Soaked, Sprouted, Soured, Heirloom: A Guide to Healthier Grains

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If you take a look at the USDA’s food pyramid you’ll find that we are told that grains should be the largest portion of our diet. Many disagree with this, as , because it eliminates more calorie and nutrient-dense foods like healthy fats and proteins.

But grains certainly can be a part of a healthier diet, especially if we take a look into the ancient methods of preparing them. Our family has found that when we take the time to sour, sprout, or soak our grains that we tend to digest them more easily. I find that souring and sprouting are the best means of making grains more digestible with soaking a stop-gap for those times when I either forgot or don’t have the time.

Souring (Fermenting)

Souring grains is an age-old practice. Sourdough, the original leavened bread, was made in such a way that not only was the bread lightened by the leavening, but the acids and bacteria present in a sourdough culture also pre-digest the grain and neutralize some of the anti-nutrients inherent in all seeds.

A wonderful guide to all things sourdough is a book called Wild Bread and can be found at Cultures for Health.

Soured grains do not have to come in bread form, however. Many soured porridges were a staple in ancient cultures. This soured oat porridge is my answer to that.


The process of sprouting is just as it sounds. You are taking the seed of the plant (in this case a grain seed or berry), keeping it damp and warm, and waiting for it to sprout new plant life from its core.

This is not unlike the process of planting a garden, in fact it is exactly the same thing. Sprouting has several advantages:

  • It increases the nutrient value of the plant.
  • Makes it digest more like a plant than a grain.
  • Neutralizes anti-nutrients inherently present in the grain.

You can learn how to sprout grains and find the simple equipment to do so at Cultures for Health. Or you can purchase already sprouted flours for your baking needs here.


Soaking, to me, is a pre-fermentation of the grain. You are breaking down the fibers through the soaking and, if an acidic medium is added, you are also neutralizing some of the anti-nutrients. This is definitely a step up from not soaking, but isn’t quite as helpful as souring or sprouting.

Defining Heirloom Grains

One other thing you may be wondering about is the word “heirloom” when it comes to grains. In order to illustrate what this means lets look at wheat, the principle grain for many people in the U.S.

Wheat, like many other plants, has been selectively bred over the course of generations to achieve the desired food product. Most of today’s industrialized wheat is much higher in gluten than heirloom wheat.

Einkorn has recently been discovered as an ancient heirloom wheat. People are finding it easier to digest and companies are even making cookies and pastas from this grain. Flour can also be purchased for use in baking.

So those are some of my favorite options in choosing healthier grains.

Have you tried souring, sprouting, soaking, or heirloom grains?


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