Nature can be very clever. Plants have designed themselves to entice beneficial relationships from the insects and animals around them. Some produce bright flowers full of nectar to encourage bees and other insects to catalyze their pollination. Others produce seeds with burs and stickers to transport them as tiny hitchhikers on the fur of animals or on human clothing, spreading far from where they began. Some trees send off seeds that spin like mini-helicopters while others and many smaller plants propel their offspring on the wind attached to delicate parachutes, flying for miles. Others encase their seeds in fruits that attract animals at the perfect time to carry them out into the world and deposit them somewhere else complete with fertilizer.
Most seeds, encased in fruits or not, were created to offer only a minimal nutritional value to those who might eat them, just enough to entice an animal in. Any that were damaged, either before or during the chewing process, would be digested. But many would survive digestion and be deposited far from the original plant where they might have a better chance of growing and the genetic line lives on. This fueled the proliferation of many plant species, enabling their survival through fires, harsh winters, climate change, and many other disasters. The whole process is an example of the genius and wonder that exist in the natural world. Life finds a way to grow, expand, and survive everywhere it goes.
Unfortunately for those of us who want to get the nutrition out of them, this means that those seeds, nuts, beans, legumes, and grains are full of enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid that help them resist digestion. Phytic acid also limits the absorption of nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium, holding on to them throughout digestion even in seeds damaged by chewing and thus preventing us from putting those nutrients to use in our bodies.
Our ancestors didn’t initially know this, but many ancient civilizations seemed to figure it out, even without electron microscopes. We know this because they passed down their way of preparing many grains through many generations. These recipes are still in use in hundreds of countries—ironically most of these countries are the ones we call third world. They still spout, soak, and ferment seeds and grains before consuming them, while we have forgotten these. We instead grind them, dry them, preserve them with chemicals, leaving the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid to interfere with digestion.
This is where sprouting, soaking, and fermenting truly shine. These simple methods of preparation neutralize the enzyme inhibitors, reduce phytic acid, and decrease the amount of other compounds that hinder digestion, consequently enhancing the bioavailability of all the phytonutrients packed inside each seed. Soaking, fermenting, and sprouting all convince these seeds that it’s time to begin their growth processes. The enzyme inhibitors are no longer needed so the seeds discard them. Phytic acid serves as energy storage for seeds. When growth begins, the seed taps into this store, depleting it and changing it into compounds the body can actually use.
Soaking in clean, non-chlorinated water with a small amount of sea salt will completely alter the amount of nutrition in your grains, nuts, and seeds for the better. Use warm water and keep it at room temperature while it soaks. Soak grains with a touch of mild acid such as fresh lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar to help soften the grain and break down the enzyme inhibitors. Most seeds, grains, and nuts should be soaked for 8 to 12 hours and then drained, rinsed, patted dry, and set out for several hours to days in order to air dry, unless you intend to use them still moist in a recipe. To sprout them, after the initial soak, rinse with fresh water and drain them a couple times each day until the sprout emerges.
Fermenting unlocks even more nutritional power. Fermentation takes longer, usually leaving the grains and seeds to soak at least 24 hours, but you can also find raw food that has been fermented for you and packaged for easy addition to any diet, like Ormus Supergreens, sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, oat yogurt, vegan cheeses made from nuts, and much more.