Have you ever thought about why we soak our pulses and lentils before cooking?
Soaking has been a method used for centuries. Our ancestors may not have known the biochemical reasons for why it was beneficial, but they continued to follow the soaking process of beans, lentils, nuts and seeds to avoid micromineral deficiencies and to improve the digestion of proteins.
While it reduces the cooking time and makes the dal easier to digest, there are some other health benefits of soaking lentils for several hours.
The Benefits of Soaking:
- Reduces Phytic Acids (phytates): Soaking lentils improves the mineral absorption rate of the body. Phytic acid binds to certain protein, and minerals such as zinc, iron, and calcium. Soaking increases the activity of enzyme called phytases, which help breakdown of phytic acid thereby improves absorption of proteins and minerals.
- Reduces gas causing compounds: Eating large quantities of beans and pulses is known to cause flatulence or gas, bloating as they contain oligosaccharides. Our Digestive system can not break down these starchy compounds and bacteria start thriving on oligosaccharides which produces gas. Pre soaking for several hours has been shown to reduce the degree of flatulence experienced.
- Reduces ANFs (Anti- Nutritional factors): Pulses, lentils and beans contain several anti-nutritional factors which bind to the beneficial enzymes and reduces their activity. Studies have proven that soaking can reduce these inhibiting factors.
- Reduces Tannins and polyphenols: Similar to phytates, soaking reduces concentration of these to inhibitors compounds and makes the nutrients readily absorbable in our intestine.
- Improves texture as it cooks evenly: Soaking for many hours increases the water in the seeds which speeds up chemical reactions such as starch gelatinization, during cooking.
- Reduces cooking time: Soaking lentils also reduces its cooking time. It also brings prana (life) into the legume.
Know the correct way to soak lentils/pulses:
Step 1: Collect the lentils in a bowl and wash it with water.
Step 2: Change the water 3 to 4 times till the time water becomes clear and wash the lentils gently by rubbing it with your fingers and palms to get rid of all dirt.
Step 3: Now generously cover them with fresh drinking water.
Step 4: Leaving them to soak for several (6h to 12h) hours. Thumb rule is overnight soaking.
Step 5: Discard the water before cooking and cook with fresh water.
Step 6: Do not forget to skim off the froth formed on boiling.