*Scroll down for a table of recommended soaking/sprouting times
A Brief Botany Lesson
Imagine for a moment if you will, a seed. A magical little pod that has the ability to bear life—to grow into a flower, a fruit, and to ultimately create more seeds. May we realize and be grateful for the beautiful cycle of life that is dependent upon seeds.
Part of a seed’s magical power lies in its ability to remain dormant, holding all of its energetic potential for the moment when it is given what it needs to begin to thrive—water. When a seed is surrounded with enough water, it begins its biologic process of growth, also called germination. The sleeping seed wakes up to life, nutrients and enzymes are activated, and it begins working towards its growth. It becomes full of energy!
Let us break down the cultural definition of seeds as a food source being limited to sunflower, sesame, etc. A seed is botanically defined as “the reproductive unit of a flowering plant”. Therefore, many plant sources we eat are seeds including grains, nuts, and beans.
All seeds are given enough energy to initiate their germination process once placed in water. Most seeds that we soak, we end the process with the first phase of germination (generally submerging in water for approximately 8 hours). However, other seeds can be kept moistened for additional time to create small plants, in which the nutrient levels are even more increased. Therein lies the difference between soaking and sprouting; when we soak we are simply activating the plant’s potential and when we sprout we are going one step further to finish germination and to grow a wee little plant. For example, walnuts and pecans intended for direct consumption have had their outer shell removed and will not produce a sprout whereas almonds and sunflower seeds will begin the process of growth. In other words, different seeds intended for consumption have varying growth potential, some will produce a sprout while others won’t. In either circumstance, it is crucial to soak our seeds to not only boost the nutrient levels and receive more from our food but to also aid in digestion.
Phytic Acid & Enzyme Inhibitors
In addition to creating more available nutrients, it is ESPECIALLY important to get in the habit of soaking seeds in order to reduce levels of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Seeds have a protective coat around them to aid in their dormancy (such smart seeds!). This protective coating is made up of phytic acid and/or enzyme inhibitors (again depending on the seed) which not only makes it hard for our bodies to digest them but it also prevents absorption of various nutrients. When seeds are soaked, the levels of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors can be greatly reduced. Again, the practice of soaking seeds allows our body the ability to obtain more nutrients and to utilize enzymes without any interferences.
Overall Benefits of Raw, Soaked & Sprouted
It is beneficial to consume seeds (nuts, seeds, grains, and beans all included) as close to their whole, raw state as possible. Many seeds that are available in stores have been roasted, oiled, and/or salted, creating a product that is lower in original nutrients and higher in unnecessary (and sometimes harmful) additives. It is desirable to not only consume raw seeds but to get into the habit of soaking and possibly even sprouting them. This process increases the nutrient value and creates a food source that is blooming with potent energy. As they say, you are what you eat so why not be full of life?! The soaking process also aids in digestion, ridding the seed of potential enzyme inhibitors. Last but not least, when you soak your seeds the flavor and texture is also improved. Improving the benefits of our food source from seeds is such an empowering opportunity we are given! With the simple steps below, soaking and sprouting seeds can become an accessible practice to adopt.
How to Soak & Sprout
1.Place the seeds in a bowl (preferably glass)
2.Cover with a generous amount of water and let sit for the given amount of time (see table below)
3.Rinse well to remove phytic acid levels and enzyme inhibitors present in the soak water
Then, if not continuing to sprout the seed…
4. Eat as is, dehydrate, cook, or store in refrigerator
OR if you choose to sprout the seed…
5. Keep moist by rinsing frequently (every 4-8 hrs) in a mesh bag, in a colander, or on a screen to allow the water to drain out. Continue this sprouting process for the given amount of time (see table below). After sprouting is finished, follow step four from above.
Soaking & Sprouting Times
I have put together a list of commonly used seeds—culinarily referred to as nuts, seeds, beans and grains—and their ideal soaking and/or sprouting times.
My personal practice is to soak and sprout in large batches whenever possible. I use my dehydrator to dry the seeds out, preserving the raw benefits and stocking my pantry with an abundance of seeds such as sprouted buckwheat, quinoa, and sunflower seeds to activated walnuts and hazelnuts. I generally eat the foods above in their raw state but I prefer to cook foods like quinoa, beans, and grains to reduce strong starchy flavors. Experiment and see what you love!
The benefits of soaking & sprouting are incredible but the last thing I want is to instill any fear about eating seeds that haven’t been soaked. Taking these steps to soak and sprout your seeds is recommended to enhance your diet, but it isn’t required. I don’t always consume seeds that have been soaked (i.e. most nut butters are not raw, soaked or sprouted) but I try to do so more often than not because I truly feel that it makes a significant difference. Here’s to a simple habit towards increasing the wholesome beauty of our food!
With health & heart,