I’ve gotten to the part now in my Folklore Foods salon (see–> MamaMuse) on proper preparation of grains and legumes, and have also seen a few things over at the HealthyHomeEconomist on it.
Grains and legumes (and seeds and nuts) contain anti-nutrients: gluten and phytates are some examples. These anti-nutrients adhere to the intestinal wall and prevent the body from absorbing vital nutrients/vitamins/minerals from food as it passes through the gut and is digested. Also, such as with gluten, these particles actually are absorbed into the body through the intestinal wall and are seen as a foreign object requiring the body’s immune system to fend off. Unfortunately, not only does this cause inflammation (which leads to disease) but it also causes the body to start attacking itself because these foreign particles look similar to the body’s own in certain parts of the body.
This is the part where Paleo Diet followers have it right, but this is where they stop. They claim that our ancestors went millions of years without eating grains and that our bodies are just not adapted yet to properly digesting them since we’ve ben eating them for a shorter time frame than we’ve been not-eating them. However, this view and approach to grains/legumes is arguable.
First argument: evolution/time-frames and digestability. This is both right and wrong. Anthropologists and archeologists are now hypothesizing and discovering that stone age man (prior to the onset of agriculture) utilized wild grains and legumes. So this makes the time frame of when “man ate grains” to longer than previously suspected.
Second Argument: branching from the first, man has been eating refined grains (and sugar) and not properly preparing grains/legumes/seeds/nuts for a much shorter time frame (roughly 200 years give or take) compared to thousands of years of properly preparing these food items, and even millions of years of “supposed” non-consumption of these food items by early man.
From pre-agricultural revolution up until the introduction of refined grains and sugar (over 10,000 years), people were properly preparing their grains and legumes and had no known digestion issues pertaining therein. It was when man began to not prepare their foods properly/traditionally, was when these issues arose (along with an increase in degenerative diseases, cancer, poor dental health, etc.).
Well, then how do you properly prepare them?
4. Extended cooking
These pertain to seeds, nuts, legumes, and grains. Some require all three processes, some only require one or two (such as nuts). Some foods require an acidic environment, others require a basic one.
Grains: Over at the HealthyHomeEconomist she has a blog and a few videos on grain and legume preparation. Here is a general overview for grains:
1. Take your whole grain and sprout them in a jar (just until the first white flecks appear).
2. Spread the sprouted whole grains on a cookie sheet and dry in the oven, or use a dehydrator.
3. Run your dried grains through the grinder to make flour. *Immediately store in the freezer if you don’t plan on using it all immediately! This is to retain nutritional content which begins to deteriorate around 2 weeks post-grinding if left to the elements*.
If you don’t make your own flour, you can purchase whole grain flour. Try to find sprouted whole grain if you can. Whether you make your own flour or purchase it, you should soak/culture the flour before cooking. This ferments the flour some and further breaks down the anti-nutrients and releases absorbable nutrients. You can use yogurt, kefir, whey (from raw milk), or soured raw milk *never pasteurized! (Pasteurized milk won’t sour, it will only spoil. Soured raw milk= edible)*. This process is similar to what happens during traditional sourdough preparation. This can be done for bread, pancakes, cake, crepes, etc.
Legumes: Legumes (ie. beans) need to be pre-soaked then cooked for an extended period of time. They should be soaked in an acidic solution (some require a basic solution) such as water+whey for a minimum of 8 hours. Then they need to be cooked on low for a minimum of 8 hours (give or take on both times), but some cook their beans for as long as 24 hours or as little as 3 hours. The benefits of soaking and cooking don’t really improve after 24 hours.
**I did my first bean preparation the other day, using black beans soaked in a whey solution. I soaked them for a little over 8 hours, then cooked them. I only cooked them for about an hour and a half, however, and found it difficult to keep them cooking and then they began to fall apart. I think I should have cooked them on a lower setting with more water and definitely for longer– I was wanting to take them to work hence the short cook time.**
They can also be soaked and sprouted, instead of cooked.
Seeds & Nuts: seeds really only need to be soaked. Some people may try sprouting them. Soak time depends on each nut or seed as some need longer or shorter soak times. Almonds can be soaked for 4-6 hours, others need 8 or longer, and some like cashews need shorter. Usually they are soaked in a slightly salty water solution then dried in the oven or in a dehydrator.