By Joanna Wirkus, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern
Beans, nuts & seeds, as well as gluten-free whole grains, are all healthful plant based foods which are ideally already routine elements of your gluten-free diet. Read on to learn about ways to get even more out of these nutrition powerhouses.
Why pre-soak beans?
Nutrient dense beans are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein. Making use of dried beans, rather than canned, saves money and generally makes for beans with better flavor and texture. Soaking beans provides a nutritional benefit because doing so reduces a compound called phytic acid, which inhibits absorption of certain minerals. Soaking also reduces content of oligosaccharides, which are complex sugars that can cause gas. And one more bonus: pre-soaking beans shortens cooking time.
How do I soak beans?
Hot soak method: Place beans in a stock pot and add enough water to cover in an inch or two of water. Heat to boiling and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover, and let stand for 4-24 hours. Drain beans, discard soak water, and rinse with fresh, cool water.
Overnight or day-long soak: Place beans in a large bowl or stock pot. Add enough water to cover the beans in an inch or two of water. Allow beans to soak for 8 hours minimum, or overnight. Discard soaking water and rinse beans.
After soaking, cook (or proceed to sprout) as usual.
Note: Beans can be sprouted only after the cold soak method. Beans which have soaked in hot water will not sprout.
Why sprout beans?
Sprouting beans makes them even more digestible and nutritious. Each bean, when sprouted, releases nutrients necessary for growth of the new plant or “sprout” being produced. Proteins become easier to digest, and difficult to digest carbohydrates may be reduced.
How do I sprout beans?
Start by soaking beans overnight or for at least 8 hours (but not in hot water; see note above). Discard soaking water. Put the beans in a colander and place the colander on a plate. Cover the colander with a dry clean cloth. Rinse the beans under cold running water every few hours or at least twice a day. Sprouts should start to form in 1-3 days. Once the sprouts are about 1/4 inch long place them in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.
Another method utilizes a large glass mason jar with a mesh sieve top or a piece of cheese cloth. Place your soaked beans in the jar. Cover the mouth of the jar with the cheese cloth and use a rubber band to secure it in place. Or, purchase a special mesh sieve top if you prefer. Make sure to rinse the sprouts twice daily, at least.
Now what do I do with these sprouted beans?
Cook and use as you would normally. The flavor of sprouted beans is a bit milder compared with their un-sprouted counterparts. Sprouted beans can be steamed or cooked in boiling water. Sprouted beans will cook quite a bit faster than un-sprouted beans.
Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked before cooking. To sprout lentils, follow directions above for sprouting beans. Lentils take about 2-3 days to fully sprout.
Sprouted Lentil Tacos
Taco seasoning of choice
Favorite taco fillings
Start by steaming the sprouted lentils. Steam lentils until they reach desired softness. In a skillet, sauté an onion in some olive oil. When soft, add cooked lentils and a tablespoon of water. Sprinkle on the taco seasoning. Stir. Add more seasoning to taste. Put finished lentils on tortillas and top with avocado, tomato, cheese, cilantro and salsa or other desired taco toppings.
Soaking nuts changes their flavor and texture and improves their digestibility. The water activates the seed and allows for nutrient sequestrants – like phytic acid – to dissolve, making certain minerals more bioavailable. Most nuts will not sprout. Whether soaked or not, nuts are a healthy addition to any diet. They are full of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
How do I soak nuts?
Start with your favorite raw nuts. Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, any nuts will do. Place in a jar or bowl. Cover the nuts with water. Add a pinch of salt to the water if desired. Allow nuts to soak for 2-12 hours. Discard soaking water and let the nuts dry fully after soaking to prevent mold. Store them in the refrigerator. You can also roast nuts at home if desired; roast after soaking. Add nuts to virtually any dish, including salads, vegetables, pilafs, yogurt and oatmeal.
Soaked or sprouted seeds also provide increased nutrient availability and improved digestibility.
Sunflower seeds (raw, not roasted) are a great seed to start with. To soak, place seeds in fresh water for 20 minutes to 4 hours. Discard soaking water and allow the seeds to dry.
To sprout the seeds, rinse them approximately every 6 hours. Sprouts are ready in 12-18 hours, when the sprouts are still small. Enjoy soon after sprouting. Add sprouted seeds to soups, salads, or oatmeal. Store any extra in the refrigerator.
Pumpkin or melon seeds: After soaking overnight and discarding the soak water, rinse seeds 3 times per day. In 3 days, the sprouts should be about 3/4 inch long and will be ready to eat.
Note: Purchase seeds designed for sprouting. Avoid using seeds from a garden store because they may be treated with chemicals.
When sprouted, grains are affected in the same way beans, nuts and seeds are: nutrient sequestrates are reduced, and nutrient bioavailability is increased. Almost any grain can be sprouted, however quinoa and rice are a good place to start. When sprouting rice, be sure to choose a fully intact grain like brown rice. A fine mesh sieve is a good tool for sprouting small grains. Allow the grains to soak 12-18 hours and then rinse every few hours or at least 2-3 times daily for 3 to 4 days. Sprouting should be stopped when just a little “tail” appears on the grain.
Sprouted grains should be cooked; cooking time will be reduced by about 20-50% compared with the non-sprouted version of the same grain. The texture of sprouted grains is soft and they generally have a pleasant fragrance and mild, earthy flavor. Sprouted grains go well in salads, soups, vegetable stir fry and into breads or baked goods.
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Whole Grains Council, 2013. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/sprouted-whole-grains. Accessed 4/20/15
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