At the beginning of the month I mentioned, in relation to Magnesium, that soaking grains and seeds may reduce the level of phytates. Phytates (and phytic acid) are antioxidant compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The chief concern about phytates is that they can bind to certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and, to a lesser extent calcium, and slow their absorption.
There is mixed opinion as to whether phytates significantly reduce the mineral availibitly from foods, but in my mind, there is nothing to lose in soaking grains and seeds, to speed up cooking,to enhance digestibility and to encourage mineral absorption as much as possible. It is fairly easy to soak grains and flakes, it is a matter of getting into a habit of soaking them the night before you need them.
Soaking seeds is easy too. My favourite use of seeds is to grind them (sunflower and sesame work particularly well) and then mix a couple of tablespoons of the seed mixture with some filtered water to form a paste. Do this the day before you want to use it and then stir the seed paste into porridge of gluten-free cereal, or use it as a nut butter on crackers or soda bread.
However, how can we 'soak' the flour that is used in a soda bread? The process of leaving bread to rise with yeast allows some of the phytates to be broken down. With a quick soda bread recipe however, the flour doesn't usually have that same opportunity. Therefore I have been working on an alternative soda-bread recipe, that incorporates time for the dough to be left to stand. What we don't want is for the dough to begin to ferment, as with a sour dough. Although fermentation is an effecitive way of allowing phytates to be broken down, if you are trying to minimise yeasts in the diet, fermented foods may not be helpful. Many clients are cross-sensitive to different yeasts, so although naturally fermented foods may be helpful for some people, I do not encourage these fo any one who is trying to support gut ecology by bringing yeast under control. For this reason, when the dough is left to 'stand' it should be placed in the fridge in order to reduce the possibility of fermentation. The recipe is very simple, and quite delicious, but you do need to remember to start making it the day before it is needed.
Rye Soda Bread
Mix 4 mugs of whole rye flour* with 2 ½ mugs of water. Stir together thoroughly, cover and leave in the fridge for 12-24 hours. This helps to break down phytates within the flour which may prevent absorption of minerals. After this time, sprinkle 2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder over the dough and stir in thoroughly. This is quite hard work as the dough is a thick dropping consistency. When the baking powder is mixed in, spoon the mixture into a loaf tin lined with baking parchment. Place the tin in a medium-hot oven - 190°C, and bake for an hour. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
*Available in whole food shops, or Tesco sell Doves Farm whole rye flour.