DIY Soaking and Sprouting to Maximize Your Nutrient Intake

Dorothy Bauer, Weavers Way Neighborhood Nutrition Team


MARCH: Combining beans and grains in a single meal has a long, rich history in ancient culinary practices. The Neighborhood Nutrition Team will teach you the benefits of soaking beans and sprouting, how to shop bulk, and even sneaking beans into your brownies, with a special workshop for kids!


  • March 8, 3-5 p.m.
  • March 12, 1-3 p.m.
  • March 18, 10 a.m.-noon
  • March 29, 3-5 p.m.



We’ve lost touch with our ancestral heritage of food preparation. Most traditional cultures naturally soaked and sprouted seeds, nuts, grains, and legumes. But this step is rarely taken in large-scale food production because it’s time consuming and affects the bottom dollar. However, it’s inexpensive and easy to soak and sprout at home. Water will neutralize many of the enzyme inhibitors and increase the bioavailability of many vitamins, especially Vitamin B.

All nuts, seeds, legumes and grains have enzyme inhibitors, which serve as a plant’s natural preservative and self-defense system. These get released when soaked and when sprouting begins. Lectins and enzyme inhibitors block the absorption of vitamins, minerals and protein. Soaking activates the dormant enzymes, waking them up and readying them to burst into life. Soaking also releases vitamins and makes grains, beans, nuts and seeds more digestible.

In the spirit of nourishing traditions, soaking raw nuts, seeds, legumes and grains — in filtered water overnight, or for at least four hours — releases enzyme inhibitors, insuring a more nutrient-dense food. Soaking and sprouting also dramatically reduce, if not completely eradicate, the anti-nutrient content that can impede optimal absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Soaking removes phytic acid and reduces tannins, so the nuts, seeds, grains and legumes can be absorbed correctly for proper digestion. In short, this process improves their nutrition and bioavailability.

After soaking, you should rinse these items thoroughly in a colander. The wet components can be used as part of a recipe (a pâté, for example), to make sprouts, or preserved by dehydrating.

I like to have pantry-ready staples, so I soak and dehydrate as soon as I bring nuts and seeds home. Spread what has been soaked in a thin layer on a baking sheet or dehydrator tray lined with a water barrier to dry. Keep in mind that enzymes lose viability at 118 degrees, so you should dry in a dehydrator — I like Excalibur — if possible. You can also use your oven at the lowest temperature it will allow and with the door propped open. Many newer models of stoves even have a dehydrating setting. The drying step is important to remove the moisture and avoid mold.

Sprouting optimizes the nutritional content of your food. Vitamin E, which boosts immune systems and protects cells from free radical damage, can be as high as 7.5 mg in a cup of broccoli sprouts, compared to 1.5 mg in the same amount of raw or cooked broccoli. Sprouts are also an excellent source of fiber, manganese, riboflavin and copper, along with smaller amounts of protein, thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. That’s a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.

There are a variety of accoutrements to facilitate sprouting: a simple mason jar fitted with a screen, a stacking tray with a screen, or a colander fitted over a bowl all work well. The most important step is frequent rinsing to manage the growth of bacteria; at least twice a day is advisable. Allow the sprouts to grow ⅛- ¼-inch tails or whatever you like. Then enjoy them at their enzymatic peak, and let their life force become you.

Dorothy Bauer holds certificates from Living Light Culinary Institute, Optimal Health Institute and Premiere Research, and mentored with renowned raw-food chef and author Elaina Love. Healthy food and lifestyle are her passion with a particular focus on a gluten- and dairy-free, low glycemic diet.