Why Soak Your Oats? What Our Ancestors Knew About Preparing Food

8 methods that make everyday foods even healthier—including soaking, drying, sprouting, and pounding.

Photo by Nadianb/istock.com

Traditional food preparation techniques do more than just preserve food. They remove natural toxins and increase nutrients, as well as the body’s ability to fully use them.

1. Fermenting
Acetic acid, lactic acid, and alcohol act as natural preservatives. Improves digestibility because microbes have predigested. Can create new nutrients, especially B vitamins. Adds helpful bacteria.

2. Soaking
Improves digestibility. Reduces phytic acid, allowing absorption of more minerals, such as iron and calcium.

Soaking grains breaks down phytic acid, a substance that prevents the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Also, as grains soak, vitamin content increases, especially B vitamins.

3. Sprouting
Deactivates enzyme inhibitors, making the sprouted seed more digestible.

4. Nixtamalization
Soaking corn with lime (calcium hydroxide) or wood ashes (potassium hydroxide) increases digestibility and bioavailability of niacin, protein, and calcium. Decreases phytic acid and harmful mycotoxins.

5. Pounding
Removes the bran or hull of a seed or grain, which contain most of the antinutrients. Increases digestibility.

6. Drying
Removes moisture, slowing bacterial growth.

7. Salt curing
Draws water out of cells, killing microorganisms and preventing spoilage. Salt denatures meat proteins and produces glutamate, which enhances flavor.

8. Smoking
Dries meat and adds phenolic compounds that bind to the surface of the food and act as antioxidants, preventing rancidity.