We all just want to be healthy and eat healthy, right? (Except for those times we just want to be healthy but eat Cheetos, that is.)
I do quite a bit of research each time I tell you that a certain food is or isn’t good for you. The trouble is that there’s a lot of controversial information out there.
I know there will always be absolute opposite information about eating butter vs. not eating butter. People creating high fructose corn syrup will try to convince me that their product is “natural” and I will big fat never believe it. But I get SO frustrated about differing information about what I’ve read from sources I’ve believed to be true. (Remember my rapadura vs. sucanat mystery here? I now see that organic sucanat is the same as rapadura even though I originally read and understood that rapadura was better. And sucanat costs less.)
So here are the latest question marks. I bring these up for several reasons:
I think we should all be well informed. I think we all need to eat as healthy as we possibly can. I want to know the truth. I want you to read it for yourselves. And also I want you to know that I don’t know everything (but you already knew that, right?).
- Is agave nectar used as an alternative to sugar good for you? I thought it was. Because I’d read that it was. And then I read this article from Dr. Mercola. And this article by John Kohler. Shucks. I think I’ll just stick with pure maple syrup instead.
- Is it necessary to soak my grains before making them into bread, pancakes, muffins, etc? According to my Nourishing Traditions cookbook, soaking grains is a wonderful step to take to break down the phytic acid in grains and make them more digestible. I’ve written a whole post about it encouraging you to do this. BUT according to this article from Bread Beckers, taking this step isn’t necessary. REALLY? I’ve never read any information telling me that it wasn’t necessary!! It’s a long article, but I encourage you to read it. I really don’t know what to think. I have such a hard time wrapping my brain around not soaking my grains. (Thanks Dawn for the emails and links!)
I don’t always take the time to soak my grains, so part of me would love to not feel so bad each time I feed my family “straight” whole wheat. Not to mention the time it would save. On the other hand…I know from experience what my tummy feels like when I eat oats that have not been soaked vs. how my tummy feels when I’ve soaked them. I can tell a digestive difference.
The agave nectar issue isn’t such a dilemma for me. I could take that or leave it since there are so many other healthy and natural sweeteners out there (raw honey, maple syrup, sucanat, stevia). But the soaking grains things has really got me stumped.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and knowledge on these subjects. From your research and learning…What do you know about Agave Nectar? and What’s your take on soaking grains?
While you’re answering…I think I’ll just go eat a peach. It’s from my own tree and I KNOW it’s good for me.
Kathy Shaner says
Okay, Laura… this was very thought-provoking. I don’t know what the final word is on sprouting grain, but I can say that I just finished sprouting, dehydrating, and grinding a batch of wheat. It’s great to have on hand for recipes I don’t/won’t soak, although NOW it looks like I might or might not have needed to do all that. Have you sent this article to the Weston Price people? It would be interesting to get their take on this.
As for agave, I’m with you. I don’t use it, and I don’t miss it. I’ve been using coconut sugar (sparingly, because it’s expensive), and we have gotten really used to sucanat. Thanks for the info!
Coco Palm Sugar says
Kudos Laura for an excellent article.
Shucks! I always feel sad when I hear about how “expensive” coco palm sugar is.
How come not too many people complain about the price of Maple Sugar/Syrups when getting the Coco sap is many times as hard? Maple tappers need not climb trees that are 10-15M high, and they got tubings to make it all the easier to bring sap to the sugar house. A rational view is that with these equipment, expenses should have been minimized resulting to lower prices but the Maple industry managed to keep the prices up.
Anyways, my personal goal is to make coco sugar available to more people. It’s just that it’s so expensive for us small producers to ship them over to the States.
Here in the Philippines you can have a pound of coco palm sugar for about 4 USD (or 3 EUR). With a natural flavor that could give maple sugar a run for its money. ;)
i have read that about agave too…right after i ordered a case from amazon! i went to a Nourishing Traditions (type) presentation where they said it was similar to HFCS. Still- i have allergy to many honey products and don’t like the taste of maple syrup in my coffee…. so i am still using.
we are gluten free- i have not tried soaking my grains. have considered soakiing GF oatmeal for breakfast however we don’t do milk either and confused on what to soak it in… you can’t just do water…so.. i have yet to soak. if you hvae any ideas on what else to soak it in let me know!
i enjoy your blog. thanks
If you don’t do dairy you can mix apple cidar vinegar or lemon juice with water to soak.
Thanks for bringing this up Laura. I had definitely heard the negative stuff about the agave from several places, but thankfully it was before I had bought any. As for the soaked/sprouted grains, that is really interesting. It’s nice to know for the days where I didn’t get anything started soaking ahead of time; but I think even if I didn’t feel it was at all beneficial I would still continue to soak the majority of baked goods because we enjoy the taste of whole grain foods SO much better that way. I have finally been able to convert my family to almost 100% whole grains since I started soaking them and my husband can definitely tell a difference between soaked/non-soaked biscuits and such. Just my two cents. :)
My two cents. when I soak I noticed less bloating. My little ones can eat the bread. I feel better. I go by that.
I have read on the Nourishing Gourmet site and what I have found to work best for oatmeal is just water with some lemon juice added. Soaking oatmeal in buttermilk always gave it an extremely sour taste to me anyway so this is what I do. The lemon juice doesn’t really seem to affect the oatmeal’s taste once you add some butter and sweetener. Hope this helps!
As far as the soaking goes, we just feel icky when we don’t soak. And it goes right through my toddler. So we soak :) Interesting article, though, it’s always good to read different opinions
I have been too lazy to research other sweeteners, so we just use maple syrup, honey, and stevia
Suzy Q says
I have the same problem with my toddler. When I feed him non-soaked bread or non-sourdough bread he has diapers that look like you just ground up the food and put it in his diaper, plus he gets terrible diaper rash with those diapers too. When I feed him soaked bread or sourdough he doesn’t have that reaction!
Laura Beth says
Interesting that you bring this up, since I’ve given it a decent amount of thought of late. I think the idea of soaking grains is reasonable, and in an effort to be healthier, I’ve been trying to do that more lately. What I have found perplexing, though, is that virtually every source that encourages soaking grains ultimately cites the same research (Nourishing Traditions or S. Fallon). There certainly doesn’t seem to be a great deal of evidence (besides the anectdotal variety) out there on which to hang your hat. Since there doesn’t appear to be a downside of doing it, I plan to continue to make the effort, but I won’t beat myself up on the occasions that it doesn’t happen either. In other words . . . I’m sitting squarely on the fence at the moment. ;-)
Carrie @ Our Blessed Chaos says
I have been grinding grain and baking with it (mostly bread) for only about a year. I only recently heard of soaking grains and have not had the time to seriously research it – so thank you for doing this!
Here are my thoughts after reading the article …
I actually use grain and recipes from the BreadBeckers Co-op. Sue Becker also has a CD that they will send you for free. Here is the webpage address for info on how to get it. http://www.breadbeckers.com/freestuff.htm
This CD has an incredible amount of information. I have a friend that was debating the whole thing. She listened to this CD and bought her grain mill the very next day! It is that powerful and you should get it!
I have not read anything by the others you mentioned, so I suppose my opinions are somewhat one-sided. However, I have read alot of the info on the Bread Beckers website. An interesting fact is that Sue Becker has a degree in food science and jokes on her CD that she reads microbiology text books for fun! Those facts alone make me comfortable in her research and her knowledge in the information she provides about nutrition.
Several things jumped out at me when I read Sue Becker’s article you linked to. Her words are in quotations.
1. “Only about 10% of the phytic acid is broken down in an overnight soak and that is not enough to make a significant difference.”
Only 10%! That certainly does not convince me it is a worthwhile process. My question is how much percentage of other nutrients is lost during this time. I personally freeze any unused ground flour to stop the loss of nutrients. I can’t recall the percentages of lost nutrients as the hours go by – it is on her CD though. If I remember correctly, most of the nutritional value is lost within 48 hours. I wonder then just how much is lost overnight?
2. “I have never read anything to document the statement about our ancestors and “virtually all pre-industrialized people” soaking their grains.”
I grew up on the Canadian prairies and it seems that in many ways we are decades behind. One of the things that is still quite common in this area is preparing, storing and preserving food in much the same way as the pioneers did. My generation is losing this knowledge as our parents and grandparents are leaving us.
However, I am currently visiting at my mom’s house and asked her if she has ever heard of soaking grains or flour overnight. She looked at me as if I was speaking a different language. She has never heard of anything like this. I never remember eating bought bread at my Grandma’s, she always made her own bread. Of course she did not grind her own wheat – they used to have flour mills to do that. And like many did, when the flour mills started to close she started to buy her flour at the store. You really have to listen to Sue Becker’s CD to hear just how terrible store bought flour is. I have not bought flour since I heard it.
Anyway, that is not the point. The point is that my Grandmother made bread the same way bread was made for many, many generations. She never soaked flour – and so neither will I!!!
The only advantage I have over my Grandma is that I have the knowledge and ability to grind my own flour and therefore make bread that she would be proud of.
Thanks for the article by Sue Becker. I thought it was well researched and I liked that it was written from a God-honoring perspective.
I’ve never really been too interested in agave nectar, it always seemed too commercialized for me, so I am not too surprised to hear that it isn’t that great for you.
As for soaking, I was never too convinced it did anything so I have only soaked my grains a few times, but I am intrigued by people’s comments that it really made it more digestible. I might have to try again and pay attention to how I feel afterward. It is interesting to think that maybe it isn’t the phytic acid so much, maybe there is some other component of grains that we are not considering that is giving people problems, and soaking is helping to remedy that. Thanks for all your information. Your blog is one of my favorite sources for nutrition information and nourishing recipes!
From my understanding of the Bread Beckers article there is still a place for soaking and sprouting grains, it just may not be as necessary as we all thought. Sounds to me that it just depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, if you want more protein, don’t soak. If you want more vitamins, soak! But above all use freshly milled grains. Anyone got $300 I can use for a grain mill? Believe me, I’m saving up!
Thanks for posting this. I have found that it seems like all grain soakers refer back to Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fulton seems to be the main source people use and no one else. For me I would prefer more than one source. One person’s info is not enough for me. I appreciate you taking time to post this about a different view. I read through it and agree with a lot of what she has to say. Personally,when I read through Nourishing Traditions and starting researching her research, I found a lot of outdated and misquoted/misused information. Soaking grains was one of them. My husband has a chemistry/medical background and when we researched it, he said the whole soaking grain thing did not make sense to him. His opinion is that it does not work the way people are saying it does.
I really like Sue Becker, I think that God has really put this stuff on their hearts. At first I was pretty excited to read that she does not think it is necessary to soak. But something just kept nagging at me. Two things stood out to me, one was something a friend of mine told me about and article he read, about the Grains themselves being different than the grains of the bible. Second Sue Becker has suffered from colon cancer. I know that the two might not be related, and she herself says they are not, but I can’t help but think there is something to that. Here is what my family does. We eat soaked oatmeal, soaked biscuits and pancakes, but because my family does not care for the taste and texture of soaked bread, I just make regular, and we pray over it. Also I have been doing a lot of reading on celiac disease, which I think I might have, and that really opens up a new perspective on grain and what it does to your digestive system. I have been making a lot of things with coconut flour. I really like using it, and it has all kinds of benifits. The book I really like is called Cooking with Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife, N.D. I found it on Amazon for $10 or something. Anyway that is my two cents, and Remember to ask God what he thinks about it!
I find the agave thing really interesting. I had been thinking about getting some to try, but this makes me think otherwise. I am vegan for the most part, except I use honey in my cooking. (Many hardcore vegans don’t, because it comes from bees. I don’t go that far.) I think I will stick with honey and maple syrup. Oh, and I also use dates and apple juice concentrate for sweetening, as well as sucanat or Florida Crystals.
I don’t know anything about soaking grains. Sorry, can’t give any advice on that. :)
I am new to your blog, but really appreciated this article about soaking/sprouting grains. Something has been nagging me about the whole idea, but it might be purely a personal reaction since I just don’t like the flavor that soaking the grains imparts to my bread. But really, like others have said, everything I’ve read about it always cites the Weston Price source (or anecdotal evidence) and no other. I’m breathing a small sigh of relief in that I can go ahead and make my bread how I like it. I do believe the key to nutrition is lots of variety and knowing if you personally have any intolerances. Thanks!
Deb Schiff says
Aw Laura. I’m happy to tell you that the agave stuff you read is bunk. Please read this so you won’t have to give it up:
Oy, it’s enough to make a mama’s head spin!!
Personally I will probably keep soaking since it’s not that much work, has some nutritional and textural benefits, and does nothing harmful. But it is comforting for those times I forget to soak.
I’m not sure I buy the whole “it’s not in the Bible” argument though. There are a lot of things not specifically mentioned in Scripture that are still beneficial to our health.
I just re-read this quote and wanted to comment:
“Throughout the Bible, bread is considered a symbol of healing or the presence of God. Jesus compared Himself to bread because bread, made from freshly milled whole grains is life giving and life sustaining. As the days become more and more evil, Jesus will be attacked in any and every way. If the life giving bread to which Jesus compares Himself, can be brought into question, then the very name of Jesus and His saving power can be more easily discredited as well.”
I think this is taking the analogy a bit far. IMO, Jesus called Himself “The Bread of Life” because bread was the staple food of the culture and people could relate to that. I heard a pastor reference once that if Jesus had been in southeast Asia he might have called himself “The Rice of Life”. Same concept. I don’t think bread (soaked or not) should be elevated above other foods just because Jesus used it in reference to Himself.
I know that has nothing to do with soaking or not soaking :) But it kind of irks me when things are taken out of context to try to ‘spiritualize’ certain foods or practices. I think Jesus is more concerned with you loving him and loving others than whether or not you eat bread. ;) Just my two cents.
Stepping off my soapbox!
Just wanted to add, Brittany, that I had noticed the same thing when I read the article and had the same thought.
I do think, though, that His use of bread as an analogy was interesting. Obviously, the culture of the time placed a great importance on bread.
Lindsey @ The Herbangardener.com says
Thank you for bringing up this topic. The grain soaking thing is a bit of a can of worms, and is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time–should I soak? Should I not? Whose “research” should I believe? Is that research even valid? (So much of science, studies, and research is a sham these days.)
The conflicting information is really frustrating, so thank you for initiating this conversation. Both sides of the story have good points. I just don’t know! Very interesting, though, that you can tell a difference after soaking oatmeal. That’s a valuable observation!
Just a quick response…
I don’t know much about the agave nectar issue…I’ve just stuck with sucanat and raw honey myself.
On the soaking issue…I’ve read/heard both sides, though it’s been awhile and I can’t remember all the specifics of the argument against…I need to reread that article by Sue Becker. I think the key is balance. I rarely get around to soaking my everyday bread but I do try to soak things like pancakes, muffins, etc. I have soaked my regular loaves of bread off and on, I just have never been super consistent about it. I think there’s a place for both and that it’s not necessary to go to the extremes of either soaking EVERYTHING or soaking NOTHING. At the very least, I feel quite certain that either method is FAR superior to anything store-bought!
Thanks for being brave enough to post this! I like a lot of Sally Fallon’s and Weston Price’s ideas, but soaking grains is one I haven’t been able to wrap my brain around. I also had previously read the article you linked to when doing my own research, and am confused, too.
I am interested in soaking, if only for my husband’s sake, as he has ulcerative colitis and currently eats minimal whole grains. I feel that his body might possibly be able to digest the whole grains more easily if they were soaked. On the other hand, it seems like a lot of work and planning ahead involved (I don’t mind the work; I’m terrible at planning ahead!!!).
Also, I agree with those who say that the only source of information regarding soaking grains is Sally Fallon and Weston Price. I have tried to find other sources but I have not been successful. I have researched the history of baking bread and have not found any information to suggest that anything was soaked other than sourdough starters. (I HAVE found other sources for fermenting other things besides grains, but nothing about grains, at least when it comes to making bread or other baked goods. Usually if grains were soaked, they were eaten in their soaked state, like a porridge or oatmeal, not baked into something.)
I think for myself, I have essentially decided to compromise by making sourdough bread with whole grains. (am on my second attempt at a sourdough starter…) I may try soaking some grains for “quick” bread-type products like pancakes and biscuits at some point, but I won’t feel un-healthy for feeding my family un-soaked grains.
By the way, my husband’s grandmother soaks All Bran every night and eats it (cold, blech) in the morning. She swears by it, that it keeps her on an even keel digestively. Once again, though, the grains (if you can call All Bran that) are soaked but eaten in the soaked state, not cooked into something.
Wow, very interesting article. I personally never went for the soaking grains myself just on the premise that ‘God can manage things better than that’, meaning that He gave us the grains and never told us to soak them. Same as iron suppliments for a breastfed baby and so forth… but I digress.
I also read Nourishing Traditions and personally it didn’t really jive me with. I kept looking at her sources, but it seemed that alot of the information she gave wasn’t sourced, so it felt like to me it was what she ‘felt’ or ‘thought’.
We eat all whole grains here and my kids and I don’t have any bowel issues, but I do buy my flour and oats from a local mill, so it is all freshly ground so maybe that makes a difference.
Thanks Laura for your research, I really appreciate it!
So thank you
I personally feel that the soaked grains taste better, make better baked goods and don’t make me feel as “heavy” as non soaked. I keep bulgur (sprouted wheat) on hand in my fridge for those times when I need quick breads. It’s not that hard to make and it’s pretty easy to use.
As for the Agave, the only sweeteners I use are raw, local honey, pure maple syrup, sucanat, molasses and stevia. I like the stevia a lot because I’m hypoglycemic (low blood sugar), and the body processes it differently than sugar, so it doesn’t give me a crash, but it does give me the sweet. I feel like those are enough sweeteners to give me a variety, so I haven’t branched out into anything else.
That article was food for thought and I passed it on to some other people I know who regularly soak grains. It will be interesting to see what they say. I think though, that I will be sticking to my soaking. :-)
Agave nectar- I loved that is mixed well even in cold liquids, but then I heard it really wasn’t all that better than sugar. Shucks for me too.
Soaking- personally, I don’t notice a HUGE difference in the digestive system, except for the soaking of legumes. Our family just could not tolerate dried beans until I learned how to soak them in an acid solution for 24hrs. We did enjoy very good health in the years I judiciously soaked everything. I loved our soaked sourdough bread, but the girls did not. So I started making regular whole wheat yeast bread to get them to eat it. Still better than storebought you know? And we also just prefer soaked oatmeal- the texture is much creamier to us. Soaked pancakes and biscuits, eh, ok.
Mainly I think my husband benefited from all the soaking- his digestive system seems to be a bit more sensitive. We have gone WAY off course since I’ve been pregnant with the 4th and have lacked energy and time (we just moved) to really eat well. I look forward to all the soaking again soon.
I would love to think soaking isn’t necessary. I have only soaked some breakfast things and have never soaked the grain for our bread. It would relieve some mommy guilt if I could continue not to soak and not worry about it! ;-)
Alison Thomas says
I feel the same way! So much conflicting info- who do you believe?
My family owns a whole grain bakery in Georgia(www.thegranarybread.com) which is where the Beckers are, too. They have a huge following of housewives down here, and while I think the Beckers are a lovely family and right in many respects, they also are believed rather blindly somtimes. If we tell our customers anything contrary to what Sue Becker has said, we get the most insulted reactions.
At our shop, we do soak the wheat bread. In fact, when we started the store, we didn’t soak and found that it was impossible to get the bread to rise well. Now that we soak, the whole wheat bread rises beautifully, has a better texture, and tastes really good. I appreciate the health benefits, my mother appreciates the supperior quality of the bread, and our customers appreciate the wonderful taste. All of those are good reasons to soak bread.
About agave- I don’t a clue, and fortunately it doesn’t seem as important to me as the soaking debate.
Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship says
I’m right with you on all that conflicting info. Drives me crazy. My mom sent me the same link about not soaking grains, and I’ve seen it another place as well as part of an answer with a nutritionist from another site. She said the phytates would come out in the water, so it would only have an effect if you soaked, then rinsed. Right. Tough stuff.
I’m posting tomorrow on my conflicting research on olive oil in cooking/sauteeing and the best price I’ve found on coconut oil – I thought you might be interested!
Thanks for doing the research for us and hitting your head against the wall! ;)
Great stuff, here. I love reading all the different perspectives on soaking/not soaking. It’s really fascinating. And, such a sign of what we go through in many areas of nutrition today. Oils (as Katie mentioned) are another hot topic. Whole food supplements versus synthetic is another.
When I see Brad Becker tomorrow, I’ll be sure to tell him the debate rages on. He’ll get a kick out of it, I’m sure.
Thanks for bringing this up, Laura.
Kim McDonald says
As far as soaking grains…if the Good Lord put the phytic acid in the wheat, then why are we trying to take it out? The same concept applies for eggs. If He was concerned about cholesterol, then we would have eggs without yokes. I feel like God has a very simple message, and we try to complicate things. I certainly don’t need to judge how other people eat, and I don’t want people to judge me. If you like it soaked…then soak it. If you don’t feel it is necessary…then don’t. We all need to pray and ask God for guidance. He will answer and give you a peace on which direction to go.
On the agave…I use honey crystals and sucanant. I do have agave but use it very little.