The Nutritionist’s Perspective: Easy Solutions for Digesting Beans and Other Grains

by Shanon Sullivan, MS Nutritionist

Take any one of these tiny treats and roll it around in your palm. You’re looking at a delivery system for genetic information. Within the confines of their protective shell or dried outer casing, there is life, safely waiting with hopes of fertile soil. Plants preserve these traveling treasures by creating a high concentration of enzyme inhibitors within the sensitive flesh. Enzyme inhibitors block the action of enzymes that would otherwise be leading these plant parts on the break down path of decomposition. If you swallow the little suckers without adequate chewing, you might notice that they come out on the other side fully intact and safely nuzzled in the pile of fertile soil that you just made. If the tasty treasures are eaten raw with plenty of pulverizing action from your chompers, then the enzyme inhibitors will block the action of your own digestive enzymes. This can put a strain on your system, since your body has to make and release more enzymes to compensate. You can notice this digestive resistance in two ways. First, after eating raw nuts look for a slight film coating the inside of your mouth – that’s the enzyme inhibitors. And second, if you’re one of those folk that tends towards cramping, bloating, or gas after eating raw nuts – that’s the enzyme inhibitors. In nature, these pesky little blockers are deactivated auto-matically when the storage capsule spends time in an environment that will support growth and development. In traditional cooking, these conditions were mimicked by using appropriate combinations of moisture, warmth, pH, salinity, and time. These practices initiate the natural process of germination, or sprouting, so that the food remains, but the inhibition doesn’t. And beyond better digestion, the most important benefit is the wonderfully enhanced taste!

2 cups dried beans
Warm purified water for soaking (legumes have many other indigestible components that remain in the soaking water, so it’s best to throw it out)
2 tablespoons acid: whey or lemon juice
Purified water for cooking
1 bay leaf OR 1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed OR 1-inch piece of kombu (digestive aids)
Unrefined sea salt and pepper to taste

Cover beans with warm water, stir in acid and let stand in a warm place for 12-24 hours. Drain, rinse, place in a medium-large pot, and cover with water again. Bring to a boil and skim off foam. Reduce heat and add your chosen digestive aid. Cover and simmer for 4-8 hours. Check periodically and add more water as needed. Beans are done when you can easily mash them against the roof of your mouth with you tongue (make sure you cool it first!). When they are nearly ready, add salt and pepper for the final few minutes of cooking. Remove digestive aid before serving. Makes 4-5 cups.
Digestive enzymes can also be used to make beans even easier on your system – some are even specially formulated to work with beans and vegetables such as BV Similase from Tyler.

1 cup of dried whole grain (purchase in air tight con-tainers, not bins, to prevent rancidity)
Purified water for rinsing
2 cups warm purified water
1-2 tablespoons acid: 1 tablespoon lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar OR 2 tablespoons whey, yo-gurt, kefir or buttermilk
�½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt
1-2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Rinse grains three times by covering with water, swishing with your hand, and gently pouring the water off the top. Transfer to a small pot, mix in warm water and acid, and let stand in a warm place for at least 7 hours. Bring to a boil, skim, reduce heat, stir in salt and butter, and cover tightly. Cook covered (no peeking!) over lowest possible heat for 35-45 minutes until all water has been absorbed. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving. Note: When cooking grains it is important for them to remain undis-turbed. You will notice, after cooking a pattern of holes has formed. This pattern is what allows the grain to cook evenly and will not reform if it is disrupted. When the cooking time is up, lift the cover and gently tilt the pot to see that all water has been absorbed. Makes 3-4 servings.

Flour Products: Initiating the sprouting or germinating process is equally as important for grain products as it is for whole grains. When purchasing grain products, look for sourdough or sprouted breads and crackers, or search for recipes to make your own. When making other products such as crepes or pancakes, take a little extra time to soak your flour overnight. You can either replace some of your cooking liquid with yogurt or buttermilk, or add whey or lemon juice to the liquid in the recipe. Just make sure to leave the addition of any baking powder or soda until you are ready to start cooking. Otherwise it will have lost all its rising power by morning.

Nuts and Seeds
4 cups of raw nuts or seeds (shelled, skinless or not)
1-2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt (experiment to find your best combination)
Purified water (enough to cover everything)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, cover, and let stand in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight (can go longer as well). Drain in a colander or strainer, and spread on a glass or parchment covered metal baking dish or sheet. (The paper is important to prevent reactions between the food and the metal.) Place pans in a warm oven (ideally no more than 150 degrees) for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally, until they have reached your desired level of crispiness. You can also use a dehydrator. Cool and store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place – if making walnuts refrigerate. Makes 4 cups.

1 cup lentils
Warm purified water for soaking
1 tablespoon acid: whey or lemon juice
1.5 cups purified water or stock for cooking
1 bay leaf OR 1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed OR 1-inch piece of kombu (digestive aids)
Dried or fresh herbs as desired
Juice of �½-1 lemon
Unrefined sea salt, pepper to taste

Cover lentils with warm water, stir in acid and let stand in a warm place for at least 7 hours. Drain, rinse, place in a small-medium pot, and add water or stock. Bring to a boil and skim off foam. Reduce heat and add your chosen digestive aid and herbs. Simmer uncovered for about 1 hour or until liquid has been completely reduced, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Add lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serves 3-4.

For Further information, feel free to contact the author!

Author’s Note: These templates were created by compiling recipes featured in the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon

Shannon Sullivan, MS

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