Soaking: The Timeless Method for Improving Nutrient Absorption and Digestibility

Benefits of soaking nuts, seeds, beans & grains


10/26/20231 min read

a bowl of almonds soaking in a glass bowl of water
a bowl of almonds soaking in a glass bowl of water

For centuries, indigenous populations worldwide have been practicing soaking to improve digestion and avoid nutrient deficiencies.

Soaking is a critical step before cooking beans and grains, an essential aspect of sprouting nuts, seeds, beans, and grains, and a recommended practice for those consuming raw nuts and seeds. There are countless ways to soak these foods, but the basic steps include placing them in a large bowl or jar, generously covering them with water, and leaving them to soak for several hours.

The benefits of soaking are numerous and include:

  • Reducing phytic acids and improving the absorption of vital nutrients and minerals, such as protein, iron, zinc, and calcium.

  • Decreasing tannins and polyphenols that bind to minerals and proteins, reducing their availability to our bodies.

  • Reducing anti-nutritional enzyme inhibitors to increase nutrient availability.

  • Removing gas-causing compounds.

  • Improving texture and decreasing cooking time.

Soaking beans and grains before cooking is crucial because phytic acid, also known as phytate, binds to essential minerals and proteins, decreasing their absorption in our bodies. Soaking reduces phytic acid content by increasing the activity of enzymes called phytases that break down phytic acid, and by allowing phytic acid molecules to leach into the soaking water.

Similarly, soaking decreases tannins and polyphenols that bind to positively charged minerals and proteins. Soaking activates the enzyme polyphenol oxidase, resulting in the breakdown and loss of polyphenols. Oligosaccharides, a type of anti-nutrient, cause flatulence when we eat large quantities of beans. Soaking beans before cooking significantly reduces the degree of flatulence experienced.

Soaking beans, nuts, seeds, and grains for several hours is recommended, but even a few minutes is better than not soaking at all. Discarding and refilling the soaking water several times during the soaking period helps to remove more gas-forming compounds.

In summary, the timeless magic of soaking is a simple yet potent practice to incorporate into your daily routine. It reduces anti-nutritional properties and increases nutrient availability, digestibility, and quicker cooking times. Whether you are a seasoned health enthusiast or a curious learner, let the wisdom of our ancestors guide your path to wellness.