We’re diving into how to sprout, soak and activate your food at home. Have you ever seen the words “sprouted” or “activated” labeled on a food product and wondered what that was about (and why the price was so much higher)? I’m going to break down what the difference between soaked, sprouted and activated foods are, what the benefits are and how to do it at home. Spoiler: it’s insanely easy to do, and you’ll save a lot more money DIY-ing, too!
S O A K E D – The ingredient is covered with water and allowed to soak in order to bring to germination. This is often done to soften ingredients to prepare for blending, and serves as the preliminary step to sprouting and eventually activating.
S P R O U T E D – Sprouted foods are achieved by first soaking ingredients, and then placing in a moist environment for a few days (often a sprouting tray or a mason jar). The ingredients are rinsed and drained several times in the process, and may potentially start to sprout tails, as would a growing plant.
A C T I V A T E D – Activated foods are soaked to begin the germination or sprouting process, and then dehydrated. In a sense, you’re bringing the food back to it’s dry state (pre soak/sprout), but after it has been treated, and it remains raw*. Once activated, you can use as you would a regular ingredient, and if you’re charging, you can now raise the price of your product! Totally kidding, but as you can see it’s a long process, and this is the finish line.
There are benefits to soaking, sprouting and activating your food at home including increasing nutrient availability, making digestion easier and saving money. Nuts, seeds, legumes and grains contain compounds that can pose potential harm to humans (depending on quantity) and make digestion much more difficult. These are anti-nutrient compounds such as lectins, phytic acid, and enzyme inhibitors that not only cause potential digestive symptoms, but also makes absorption of the nutrients in the foods harder to absorb.
Although there’s no guarantee that treating food will completely eliminate these compounds, it certainly helps to remove a large majority. For individuals who struggle with IBS or digestive issues, intolerances and/or general bloating, it can be incredibly helpful. Plus who wouldn’t want to reap as much of the nutritional benefit from their food as possible?
So, the next time you see a product on the shelf made with soaked, sprouted or activated ingredients, you might find that it’s a little easier on your gut. Of course, that comes with a higher price tag, so if you want to save some money, doing it at home is the way to go. If you compare a store-bought raw activated nut butter, which can retail for up to $24 USD for 10oz, making your own at home is definitely more affordable.
Here’s the fun part: You can really get creative and playa round with everything from nuts and seeds, to grains and legumes. Things I often like to soak, sprout and activate at home include almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, brown rice, lentils and beans. The amount of water needed and time will vary based on the item you’re working with, and there are plenty of charts you can refer to online. Here’s a great chart for reference by The Blender Girl.
Because I tend to treat the same handful of ingredients, I’ve become pretty familiar with the amounts/times needed, and if you get into a routine, you can start to pick it up too! For the most part, you can assume that the firmer the nut (e.g. an almond vs. a cashew nut), the more soaking time needed. My favourite thing to do is to soak overnight, which will usually be a safe bet if you’re unsure.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty–how to sprout, soak and activate your food at home. It’s a lot easier than you would think, and I will preface this by saying that although the full process does take a considerable amount of time, it’s like doing the laundry. What I mean by that is, the steps are simple, and you can set and forget it (and then come back a few hours later). I like to get into a cycle where I soak in the morning or evening, rinse and drain when the time comes, and go about the rest of my day. There’s no need to sit and watch your food soak, so although it takes time to complete a cycle, it’s really not that time consuming at all.
There are a lot of different methods. Some people like to soak in a liquid solution with water, salt and some kind of acid, while some prefer to soak with just water. When it comes to equipment, you also have options between a simple set up using things you probably already have at home, and tools you can purchase to make things easier. Find what works for you, and find your flow! For more equipment recs, head to the end of the blogpost.
1. B U L K U P – Choose your dry, uncooked goods. I recommend purchasing in bulk, which is typically more affordable, and opting for organic if it’s within your budget/easily accessible. Typically, raw*, uncooked goods are used, but can be very hard to source. See end of the blogpost for a note about raw* goods.
2. A D D W A T E R – Give your food a good, thorough rinse under warm water and strain. Transfer to a glass jar or bowl, and cover with warm filtered water. Keep in mind that the ingredient will expand as it soaks, so using a 2 parts water to 1 part ingredient is usually a safe bet.
If you’d like to, you can add a pinch of natural salt to aid, and a 1/2 tsp of something acidic like lemon juice or vinegar (for 1 cup of dry goods). Cover with cheesecloth, or a breathable towel and let sit out on the counter for a minimum of 7-8 hours.
3. R I N S E & R E P E A T – Scoop out any particles or floating pieces of your goods from the top of the bowl, and remove. Rinse out remaining goods well, preferably using a strainer. You can cook with your soaked ingredients at this stage, or begin sprouting. To sprout, transfer ingredients into a mason jar, being sure to leave 3/4 of the jar empty as the ingredients will expand.
Cover the opening of the jar with a piece of cheesecloth, and secure with a rubber band, or use a metal ring top. Prop the jar upside down and at an angle, so that water drains out and let sit in an area of the home with natural sunlight. 2-3 times a day (or once morning and night), fill the jar with warm water, drain again and let sit until sprouted.
This can take anywhere from 1-5 days, and you may see actual sprouting, but not always. Once sprouted, be sure to consume very quickly, as the moisture in the ingredients can cause food to spoil if left to sit.
Note: You can also use a sprouting kit–there are many online and I’ll link a few below.
4. A C T I V A T E (optional) – Alternatively, you can activate your sprouted food by treating it in a dehydrator and completely removing the moisture. This makes it possible to store to consume later, or use as you would a regular dry good (e.g. make nut/seed butter, flours). You will need a dehydrator to do this properly and avoid molding, but you can also roast to dry completely as well.
5. M A K E M A G I C – Now that you have your soaked, sprouted or activated foods you can turn it into nut butter, plant milks, alternative flours and more. One of my favourite things to make is sprouted pumpkin seed milk! I purchase a big bag of these raw pumpkin seeds and fly through it like nobody’s business, using my Almond Cow plant milk machine (use code VEGGIEKINS for a discount) for all my dairy-free needs. You can also cook as you normally would, and you’ll notice cook time drastically decreases (for example, with beans). If cooking soaked/sprouted foods without dehydrating, be sure to keep in mind that you’ll need less water to cook with.
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BY Remy • August 28, 2019
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Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
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