively, would you be interesting in providing this kind of specific information?

Anna said...

Great collection of info on preparing grains, Stephan.

Like Paul, I also very much like the Easy Sprout system, though I primarily use it to sprout non-grain seeds, like broccoli seeds, or small quantities of nuts.

For those interested in non-heat treated oats, Legacy Valley offers raw sprout-able groats (whole oat seeds, not rolled or cut). I've seen them at a local store, I think about 3 lbs for $12. Amazon sells the same oats for about $17.50 for 2 packs of 48 oz ea.

Gold Mine Natural Foods also sells raw fresh rolled oats, about $5 for a pound.

No affiliation, yada yada.

Praki Prakash said...

Hi Stephan,

I have been reading your posts with great interest. I am of Indian origin and dosa/idly were my staples for many decades. I appear to be prediabetic and have cut down on carbs a lot, mainly in the form of rice and lately wheat. I have always thought that fermented foods et digested much faster and lead to blood glucose spikes (at least in people with impaired glucose handling). Do think that eating grains and fermented grain products could be an issue for some people?


chris said...

i have been making flatbread, or as i think of it, 'flattoast.' Wet, long-fermented, cooked like a thick crepe on a griddle and finished in the toaster oven. then topped with a spread like pesto.

I have been using oat bran, occasionally with bean flour.

I will probably add a buckwheat fraction.

It sounds like besan would not be the best choice, since it is toasted, so the enzymes are probably gone. perhaps adding pureed cooked chickpeas would the best.

have you seen anything on the interchangability of the bacteria or yeast that eat various grains (or legume, nut, etc flour)? I wonder if they are generalists enough.

Is there reason to think sprouting before is adding something, on top of wet soak after flour-izing? It seems plausible, but i could see it not being true, as well.

praguestepchild said...

I'm not being facetious when I ask what are the ramifications for beer? It's a shame to live in the beer capitol of the world and not partake at least occasionally.

I'm not worried about the nutritive value so much as how much the anti nutrients are reduced in the brewing process. Aren't hops soaked first? A quick google shows beer ph to supposedly be between 4.3 - 4.7.

Lorna said...

I've recently been reading about a link with grains and mycotoxins and it seems to back-up the experiences of others here.

Wheat and Rye appear to have more mycotoxins than other grains, but other grains still have them in appreciable amounts. Which may explain the reactions to rye, despite low gluten.

Interestingly, Hulda Clarke, in A Cure for all Diseases linked mycotoxins with food storage techniques and found they were ubiquitous in American grains and corn, but rare in Mexico.

So perhaps these traditional techniques would work for healthy grains, but wouldn't remove mycotoxins?

My second favourite health site (mercola.com)- you know the first ;0)- has some info on this, but I also found the first chapter of the book he refered to here http://www.healthe-livingnews.com/articles/fungal_etiology_of_inflammatory_bowel_disease.html

It links bowel damage and mycotoxins. Which is fascinating for me as I have coeliac disease, but like many others react to all grains. Maybe it's not just the gluten...! (or the phytic acid, lectins... tell me again why I don't eat grains!)

Mavis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mavis said...

BTW, ascorbic acid allows the body to absorb iron in the presence of phytic acid, but I have not been able to find any evidence that it increases the bioavailability of other minerals. Does anyone else have any information on this?

Carl M. said...

All this makes me wonder if the explosion in the use of pasta in the U.S. has been a factor in the obesity epidemic. Pasta is wheat not fermented at all.

I can no longer find the source, in fact it may be off the Internet now, but I do recall reading that if you use the data in the China Study, you'd find a much higher correlation with wheat and heart disease than with meat/fat. The northeastern Chinese eat a lot of wheat. The northwestern Chinese (i.e., Mongols) do not, but they eat a meat centered diet.

The Chinese make noodles vs. bread.

Alina said...

Hi Stephan,

I am very interested in the buckwheat batter you referenced - how do you make it?

Also, I was wondering whether you use canned beans - and if so, does soaking them have any benefit? I was looking at some bean soup recipes lately, but I am not sure what to do to the beans first (or if I should generally avoid them like I do bread).

Elizabeth Walling said...

This is really interesting. I'm going to have to pass this one on to my readers.

I recently ordered some quality sprouted flour and am looking forward to experimenting with it. From this post--if I understand correctly--the best method would still be to soak this sprouted flour before cooking or baking with it?

Dave said...

@Praki Prakash,

I suggest you measure your blood sugar after eating various foods, e.g. fermented grains. People with metabolic syndrome (like me) often find that their carbohydrate tolerance does not completely recover over the long term (though there's something of a confound there due to the body's tendency to tune metabolism for the particular macronutrient mix). But this isn't true for everybody, so best to get some data on yourself.

Anand Srivastava said...

"Surprisingly Indians/Pakistanis/Afghans dont soak wheat and eat unleavened flatbreads. Yet the wheat allergy and associated problems (celieac) are not more prevalent there than in West."

Gyan I don't think Indians used to eat so much wheat as they did oats. Atleast my father tells me that oats (Jau) was much more common and cheaper when he was a child. We are from north India. I do agree that at least in our tradition the dough was used very fresh. It wasn't kept more than an hour before being used.
But the flour was milled fresh, and the wheat was first washed in water and then dried before milling.

Ofcourse traditions change when people move to cities and we get machine milled flours.

I am not sure what was done a hundred years ago.

Paul Ericson said...

"Interestingly, Hulda Clarke, in A Cure for all Diseases linked mycotoxins with food storage techniques and found they were ubiquitous in American grains and corn, but rare in Mexico."

Mycotoxins are produced by fungi and fungi can only survive and thrive under certain conditions of temperature and humidity so it's possible that the US and Canada have better conditions for mycotoxin producing fungi than Mexico.

I'd be curious to talk with a mycologist specializing in mycotoxin to see if these fungi are prevalent at all latitudes by adapting to local conditions, or if they are more limited in range to specific latitudes.

It could also be that storage techniques are different in Mexico.

Does Clarke offer an explanation?

Kindke said...

I make sprouted brown rice every now and then, soaking and rinsing for 48 hours and you can start to see little 0.5mm sprouts coming out of the germ.

I find sprouted brown rice a bit harder to cook though, it takes about 25mins simmer time to get it to the right texture and however hard I try the rice tends to always be quite soggy with water.

Another thing about sprouted brown rice is its a great sedative, a bowl of it with some soy sauce puts me to sleep like a baby about 1 hr after consumption

nicoretta9 said...

Thank you for this post.

Does the grain have to be ground for fermentation to be effective?

After you ferment with starter, do you rinse it off before cooking as you do after soaking?

Is this kind of fermentation helpful for in reducing lectins in legumes, and if so, do you have to mash them up?

Venkat said...


I agree to what Dave suggested.

I did the same testing 2 years back and removed all grains summarily from my diet.

I am a Type II diabetic and did not tolerate carbs/grains well. So I removed it and achieved best sugar control (A1c 5.0)...



Miki said...

Regarding India, Chapati at least is made from a low gluten kind of wheat, google Chapati and Monsanto. Apparently they are being sued by the Indians for trying to bio-rob the Indian variety by patenting it as a source of low gluten genes or something like that,
I think flatbread in general (Pita, Pizza) do not require a lot of gluten.

pyker said...


Basic beer is made from malted barley -- i.e. barley in which the germination process has been induced -- and hops (which are not grains), and then fermented with yeast. Sounds like the best use for grains yet!

Anonymous said...

Multiple subjects:

Porcupine, I heard Sally Fallon M. speaking on the changes she made in granola-making after determining that some health issues she was having were due to the use of unsoaked oats, which I believe she said were among the worst offenders with respect to phytates. The recipe she gave for her revised method involved soaking the oats then baking the mixture. My understanding is that there was improvement in her health after the change. My take on what was presented.

Even before hearing her talk, though, because of the phytate concern, I would soak & dehydrate oats for use in recipes. But the resulting texture, in my opinion, is less than desirable. So I started buying the grain whole (groats?), soaking, dehydrating, then flaking with a grain mill attachment. This allowed me to use the oats as called for in a recipe without further adjustments but still enjoy the nutritional benefits of soaking.

My head is still swimming a bit with all the info I've read so far on this site (today my first introduction) and will need to re-visit and process much of it. It has caused me to wonder how much good, nutritionally, is actually accomplished by my method and what, if any, adjustments I should make.

Mycotoxins. If the conditions of grain storage is a factor in the development, I also need to look more at this and how home storage does or might affect it. I sometimes buy in bulk and store. Even what I don't buy in bulk may be stored quite awhile.

I know there are many Peters in the world, but I'm wondering if the post by "Peter" yesterday is the same one associated with Whole Grain Breads (New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavors). I see similarities between the post and what is found in the book.

CC said...

Just skip to the chase and buy the most amazing sprouted flour, pasta and pretzels on the market today. Check out their site with tons of new info about sprouting grains. I realized that I was drowning my grain, not sprouting. Who knew there was a test to determine if a grain was sprouted?! Oh, it's EssentialEating.com. I've been using thier flour for a year now and it tastes great and the best part is my baked goods are beautiful. The sprouted pasta is a regular at my house! Enjoy!

Alan said...

Hello Stephan,

When you soak brown rice for 24 hours, how much is the phytic acid content decreased assuming this is the first soak? I bet the answer is complicated because of many variables. How important is the temperature of the soak water being used? Why is it necessary to get rid of the soak water and cook the rice in fresh water?

Michael said...


Thanks for the last couple of posts regarding grains. Very good and much needed info since there is no doubt you have a mixed crowd of readers when it comes to grain consumption, some who do and some who think eating them is nutritional heresy.

I would point out that although there has been some great research on sourdough bread, that in fact the Swiss of the Loetschental Valley, a group Weston Price studied, fermented their bread for two weeks. With one major exception, AFAIK there is no one doing bread that way. So the breads Price observed were nothing like what people are using today.

Now some people think it was just a custom with no real benefit, which is why Price did not place great emphasis on it, and in fact used fresh milled grain in his practice. However, there is a gentleman on the west coast who does make bread in this fashion (and is rather fanatical about it - in a good way), and there are numerous anecdotal reports of people who have terrible problems with gluten doing just fine on his bread.

The other factor is that there seems to be a place for very fresh grain, as Price used in his practice when healing children of dental decay (although someone on another site "guesses" that he was making sourdough), and Sir Robert McCarrison, and his use/observation of fresh wheat.

My working hypothesis at the moment is that either long fermented bread, or bread made from extremely fresh milled flour (and used quickly) can work for a lot of people, but all the stuff in-between, which is what 99% of the populace usually consumes, is a detriment, more so to some than others.

Outside of those parameters, I think consuming a bread made from gluten grains on a regular basis is not a good idea.

Proper grain processing transforms them from toxic to nutritious, from health-degrading to health-giving.

Of course I'm sure you know that there is thinking floating around the paleosphere that you can only make grains less poisonous, not nutritious and health giving.

Many people will not be willing to go through the trouble of grinding and fermentation to prepare grains. I can sympathize, although if you have the right tools, once you establish a routine it really isn't that much work. It just requires a bit of organization. In fact, it can even be downright convenient.

Quite true, but that is a hard pill to swallow for people who think that grains are the height of nutritional evil.


I would be very careful of any pre-made flours, even sprouted ones.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Paul,

Typical sprouting leaves most of the PA intact, although there shouldn't be much PA in beer after it's been fermented for so long. Sprouting isn't necessary or even desirable if you're grinding and fermenting.

I doubt gluten is the only reason wheat is problematic. White flour has basically no fermentable fiber and few micronutrients. Whole wheat has WGA. Rye has about half the gluten of wheat.

Hi Gyan,

Are you sure it's not just a difference in diagnosis? American doctors thought celiac was rare until they started testing for it.

Hi Porcupine,

Oats contain no phytase unless you buy true raw whole oat groats. So you have to mix them with another high-phytase grain flour and soak.

Hi Praki Prakash,

As far as I know, fermentation does not speed digestion, to the contrary. Sour fermentation generally reduces the glycemic index of grains. That being said, cooked grain batters generally have a high GI whether they're fermented or not.

Dosa and idli are usually made with white rice, which is a refined carb that lacks micronutrients and fermentable fiber. Fermentation may make it more nutritious, but it remains a nutritionally depleted food. It's very low in magnesium, a critical mineral for glucose control. Add processed vegetable oils to the mix and that may begin to explain the high rate of diabetes and CHD in India. Just guessing.

Hi Praguestepchild,

Beer should contain low levels of anti-nutrients.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Alina,

I'm planning to post my recipe at some point. I don't generally use canned beans. They're probably soaked before cooking, but I can't say that for a fact. But they often add preservatives like EDTA. EDTA basically has the same effect as phytic acid on mineral absorption.

Hi Elizabeth,

Sour fermentation would be the best method.

Hi Anand and Gyan,

I have some papers on whole wheat chapati consumption showing that it's a good way to get rickets, especially if you live in the UK and your vitamin D and mineral status are borderline. I think if it's paired with dairy, as it was in Northern India if I understand correctly, you can avoid the rickets.

Hi Nicoretta9,

There are some indications that it works in intact grains, particularly if a starter culture is used for the soaking water. I posted a recipe a while back called "A New Way to Soak Brown Rice".

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Alan,

Simply soaking brown rice in water is not very effective at reducing phytic acid, although it may be reduced in soaked grains by subsequent cooking.

If you put a lactic acid bacteria starter in the soaking water, it makes it much more effective, as I described in my post "A New Way to Soak Brown Rice". Warming it up speeds the process, although you don't want it to go above 110 F or so because that will kill the phytase.

Hi Michael,

They fermented their bread for two weeks?? Where can I read more about that?

I agree with you that Price unfortunately didn't realize the importance of fermentation in traditional diets. As much as I love Price, he was a drive-by anthropologist. He didn't spend the time with these cultures to understand their food habits in depth. The importance of fermentation one of Sally Fallon's biggest contributions to the diet-health world in my opinion.

I know many paleos think grains are going to be somewhat toxic any way you prepare them. And I'm sure they're right. But the problem is that almost everything is somewhat toxic, including starchy tubers, vegetables, and even some fruit. Vegetables are full of assorted goitrogens, oxalates, salicylates, tannins, phytoestrogens, etc. You can't avoid toxins and still eat a healthy diet, but that's OK because you don't have to. You just have to reduce the relevant ones to a level at which they aren't problematic. I believe healthy traditional cultures have shown us that we can do that with grains if we prepare them well, as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern including nutrient-dense plant and animal foods.

Bryan said...

Is there any reason to soak white rice?

I've incorporated white rice into a Paleolithic diet (one with no dairy or anything else) and my acne didn't come back. I've also tried sweet potato vermicelli noodles, which are often used in Korean dishes like soondae and chapchae. Both of these carbohydrate sources don't include lectins, and they help me get the calories I need as a training athlete who is constantly losing weight, even while eating three whole chickens per day.

Anonymous said...

Even with the explanations given, I'm still a bit unclear on the process and resulting product. I hope I can make my questions and thoughts clear: In two posts due to length

Post 1: What I'm reading:
(Post 2 will have my thoughts and questions)

From Stephen: "A New Way to Soak Brown Rice":

Soaking alone didn't have much of an effect on phytic acid in brown rice. However, fermentation was highly effective at degrading it. What I didn't realize the first time I read the paper is that they fermented intact brown rice rather than grinding it. This wasn't clear from the description in the methods section...

Stephen's post to Alan:

Simply soaking brown rice in water is not very effective at reducing phytic acid, although it may be reduced in soaked grains by subsequent cooking.

If you put a lactic acid bacteria starter in the soaking water, it makes it much more effective, as I described in my post "A New Way to Soak Brown Rice". Warming it up speeds the process, although you don't want it to go above 110 F or so because that will kill the phytase.

Instruction #1 in "A New Way to Soak Brown Rice":

Soak brown rice in dechlorinated water for 24 hours at room temperature without changing the water. Reserve 10% of the soaking liquid (should keep for a long time in the fridge). Discard the rest of the soaking liquid; cook the rice in fresh water.

Anonymous said...

Post 2: Some of my thoughts and questions on what I'm reading:

? When, more specifically, does the fermentation referred to above actually take place?

a) The first step (in the "New Way...")is soaking in water alone, not with a lactic acid bacteria added.

b) My assumption would be that the first batch of rice that is then cooked would not be fermented, thus the phytic acid would be minimally degraded, though there may be some benefit derived from that soaking and the subsequent cooking.

? If before cooking, that same batch of rice was again soaked with 10% of the liquid from the first soak, wouldn't that serve to further reduce the phytic acid in the rice and boost the bacteria in the liquid? Assuming the rice would not go to mush (maybe an invalid assumption).

b) My understanding: the continuous process of reserving a portion of the previous batch allows the bacteria to grow or strengthen (or produce more phytase), in order to eventually make (the liquid phytase-rich and) that initial 24 hour soak degrade 96% of the phytic acid in the rice.

? If that is what happens (the bacteria is boosted as the process continues), why would you do the first soak in water alone? Wouldn't a lactic acid bacteria added to the initial soak be of benefit? Is there something specific about the water from the from soaked rice alone that makes it especially suitable? Ph factor, phytase increasing?

? At what point were you suggesting to Alan to add a lactic acid bacteria to the soaking water? Since you said "a", were there other options were you considering for a lactic acid bacteria?

? If it is not that the rice soaked water is particularly suitable (so preferred), could some other liquid be used in the initial soaking water to boost the process? Whey, liquid from lacto-fermented vegetables (such as kraut), kombucha, water kefir. Would these meet the ph or phytase-increasing requirements to be effective?

I guess another question, then, for me, is what is needed to produce phytase? Is that naturally or commonly a part of lactic acid bacteria?


Stephens's comment: You can probably use the same liquid to soak other grains and beans.

? If you used reserved soaking water (from rice) to soak other grains and beans, would you then reserve a portion of that for subsequent soaking of rice and/or other grains or beans?


? When soaking, should what is being soaked be covered lightly or securely (cloth covered, plastic wrap, something more airtight?)

I've seen some suggestions for temp control. I suppose that a dehydrator that has a temp control could be used as long as the the water level were monitored/maintained.

Anonymous said...

Great post Stephan. I especially liked your last response. As you noted, there are shortcomings with the consumption of grains, yet many other healthy foods also present their own. (With grains, according to die-hard low-carbers, there might still be the problem of "too many carbs", but this is the most individual-dependant variable, one which needs to be adjusted according to one's goals and ailments. And, one needs to be reminded that "paleo" does not necessarily entail "low-carb"). Like you however, I prefer to always steer clear of gluten, and especially wheat.

Michael, I would also like to hear more on this 2-week fermentation process! Sounds interesting...

What is the general consensus with nuts and seeds with regards to soaking? I know the WAPF here again recommends soaking, but I find it more time-consuming than with grains and legumes, as you then have to go through the process of drying them for future use. If one is only consuming on average but a handful of nuts every other day, I wonder as to the necessity of soaking nuts. Are they as troublesome in terms of anti-nutrients or PA?

Ruth Almon said...

I think hisjoymystrength's comment reflect how confusing it is to translate the general knowledge one finds in many places on the web, to specific instructions on how to treat a particular grain or legume so that it becomes a healthy (or less harmful) food.

Each grain or legume may need to be handled a little differently. For each one, there are a variety of methods, some or all of which can be combined. So confusing! It almost makes you want to buy a double cheeseburger!! (Well, not really).

It would be great to have a post on oats, for instance, and spell out what the options are, and what affect each thing (soaking, fermenting) has on the levels on phytic acid and bioavailability. And then another on chick peas, and so on.

Just a friendly suggestion :) I find all of your posts extremely informative and well-written. Thank you for the time you spend writing this blog.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Bryan,

I don't think it's necessary to soak white rice, unless it's a major source of calories in which case it might be wise, I don't know.

Hi Eric,

All seeds including nuts have basically the same problems as grains. That's another reason why I think it's somewhat arbitrary o single out grains. The difference with nuts though is that a) they're very calorie-dense, so the proportion of anti-nutrients to cals is lower b) they're typically eaten in small quantities.

Most traditional cultures roasted their nuts before eating. Roasting breaks down a portion of the phytic acid, and reduces most other anti-nutrients. Personally I find roasted nuts much more digestible than raw nuts. Soaking and dehydrating should have a similar effect.

Anonymous said...


This all makes sense (the roasting, and the calorie to anti-nutrient ratio...).

Are you at all concerned with potential damage to EFA when roasting nuts? I seem to recall you prefering macadamia nuts, almonds and hazelnuts, which are higher in monounsaturated than PUFA fats anyways, so it might not be an issue I suppose... Do you buy them raw and roast them yourself though?

Anonymous said...

Another reason grains and legumes are singled out (by low-carb paleos) over nuts probably stems from the fact that they are also high in carbs, relatively speaking...

Anonymous said...

These recent posts bring up a few more questions for me.

Roasting (toasting/sautéing?) nuts and seeds to neutralize/reduce phytic acid is something I've only very recently come across. I suppose that could be at least one reason (besides taste) why some recipes call for sautéing pine nuts and sesame seeds (others as well).

Roasting would be less involved than soaking & drying.

Is there a way to compare?

If roasting neutralizes some phytic acid, would there be value in combining the processes? Soaking & drying then roasting. (I wouldn't think the reverse would work well. An assumption.)

Overkill? No value? Value-benefit received wouldn't justify the time & effort expended?

Would the roasting need to be under 110 F to prevent killing enzymes?

Anonymous said...


"If roasting neutralizes some phytic acid, would there be value in combining the processes? Soaking & drying then roasting. (I wouldn't think the reverse would work well. An assumption.)"

If this can be helpful, I know the WAPF actually recommends both: soaking, and then drying, either in a dehydrator, or at the lowest setting in one's oven...

As for "Value-benefit vs time & effort expended?", I'm not sure either...

As Stephan suggested though, the ratio of calories to antinutrients combined to the fact that one usually doesn't eat that many nuts in one sitting might justify simply roasting...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eric. I have been soaking and drying nuts and some seeds. I use a dehydrator that can go up to 145 F. I believe the instructions in Nourishing Traditions is to not exceed 150 F. My oven's minimum is 175 F. (She treats cashews a bit differently in the soaking time and the drying temp due to increased likelihood of mold.)

For my particular question, I had in mind if, after soaking and drying (together part of the same process), one would then roast, say, in the oven, for added benefit.

But your comment brought out a point to consider. With the heat in the oven or the dehydrator, there could be some roasting going on already.? (A statement and a question.)

Then the question could be, do I need to soak? As you pointed out, for those who don't consume a lot of nuts, maybe not.

For those who use nuts in place of some fours and otherwise consume more, it might be helpful. It would still depend on how much benefit is actually derived from soaking.

Another question that comes to mind. If I put unsoaked nuts in the dehydrator at an approprate temperature for an appropriate time, would the results be comparable to having put them in an oven for roasting?

Anonymous said...

In that last post, it should have been "for those who use nuts in place of flours", nor "fours".

Anonymous said...

One more thing. I'm not sure if it fits in this thread, but the subject of the diet/nutrition-cavity relationship was brought up in one or more previous posts. I have some CD's by homeopath, Joette Calebrese. Since there is a WAPF influence here, I would assume that her name is familiar, probably in particular, for those who get the Wise Traditions journals where she is a regular contributor. In her CD on cell salts (or tissue salts), which she calls nutritional homeopathy, she discusses teeth and how the use of two (of the twelve) in particular have been used to prevent cavities, reverse decay, and even straighten teeth.

Todd Hargrove said...

Off topic, but any comments on this? New "vaccine" for atherosclerosis:


Paula Hible said...

All of this information is fascinating, but over-whelming! I am a mother of a young woman with Spectrum Disorder (meaning mental disabilities). Much of her crowd suffers from being over-weight and other food related health issues. I also work at a group home for elderly and equally challenged people. Many in this population, if not suffering with Diabetes currently, are heading pell mell towards it. The interface between medications, diet and body chemistry (that is a-typical to begin with) along with the inability to organize meals, leaves this population particularly at risk.

I have started a blog in Sylvia’s honor to help with very basic cooking principles.(http://kitchenprimer.blogspot.com/) Along with attempting to make the kitchen a less daunting place, I try to offer easy and simple ideas that open the door to less anxiety about preparation and more healthful practices. This means that I often take short cuts with the hopes that I will get ‘more flies with honey’.

Can you delineate one or two simple guidelines for methods that are streamlined and basic or suggest products that are easily available? Rather than this be an all-or-nothing proposition, just getting closer to healthy consumption of grains would be a big plus.

I don’t have to tell anyone that getting this population to steer away from processed foods, which have all the allure of requiring little or no preparation, is really the main goal. I would hate to think that the only people who can benefit from the wonderful information in your blog are those that have the patience for a long soak!

Michael said...


They fermented their bread for two weeks?? Where can I read more about that?

Dr. Price noted it in NAPR. Also Sally Fallon raised the point 6 years ago at a Weston A. Price Foundation convention I attended, though I have heard little about from the WAPF since then.

The Swiss used community ovens and each family baked enough bread for an entire month.

The fermentation process consisted of allowing the baked bread to sit before consuming.

I agree with you that Price unfortunately didn't realize the importance of fermentation in traditional diets. As much as I love Price, he was a drive-by anthropologist. He didn't spend the time with these cultures to understand their food habits in depth. The importance of fermentation one of Sally Fallon's biggest contributions to the diet-health world in my opinion.

Until recently my argument has always been not that Dr. Price didn't note the effective use of fermentation, but rather the Weston A. Price Foundation did not take him seriously enough on this point. I would then refer to the 2 week fermentation of bread mentioned above.

It was particularly annoying in times past, when people would argue about how bad grains were, even properly prepared grains, when, as far as I was concerned, no one was properly fermenting (or otherwise preparing) grains, especially since I knew people who were very gluten intolerant who had no problem with long fermented bread.

The WAPF in my opinion sends out a mixed message on "preparing grains" since they don't mention on their website the "long ferment" or the partial removal of the bran. You will find examples of these practices on their site, but nothing as an explicit recommendation, just the normal soak, sprout or ferment info they usually give.

A couple of years ago I got into a discussion about this with Chris Masterjohn. I was making my usual comments about the need to long ferment gluten grains and Chris suggested that while Price noted this practice he attached no nutritional significance to it. Chris noted that it was a community practice and there appears to be nothing special about it as Price neither mentioned it in a nutritional context nor did the natives bring it up in his interaction with them.

I responded with my anecdotal evidence (and IIRC noted that certain aspects of Price's work seems to be ignored by WAPF and this may be one of them) and Chris responded by saying the same anecdotal evidence is reported with fresh grain, which of course Price did use in his practice.

My response is that if it was true then perhaps this was a point Price whiffed on. I don't think Chris was having any of that. :-)

IIRC, Price did note the practice of fermentation with intact grains, even if he appears to have glossed over as it concerned bread.

However it appears to me that Price and McCarrison have raised an issue with fresh grains that has not been seriously explored.

By the way, during the discussion, someone posted a study showing that the fermentation process for traditional sourdough bread was not complete until 10 days after baking. Fascinating, at least to me.

I know many paleos think grains are going to be somewhat toxic any way you prepare them. And I'm sure they're right. But the problem is that almost everything is somewhat toxic, including starchy tubers, vegetables, and even some fruit. Vegetables are full of assorted goitrogens, oxalates, salicylates, tannins, phytoestrogens, etc. You can't avoid toxins and still eat a healthy diet, but that's OK because you don't have to. You just have to reduce the relevant ones to a level at which they aren't problematic. I believe healthy traditional cultures have shown us that we can do that with grains if we prepare them well, as part of an overall healthy dietary pattern including nutrient-dense plant and animal foods.

Very well said and I agree 100%.

Anna said...

I think the long fermented bread that has been mentioned but not named is this one:


Michael said...

I think the long fermented bread that has been mentioned but not named is this one:


Yup, that is it. I have a friend who actually visited his shop. Said the guy was a little nutty but knew his breads. Said she could not tolerate gluten breads without terrible reactions until she tried his and had no reactions. She also mentioned something about a 4 month old loaf that looked as fresh and good as the newer stuff.

My favorite quote from the thread you linked:

Do you understand how mind blowing this is???? I can eat mother fuggin bread again (and I'm not talking about that cardboard gluten free shit).


Kujo said...


What's your thoughts on sprouted grain ezekiel bread?


It's pretty much the only bread I'll eat nowadays.

Paul Ericson said...

Todd Hargrove,

I think a vaccine for atherosclerosis should be inducted into the Bad Idea Hall of Fame.

Atherosclerosis is caused by ascorbic acid (AA) deficiency, not saturated fat or cholesterol intake. AA is used to hydroxylate lysine and proline to make collagen and fibrin which give arteries strength. When AA intake is low, the body still has to provide structural integrity to the arteries so it forms plaque. Forming plaque is actually an adaptation to our lack of the ability to produce AA internally. (unlike virtually all other animals)

Atherosclerosis can be induced/eliminated at will by manipulating AA intake in species that cannot produce AA. Naturally occurring atherosclerosis is virtually unheard of in species that can produce AA.

Cholesterol is actually a biomaker for inflammation. One of the many responses to inflammatories in the body is for it to make more cholesterol. So when doctors test for cholesterol they are really testing to see how much inflammation you have. If you have more inflammation, you'll have higher cholesterol. More inflammation means more irritation of your arterial walls, which means more plaque--IF you don't have enough AA.

Eating less cholesterol is pointless as most of the cholesterol in your blood is made in your body anyway and lowering intake just forces your body to make more. The level of cholesterol in your body is controlled by multiple, tightly controlled feedback loops.

Cholesterol lowering drugs are already in the Bad Idea Hall of Fame because they short circuit the body's natural process for making cholesterol. The higher your cholesterol, the longer you will live and lowering your cholesterol will increase your chance of dying from all causes including accidents, violent deaths and suicide!

Inflammation is caused by many things, but simple carbs that result in elevated blood glucose (which competes with AA for receptors) and omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids are the two biggest culprits in the Standard America Diet (SAD).

Ellen said...

Paul, that was a perfect explanation!

Mavis said...


Ezekiel sprouted grain bread now contains added gluten. (Frustrating.) I don't think it used to - I once ate it all the time. It also contains sprouted soy, and from what I understand, sprouting actually increases genestein, an estrogenic component of soy. Some might view this as a good thing, but many would not. I'm also not sure that sprouting effectively reduces phytic acid in soy.

lightcan said...

Thank you Stephan for your post.
Maybe you will go into more detail in relation to specific grains and nuts?

forgive me for pointing out that there is a bit of a contradiction in your ascorbic acid theory of atherosclerosis. You say high cholesterol is a marker of inflammation and that people with high cholesterol live longer.

I wish it was as easy as that . Watch your eicosanoid balance, minimise your processed carbs and take enough vit C from foods.

Unknown said...

If you have to go through so much trouble to consume grains, doesn't that tell you something???

Since ditching grains, I have lost 25 pounds over the course of 4 months. I have more energy, less headaches, and I got rid of a funky case of scalp irritation that I have had since college. If we were supposed to eat grains, we would have a stomach able to ferment and break them down properly!!!

Anonymous said...

This would still be off-topic since it is on the subject of vaccines & cholesterol.

I've listened to Dr. Sherri Tenpenny's presentations,Vaccines: the Risks, the Benefits, the Choices & Vaccines: What CDC Documents and Science Reveal, in which she presents information she calls "hidden in plain sight". She also explains the difference between vaccination & immunization, often used interchangeably. It all gives rise to concerns about vaccines in general, and especially as more and more are being introduced, particularly for babies and young children, but for teens and elderly as well.

On the subject of cholesterol, is there a resource that accurately (but understandable to the common, not medically trained person) describes what it's all about?

Cholesterol Myths was an eye-opener for me, not only to show that cholesterol is not the problem as typically presented, but how presentation of the "facts" and the omission of other details can make a report say what one wants it to say. It also presented flaws in the actual testing and in what was lumped together.

Other resources, too, have been helpful but I still need a better understanding. Even though I don't have concerns about my cholesterol levels (haven't had it checked in years, nor have I been to a doctor) I do have family members who make regular doctor visits and who are or have been on cholesterol meds.

Busy doctors may read the summaries provided in medical journals but miss the actual results written in fine print in an obscure place (from my reading) thus mislead or mis-advise their patients, even if unintentionally.

One of the things that puzzles me is in some of the discussion of numbers:

On the one hand it may be said that (paraphrased) the more cholesterol intake, the more fat intake,..., the lower one's cholesterol(?serum, blood,total?).

On the other hand high cholesterol is just a number (not a concern) and not an indicator of heart disease(or the potential for).

Anonymous said...


I've been on a frantic search for instructions on how to make this type of sourdough bread. Everything leads me back to the more conventional method (which requires about 12-24 hours usually). I have the book "Wild Fermentation", by Sandor Ellix Katz, and maybe will try and get in touch with him to see if he has any leads... Or, maybe I'll just experiment with the more conventional sourdough recipes I have used in the past, and simply extend the whole process... hmmm!

Sounds like a fun adventure lying ahead :)

Paul Ericson said...


There is no contradiction once you understand all the different purposes of cholesterol.

The body uses it as an anti-oxidant--which is why it is a biomarker for inflammation, but the body also uses it as a raw material for hormones like prostaglandins and 7-dehydrocholesterol which is converted into vitamin D by sunlight.

This is why higher cholesterol likely correlates to longer life spans. There are many hormones involved in keeping you young and healthy. Thus if your endocrine system is healthy, it will be consuming a lot of cholesterol, so the body happily makes it.


I too share your request for sourdough. Here are some of the best resources I've been able to find:





The signal to noise ratio on sourdough is awful--there is so much BS out there it's very hard to make sense of it all.
I strongly suggest starting with the first link above (the FAQ).

The best advice I can give you is to buy a bag of wheat, rye or spelt, a grain mill, and start making bread.

I'm switching from a hand crank mill I got from Lehamn's to the Messerschmidt mill that works in my Kitchenaid mixer (and comes with a hand crank too)



Anonymous said...


THANKS for all those great links!!!

I'll be having a good read tonight ;)

mfg said...

“Atherosclerosis can be induced/eliminated at will by manipulating AA intake in species that cannot produce AA.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if this were true? You could publish this ‘theory’ and win the Nobel Prize! We could just take a daily piece of citrus and avoid all those expensive stents, nasty heart attacks, strokes, etc.

Anonymous said...

Another thought about the new way to soak brown rice. Leaving for 24 hours without having to attend to or think about it is easy, convenient, and desirable (for me, anyway). But I wonder the results of following the instructions as given with one exception, soak the rice in water for 6-8 hours the first time. Change water, reserve 10%, soak another 6-8 hours, repeat until 24 hours is reached.

Two questions present themselves for me:

Is 24 hours in the same water needed for an adequate number of organisms to grow to suffice as a booster for subsequent batches?
If 24 hours in the same water is not essential, and there is benefit in the process mentioned above, would adding a lactic acid bacteria to the initial soak boost the process additionally?

Anonymous said...

Paula Hible,

I understand your concern about your daughter, her friends, and the elderly you work with. There are numbers of others who face the challenges you mention.

Since I'm new to the site, I've been looking around to see more of what's here. Don't know if it might be of help to you, but when I took a brief look at "Connect Nutrition" (from WHS home page "favorite links"), I thought of your post.

Paula Hible said...

Thank you ‘hisjoy’.

I am new to networking this way and thought, in retrospect, that I probably shouldn’t have jumped into this elaborate discussion. My concerns these days are a little more pragmatic, if that makes sense. Thanks again for the lead. I’m going to enjoy following this blog, even though I don’t see myself having the time and patience to be sprouting everything just yet! Best to all, Paula

Anonymous said...


Here's something else. You can decide if it's a fit.

I subscribe to several food feeds (which I read occasionally): Real Food Media, Kelly the Kitchen Kop, The Nourished Kitchen, The Nourishing Gourmet, Hartke Online, Kitchen Stewardship--all connected to some extent. Discussion on the the soaking grain debate can be found there and "baby steps" (to keep from overwhelming)are presented for those seeking to move toward more healthy eating and lifestyle.

On one of them I visited a few days ago had a list favorite cookbooks. I had a few on the list (Nourishing Traditions & Wild Fermentation), but a few others interested me as well which I have now purchased.

One is Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer. Introduction page: The Don't Panic method of cooking is being used by: Hungry Professionals; Working Parents; Stay-at-Home Moms; Retired, Elderly, or Widowed People; People Who Eat.

Looks like it has fairly simple recipes in an easy to read format. One of the nice things about it is that the basic recipe is for one, and for most, instructions for multiples are given (2x, 4x,6x or 3x,6x,9x) making it easy cook for several or make extra portions for another day. Instructions are given for storing and freezing.

Anonymous said...

i dunno about this sprouting/soaking grain stuff... seems the best option is to leave it out as your not getting any benefit from it you cant get elsewhere

Dave said...

I think malpaz's comment makes an interesting point. Let's turn it around into a question for those engaged in these preparation methods: since there's no nutritional advantage to eating grains (right?), why go to the trouble?

I think this an interesting question, because I suspect the answer is something like "because they taste good." But "tastes good" is generally a learned response, where the brain integrates signals resulting from consumption of a food and reinforces the desire for foods that it deems "good". For instance, the insula detects insulin levels, and (in rodents, at least) will condition the organism to seek foods that drive up insulin. A good survival strategy in the wild, since whole foods driving a larger insulin response are also likely to be more energy dense.

If "tastes good" would be your answer to the first question, then the next question would be this: why do you think your brain has been conditioned to have such a positive response to grains?

I have no answers, just seems like some interesting discussion points.

Anonymous said...


Many have limitations placed on their choices, but when options are available, it's nice to be able to choose according to one's own needs and preferences. What is health-giving for one may not be for another.

Paula Hible said...

To 'hisjoy',

Thanks for all the threads! I have my work cut out for me.

Best, Paula

Mavis said...

In answer to Dave and malpaz on why do people eat grains (even people who know better, and/or go to a lot of trouble to process them just so), well, I can think of a lot of reasons. Without going into detail, here are a few:

* Religion
* Culture
* Social situations
* Family
* Culinary knowledge/skill base
* Other food restrictions (voluntary or involuntary)
* Convenience/ease
* Variety
* Cost
* Transportability
* Ubiquity
* Enjoy dining out
* Enjoy baking
* Emotional reasons (food associations, a la Proust and his madeline)
* And, perhaps, some nutritional advantage, sometimes. For instance, wheat germ is a good source of choline, and if you can't eat eggs or peanuts and don't like liver, and are a pregnant or nursing female, you need some choline. Also, oats are apparently the only dietary source of gamma linoleic acid, which some people don't make enough of on their own. (Or so I have read.)
* Increased carrying capacity of your food shed (like a watershed), allowing your people a larger population.
* Having kids. If anyone out there is successfully raising kids grain-free, I would welcome any advice you can offer.

Ruth Almon said...


My only reason for wanting to include grains is that I make spreadable, healthy things (liver spread, avocado salad, etc.) and very miss not having bread to spread it on.

I think the question of whether to give up grain along with the sticky question of what grain to eat and how to prepare it (sprouted?, 2-day ferment?, 2-week ferment?) is a very individual one.

Personally, I seem to show no negative affects from eating grain. I've been eating sourdough bakery bread for the last few years because it's delicious, but even matza (totally leavened), which gives everyone stomach aches and constipation, doesn't bother me at all. I've given up gluten in the past for months at a time and not seen any positive effects. So, for me, it would be more effort to exclude it from my diet than is worth it. I can probably get away with eating small quanities of sourdough from the local bakery (2 day rise).

On the other hand, if regular bread makes you totally sick, it might be a wise decision to do without grains entirely.

Dave said...


I don't think I phrased the question well. I'm more trying to get at the underlying biological mechanism driving grain consumption. Your points could be applied to any food, but grains seem to hold a special place. Things like culture etc. are all emergent phenomena, the combined result of individual behaviors, in turn the result of the underlying biology which drives those behaviors. It's that biology I want to discuss.

I framed the question with more background on my blog:


Dave said...

We kept daughter grain-free for about a year, as it seemed to clear up various allergies (mainly eczema). Both our kids eat some now, and I don't see any evidence that would justify removing them completely. I do try to stick with sourdough, "traditionally" prepared if I can find it (Trader Joe's has had an "artisanal Tuscan pane'" lately, not sure how "artisanal" it really is).

I don't know that I have any real suggestions, beyond not bothering to try and find bread replacements for kids. For instance, rather than a ham and cheese sandwich, my daughter likes to just have the ham and cheese rolled up, with some mayo to dip it in.

Richard Nikoley said...

Wow Stephan.

"Many people will not be willing to go through the trouble of grinding and fermentation to prepare grains."

You can sure include me in that camp. I'll just toss more surf & turf on the barbie. :)

Dr. Curmudgeon Gee said...

Thanks for the wonderful explanation.

Q: if sprouting only improves modestly, why bother?

why not just ferment only?

FYI: Chinese eat sprouts (mung bean & soy). but never raw, only cooked.



Peter said...


pizza, at least, requires a high-gluten flour to create a cohesive stretched dough. There are "pizza" varieties out there where this is bypassed by e.g. cooking with a low-gluten flour and rolling it out, but this is essentially making a cracker with cheese, and not what you'd get from something sold as pizza (except in a freezer section).

Peter said...


No relationship.

Anonymous said...


He has a pizza book, too, not yet in my library.

Was just curious about seeming similarities.

Not important.

what said...

You need a source for this: "One of the problems with grains is their poor protein quality. Besides containing a fairly low concentration of protein to begin with, they also don't contain a good balance of essential amino acids. This prevents their efficient use by the body, unless a separate source of certain amino acids is eaten along with them."

You went off track there because all the latest research shows you can eat some AAs at one time, some later, and the body will figure it out. You certainly don't need to eat complete protein at any meal. Offset is fine, but I have no source, but I'm not writing an article.

Anonymous said...

Good news, "what", (maybe great news) if the information is accurate.

Gives some freedom and flexibility in what one eats and when.

You said you have no source; where do you find the "latest research" to which you refer, that others may look?

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi What,

Yes, one can eat complementary proteins at different times of day. I didn't mean to imply that you have to eat them together in the same meal, just that they both have to be present in the diet.

Unknown said...

Hi Stephan - wonderful blog. I have a question and you might be the only one who knows the answer - do you think that differential insulin receptor splicing in the liver and adipose tissues leads to insulin resistance - perhaps the lectins or other toxins in the grains leading to this differential splicing, so that IGF-I or II would bind more or not, causing a whole cascade of Western Disease?

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Bisous,

I'm not familiar with that theory-- do you have a reference or two you can point me to?

Unknown said...

Hi Stephan - I can't find the actual paper I was looking at when that question began percolating, but here is something similar from the Journal of Molecular Endocrinology (about differential splicing of insulin receptor DNA in humans) - http://mend.endojournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/3/8/1263

I don't think there is a question that it happens - the question is why and what are the consequences?

Praki Prakash said...

I have measured my postprandial levels after eating different foods and have a good idea of how my body handles them. The bad news is that any kind of carbs (brown rice, quinoa, wheat chapati) spike my blood sugar.

I guess the conventional wisdom in my family circles is a little off. Idly and Dosa also have black gram dhal. I don't know if that provides fermentable fiber. The batter does smell quite sour. I haven't seen any GI numbers for them. Time to experiment on self :)

I have cut out a lot of grains but still eat some barley (which seems to agree with me). I am a vegetarian which doesn't leave me with many options.

Stanley said...

What about aflatoxin? All this talk of grinding (increasing surface area) and moisturizing in warm water (especially soaking, which implies moist air perfusion, as opposed to submerging) suggests to me that these grain preparation methods may stimulate liver cancer in the longrun. On the other hand, some Central American cultures exhibiting longevity do consume rough tortillas prepared in a manner involving water. My point here is that either (1) aflatoxin is not very toxic if consumed in the context of whole grains; (2) there are subtle differences between your proposed processing methods, and those used by long-lived tribes, which explain why they do not suffer dangerously increased aflatoxin consumption; or (3) aflatoxin-producing fungi require more to prosper than merely moisture, warmth, and grain.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Bisous,

I don't know, sorry.

Hi Stanley,

From what I understand, sour fermentation inhibits aflatoxin fungi and may even break down pre-existing aflatoxin. That's off the top of my head though, it would be wort looking up to make sure I'm remembering correctly.

Paulo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paulo said...

Hi Stephan,

I was wondering if soaking legume flours in an acid liquid (water + whey, water + lemon juice) would be okay. If I add some high-phytase flour, such as freshly ground rye flour, the phytic acid in my legume flour will be degraded, right?

I was thinking of using home-made raw chickpea flour to prepare a polenta-like dish. I would soak 1 cup of raw home-made chickpea flour and some rye flour in 3 cups of water/whey for 24h and then cook this mixture like polenta. Would it be okay? I mean, I don't know if the soaking of untreated chickpea flour in this recipe is "healthy", since the soaking water is not discarded. Idli making, for example, calls for soaking urad dals, discarding the soaking water, adding "new" water to the dals, grinding them and then allowing them to ferment with cream of rice (soaked as well). That makes me think that discarding the soaking water is important to eliminate any specific anti-nutrient. Is it?

The "chickpea polenta" recipe does exist (and tastes great), but it seems to me that the phytic-acid problem is just ignored in all the recipes I've seen. Besides that, I know that some store-bought chickpea flours are made from dehydrated dehulled chickpeas that have been previously cooked (and maybe soaked).

If discarding the soaking water turns out to be crucial, I think I will soak whole chickpeas for 24h in warm water and then dehydrate and store them. Whenever I want to prepare the polenta, I will grind some chickpeas and follow the recipe above. Would it be okay to store soaked and dehydrated chickpeas?

I apologize for the "mess" I'm writing here and I hope you can help me (or at least understand my English)

Thank you

Paulo from Brazi

Ed said...


You're killing me here.

On May 4, you said "In the next post, I'll describe a few recipes from different parts of the world."

It's May 23 and we've got no recipes! I love a good cliffhanger but you're dragging this one out too long! I can't wait to try a recipe.

Please please please post some recipes :-)

Stephan Guyenet said...

Ha, I'll try to stop being ADD and get that published. It's hard to follow through on a series when I'm constantly being bombarded by so much interesting information!

Anonymous said...

Dear Stephan,

Very informative post, but I cannot help thinking why bother with soaking, cooking, fermenting and spoiling a lot of energy when there are better and less disease causing food sources available?

Unknown said...

I've heard that quinoa has a better AA profile than other grains and less antinutrients (if the saponins are properly removed). Anyone can verify that?

Emi Wi said...

Thank you for your research and consideration of the variety of nutrition information out there. Where can I find information on the nutritional differences of soaked, soured and sprouted grains. I've read multiple sources that said that traditional preparation methods are more healthful, but I'd like to see actual data.

As a side note, I stumbled upon this blog today. It appears to be your blog, but with changes to some of the wording. It's right at the level of high school plagarism. It's pretty funny.


Sheri said...

Just bought Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions and read Rami Nagel's book on Curing Tooth Decay Naturally (changing one's diet). I find the hardest thing in following their advice is there is no basic info on how to grind and ferment the grains (index or thumbing through it - can't find it). She assumes you know how to do that part and I don't! I was raised by two folks who couldn't cook worth squat and certainly didn't bake. So help! Can you give us from start to finish how to make 1) lentils or some bean worth eating (soaking, drying, whatever) and 2) how to make sourdough from the very start: go to the store, buy rye nuts or beans (??? see, I'm not sure at this stage), use a grain mill or blender?? to grind, then soak for ??? minutes, or have I got it backwards! I want you to take me me by the hand and show me the promised land! Thanks, Confused Sheri

jewiuqas said...

Stephan, I hope, you are not going to censor this one.
Since a couple of years I have stopped eating unfermented grains, have switched to sourdough bread, fermented brown rice, pre-soaked beans etc. I was influenced to do so in the first place by some web sites like this one and that of the Weston Price Foundation, along with some books written by indi-viduals belonging to the same school of thought. The principal benefit of fermenting grains and legumes is said to be the elimination (breaking down) of phytic acid, present in all grains (talking about grains I mean also legumes and other seeds), a potent inhibitor of mineral absorption. Recently I stumbled upon a scientific article that puts the phytic acid issue in a slightly different light. Phytic acid consists mostly of phosphorus, which on fermentation gets released from the molecule and thus becomes bio-available phosphorus. Now, what I ignored is that phosphorus is one of those elements that westerners consume in excess (along with sodium and possibly some others). It has been known for a long time that renal patients need to cut back on phosphorus, but recent research associates high serum levels of P with a number of conditions in the general (healthy) population as well, especially with CVD. It is regarded by many as an important factor in the genesis of the diseases of civilization, the degradation of the health of modern humans. The main source of P, of course, are not fermented grains, as very few westerners consume such, but phos-phate based food additives. I don’t eat any additives, but I eat fermented grains regularly instead. I haven’t yet done precise calculations, but with re-gard to the high P content of sourdough rye bread, which is one of my staples, I guess that my P score is pretty high. I don’t know, Stephan, if you are aware of the phosphorus issue, surely you are as you are in the nutrition science. I would like to read your opinion and the opinions of other knowledgeable readers on this topic. So to summarize my worries: Phytic acid, if left intact, robs me of valuable minerals, if it is broken down to phosphorus, it increases my serum P levels to a dangerous level, which can cause atherosclerosis in the long term. As to me, who am no food scientist, there is but one way out of this catch-22: to carry on and completely phase out grains from my diet, as I have already considerably reduced my grain intake.

Here are some links:

Kaitlyn said...

Hi Stephan. Can you offer a recipe (other than your idlis recipe) for a traditionally prepared legume that you use? Thanks, Kaitlyn

Confused Amateur Food Eater said...

Hello Stephen (had to break this comment up to get under character post limit)

Discovered your blog and have been reading the phytic acids threads and knowledgeable comments with interest. These have been going since 2009, so I hope this one has not gone "cold". The way I found your blog was I'm trying to figure out if there is some right way to eat, now that I'm retired and am in my late 50s. (they say it's never too late)

I have discovered it's much more complicated than it sounds. Some additional info about me is I'm male, like being an omnivore, am perfect weight and exercise religiously. I also am an occasional home brewer of beer and sourdough bread maker - so I understand a little about malted grains, enzymes, and that they have various denaturing points. So I get the thing about making starters, mashing etc...tho the players and end result does differ.

I also have nothing against taking supplements, but I constantly worry about the "'efficacy" of them and still have this problem of needing to eat something. What we all hear in the media is we should greatly lower saturated fats, more fruits and veggies, and do away with salt, sugar, and processed grains. So I thought I was making huge strides in the right direction going towards brown rice, legumes, whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal for every breakfast, and of course lots of chicken or turkey, fruits and veggies, and replacing our poisonous seafood with pharm grade omega 3 capsules.

You have now totally bummed me out with this phytic acid news. :)

After reading for a few hours, some nagging questions come to mind. They may have been answered somewhere in your blog over the last 3 years, but I figure, what the hell, I'll ask them and see if they can be summarized here.

Confused Amateur Food Eater said...

Part 2

1) My first concern is iron absorption goes up if I collect phytase as you suggest or I also saw adding miso as a starter to my oatmeal would do it. (if I can find live culture miso) I have read that high iron is not particularly good for older males - not the least problem is that it decreases human growth hormone. Not the direction we geezers want to go. :)
Not being overweight, and I burn a lot of calories, as far as I know I still need carbs, tho they should be "complex carbs" so I can avoid insulin resistance and all the problems down that path. So with all the choices we have here in the USof A, I'm wondering if it may just be better to dump most grains altogether and just go with the lowly potato. I like potatoes, but not enough to eat them all day, so maybe I can save my oatmeal breakfast with collecting phytase or using miso. The empty calories of white rice (devoid of tannins, lectins, etc..) don't sound so bad if you need them. My understanding so far is you think legumes are ok with a 24 hour room temp soak.
One reason I keep thinking I need whole grains and beans is because I keep hearing I need fiber. I know veggies have some fiber, but I haven't really read anyone yet stating they have enough.
The other reason is of course we need the rest of the minerals, if we could absorb them. Some of these come from veggie sources, or you could take supplements. I have been taking Calcium/Magnesium/D3/K supplements, but there is some controversy over absorption, what the best chemical type is, and some concerns about kidney and gall bladder stones maybe if it doesn't get absorbed from the bloodstream. That would be very bad.
2) Wondering about the lifetime of phytic acid in your system. Meaning, if you eat it in the morning does it still rob your minerals from dinner?
3) Been reading about wheat and gluten lately. I understand some people have celiac disease or maybe just a "sensitivity" to gluten. Then I read a doctor that pointed out white flour turns into gooey glue-like stuff and coats your small intestine so you don't absorb anything well. Anyone who has made bread would believe this could be a problem. (not knowing any better - maybe stomach acid does something?) But if this is true, then that means we all have a problem with our whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta.

Very interested in hearing your inputs on my questions here. Thanks much.

lisao said...

Actually pancakes are quick and easy. And I feel better since I have added potatoes, rice and non gluten grains back. To make pancakes you just mill your grain which only takes a few minutes in an electric mill, mix in water and your innoculant, kefir, buttermilk or yogurt, mix and let sit in warm place covered for 24 hours. Then you just add the remaining ingredients for pancakes baking powder salt egg butter etc

It only takes like five minutes more than junk food pancakes.

As far as the pain in the ass comment, the reason why for thousands of years there was a division of labor between men and women was because of the time consuming nature of food prep. Or part of the reason anyway. You talk so much of ancestral ways but pick and choose so much. I think division of labor makes a lot of sense and that the world would be better off it rejected the garbage that came along with feminism. The garbage in my mind is that there is no difference between men and women other than conditioning and that they should be doing the same things. I posit that the reason women for millenia prepared the food and raised the offspring and minded the Homefront is because that is biologically what they are best suited to do. And it benefits everyone because the quality of nutrition is better when there is someone to do the work required to make it the best.

Unknown said...

How traditionally prople used to soak then ground the grains? To gound them you need them to be very dry and dehydrators were not available in the past. And to dry them in the air you need a large area to spread them for long long period of time. So what about prople who live in small homes? How can they afford such large areas? How about contaminating with dust or dirt or sand from been exposed like that for long time? How about been vulnerable to be stepped on by children or flipped over the floor or any accident because they are sitting in a large area for a long time? How about the insects and the birds?
Even now, dehydrator is expendive for me and most of all, I do not have space in my place to put it on.

DS said...

Dear Stephan,

Thank you for your great information.

I wanted to ask... in your opinion, how much can grinding the grain/legume help to accelarate phytase mediated phytic acid breakdown? By how much do you think the phytase activity would be increased as compared to no grinding?

Thank you for any help you can give on the matter,

Kindest Regards,

Unknown said...

Does it make sense to sprout first and then ferment? OR is it more of a one or the other process? Would it be a waste of time to do both? If so, which one increases the digestibility more- fermenting?