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Understanding the Two Stage Process - Maximizing Nutritional Value

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Understanding the Two-Stage Process
Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Whole Grains

by Sue Gregg

Reprinted by permission from

Just because you've switched from white flour to whole grains does not mean that you are getting all the nutritional value. In fact you may also experience new problems with digestion and assimilation. That is because whole grains contain phytic acid in the bran of the grain. Phytic acid combines with key minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc and prevents their absorption in the intestinal tract.

Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting the grain before cooking or baking will neutralize a large portion of the phytic acid, releasing these nutrients for absorption. This process allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins including gluten. For many, this may lessen their sensitivity or allergic reactions to particular grains. Everyone will benefit, nevertheless, from the release of nutrients and greater ease of digestion.

The first stage of preparation in making baked recipes, is to soak the whole grain flour in an acid medium, usually a cultured milk such as kefir, yogurt. sour raw milk or buttermilk as in quick breads. When water is used as in yeast breads, or sweet raw milk, or almond or coconut milk as non-dairy substitutes, apple cider vinegar, whey (liquid poured off yogurt1) or lemon juice is added in proportion of 1 tablespoon per cup).

As little as 7 hours soaking will neutralize a large portion of the phytic acid in grains. Twelve to 24 hours is even better with 24 hours yielding the best results. Brown rice, buckwheat and millet are more easily digested because they contain lower amounts of phytates than other grains, so 7 hours soaking is sufficient. Other grains, particularly oats, the highest in phytates of the whole grains, is best soaked up to 24 hours.

There are two other advantages of the two-stage process. Several hours of soaking serves to soften the grain, resulting in baked goods lighter in texture, closer to the texture of white flour. This is especially helpful when making blender batters, where the initial blending may not smooth out the grain as much as desired. Secondly, this is a great step in convenience, dividing the task into two shorter time periods, cutting the time needed to prepare the recipe right before cooking and baking when you feel rushed to get food on the table. Doing food preparation tasks in advance is is a great convenience facilitator. The two-stage process fits right in.

I believe that the sensitivity to whole grains that people frequently have may be minimized by uti-lizing the two -stage process in recipes, in ad-dition to enhancement of nutritional value. As Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD point out, "...virtually all preindustrialized peoples, soaked or fermented their grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles." (Nourishing Traditions p. 452).

Many are overwhelmed by the thought of doing the two-stage process. This is because it is a paradigm shift, something completely foreign to our normal way of doing things. For decades it has never been part of cookbooks with whole grain recipes. Thus a variety of questions arise, such as, "Do I soak the grain and then grind it? Do I grind the flour and then soak it? How will I use the soaked flour or grain in the recipe?, etc." I just say, "Follow the recipe, it is part of the first step."

The process is built into every recipe in this book. As you become familiar with the basic two-stage preparation for either a quick bread or yeast bread, you will easily learn how to adapt it to any recipe that does not follow two-stage preparation. The only time that separate preparation is needed is when the method used is sprouting the grain. There are some wonderful advantages in using sprouted grain, however, so I have interoduced it in the Yeast Breads section, although sprouted grain can be used in both quick and yeast breads.

Evaluating the Importance of the Two-Stage Process

While the whole truth is probably not yet known (recall Proverbs 25:2 ), phytates are not all bad. Research shows that they may be involved in curbing free radicals in the body that contribute to heart disease and cancers, as well as preventing excessive mineral build up in the body, especially of iron, which also contributes to free radical formation. It is thought that it may be the phytates in the bran layers of whole grains, in legumes and in nuts and seeds that are providing these protections. Thus the inclusion of these foods in the diet against a diet that relies primarily on white flour products and on a high proportion of fiberless meats and dairy products becomes a further plus. The value of phytates, on the other hand, does not warrant ignoring the value of the two-stage process. First of all, neutralizing phytic acid to release nutrients bound up in the form of phytates is not 100% accomplished except under ideal conditions of temperature and pH. Attempting to control these conditions, at least in home baking, is not a worthwhile endeavor beyond inclusion of an acid medium and room temperature for a suggested range of time, or the practice of making sourdough or sprouted breads. Second, taking a realistic view of our habits is useful. Home baking not withstanding, commercial whole grain products not processed adequately will find their way to our tables (as whole grain pastas, commercially purchased breads, e.g.). In any case, since many people lack essential minerals and have difficulty with the digestion of gluten in grains, the two-stage process plays a valuable role in baking with whole grains.

Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CNN, author of The Whole Soy Story, points to the Hebrews as an example of consuming both leavened and unleavened bread. The former, which was produced through the fermentation process from wild yeasts was practiced most of the time. The latter, unleavened bread, was part of the the Hebrew preparation for Passover in early spring, "a natural time for fasting, a practice that encourages detoxification." Daniel suggests that these yearly short periods "might have been a very effective way to rid the body of any heavy metals through the action of phytic acid." On the otherhand, Daniel reminds us that "Decades of research on the phytates of real foods have shown that phytates are antinutrients--more likely to comtribute to disease than prevent it."1

To conclude, I suggest that occasional consumption of whole grains that are not processed by one of the three two-stage methods (soaking, fermenting, sprouting) is not likely detrimental to health2 and may contribute a plus, while those that are properly processed as the main dietary choice will be greatly beneficial to health.

1The Whole Soy Story, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CNN, Chapter 17, "Phytates ties that bind," pp. 221, 224, quotes by permission.

2However, to many gluten-sensitive and grain-allergic persons, the two-stage process may be beneficial on a basically consistent basis.


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