Saturday, April 4, 2009

A New Way to Soak Brown Rice

I've been looking for a way to prepare whole brown rice that increases its mineral availability without changing its texture. I've been re-reading some of the papers I've accumulated on grain processing and mineral availability, and I've found a simple way to do it.

In the 2008 paper "
Effects of soaking, germination and fermentation on phytic acid, total and in vitro soluble zinc in brown rice", Dr. Robert J. Hamer's group found that soaking alone didn't have much of an effect on phytic acid in brown rice. However, fermentation was highly effective at degrading it. What I didn't realize the first time I read the paper is that they fermented intact brown rice rather than grinding it. This wasn't clear from the description in the methods section but I confirmed it by e-mail with the lead author Dr. Jianfen Liang. She added that the procedure comes from a traditional Chinese recipe for rice noodles. The method they used is very simple:
  1. Soak brown rice in dechlorinated water for 24 hours at room temperature without changing the water. Reserve 10% of the soaking liquid (should keep for a long time in the fridge). Discard the rest of the soaking liquid; cook the rice in fresh water.
  2. The next time you make brown rice, use the same procedure as above, but add the soaking liquid you reserved from the last batch to the rest of the soaking water.
  3. Repeat the cycle. The process will gradually improve until 96% or more of the phytic acid is degraded at 24 hours.
This process probably depends on two factors: fermentation acidifies the soaking medium, which activates the phytase (phytic acid-degrading enzyme) already present in the rice; and it also cultivates microorganisms that produce their own phytase. I would guess the latter factor is the more important one, because brown rice doesn't contain much phytase.

You can probably use the same liquid to soak other grains.


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Claire Archer said...

I am extremely new to this concept. My question is about storage after fermenting. Is is possible after soaking/fermenting to dehydrate the product for later use or must it be cooked and eaten soon after?

jewiuqas said...

A good question Archer. I usually ferment 0,3 liters of dry rice and it happens that I don’t use up all of it. I am in the habit of drying the leftovers at room temperature on a tray, then I put them aside in a jar. The question here is whether the hydrolysis of phytic acid is a reversible process. For example potato starch that breaks down to monosaccharides during cooking is known to recombine when refrigerated (at least part of it). I only hope that this is not the case with PA. Anyway, if a qualified chemist could reassure me of the impossibility of such a recombination, it would be appreciated.

Nobu Sha said...

Thanks for the article, Stephen. But Dr. Jianfen Liang is a female:

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Nobu Sha,

Oops! Thanks for pointing that out-- I'll correct it.

Unknown said...

A couple of folks including Greg and Sparklingdimness have asked about the 90% of the water that gets tossed. Perhaps if some phytic acid is not broken down throwing away the water means less phytic acid is consumed. Which, in addition to taste, could be why you wouldn't cook with it like Abhijit asked. But I wonder if the water would be considered "rejuvelac" or a pre-rejuvelac by Wigmore followers and holistic folks. Maybe it could be used to make a weak Ciorba.

Alice Lau said...

Is this correct?:

Day 1
Leave for 24 hours 1/4 cup brown rice + 1 cup dechlorinated warm water

Day 2
Pour out 90% of liquid.
Keep 10% liquid.
Rinse and Cook brown rice in fresh water and eat.

Day 3
1/4 cup new batch of brown rice + 10% of leftover liquid + volume made up to one cup by fresh dechlorinated water. Leave for 24 hours.

Follow Day 2 steps.

Follow day 3 and day 2 for new brown rice fermenting.

Please let me know!

Jenny said...

The act of fermenting and cooking is going to remove or damage some of the nutrients due to leeching and the cooking temperature. Fermenting reduces the amount of anti-nutrients. Compared with un-fermented, the body may be able to absorb a greater amount of nutrients even though some were lost because decreasing the anti-nutrients allows the body to better absorb whatever nutrients remain in the food. Research studies are needed to determine if this is the case.

CuriousChef said...

I've noticed that with previous reserved soaking liquid that there's a vinegar-like scent to it. Is that normal? Is it safe to use?

Nick said...

I came to this page from your article on butyrate. I've read that the preferred food of the organims that produce it is "resistant starch". It sounds however, like cooking makes resistant starch more digestible for us, but leaves less for the gut bugs. Raw oats, are high, as is raw potato and cooked and then cooled grains So, it seems soaking - also making the grains more digestible for us - would decrease the prebiotic resistant starch and the resulting butyrate production, no?

SDave said...


One question I haven't been able to find an answer to is whether we should soak the rice in dechlorinated warm water in a covered container or an uncovered one?

Thank you....

SDave said...

Since you're experienced with this method, could you please answer this question that mysteriously no one seems to mention? Should the brown rice be soaked covered or uncovered? Please help.

SDave said...

I am also trying to find out the answer to this! Does no one care about such a critical question that could waste all our efforts?!

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi SDave,

It makes no difference whether it's covered or uncovered.

SDave said...

Thank you so much for the reply. I appreciate it. :-)

Matt D said...

I've been using this method for a while, and have recently started germinating/sprouting my brown rice afterwards on top of this.

As I eat the brown rice I cooked up the previous time over the course of a few days, I periodically rinse the brown rice and drain it as it continues to germinate/sprout.

I actually find it enjoyable. It's part of my routine now. My water kefir, sauerkraut, and brown rice are all on the same counter.

When I get home I have water kefir, then refill the jar with the grains with sugar and water, give it a swirl and then tighten the lid on the mason jar, take a peek to see how my sauerkraut is coming along, and then give the previously 'accelerated fermentation soaked' brown rice a good rinse and drain to prepare it for germinating/sprouting --

-- after I pour some of the 'rice culture' liquid into a mason jar and throw that in the fridge to be ready for next time.

Brown rice is one of my staple foods, and I'm convinced this is the best way to prepare it -- and that it's especially important for people who use brown rice as a staple food to be aware of this method.

Honestly, I think knowing this technique is a prerequisite for successfully including brown rice in the daily diet.

As for the minerals leeching out into the soak water, which we drain, along with the phytic acid -- I have no idea if it 'defeats the purpose' or not.

I'm just not worrying about it lately:

I rinse the rice first, multiple times, until the water is clear or at least a lot less cloudy than it was at first.

Then using the leftover 'rice culture' and fresh water, soak it for a day.

Then I save some of the culture in a jar, dump the rest, rinse the rice a few times with fresh water, and let it sit in a loosely covered bowl to start germinating. Once or twice a day, for 2-3 days after that, I'll give it a good rinse and drain to help make sure no bacteria or anything has a chance to take hold in there.

When I see the little nibs bulging out of the rice, or little sprouts starting to form, I cook it up, save it in the fridge, and I'm all set until next time.

Kaitlyn said...

Hi Stephan. What do you suspect is nutritionally superior, soaked and cooked brown rice (prepared as you suggest above) or white rice cooked in bone broth? We eat a lot of white rice in our family but always cook it in bone broth. Will switch to brown though if wiser.

Justin Goldberg said...

Could someone please post the correct way to get maximum nutrition from Brown rice?

It would be simpler than reading the many comments above.

Kind regards

juju said...

Could you use this method with other grains? Or just rice?

lordofthetrance said...

I have a question! do hope you can answer as there's so much info flying around I don't know where to begin.

I began using the above method, but the result STANK of vomit. I was literally boiling it, ready to eat when I thought I should google if that's normal. Then I started to see that some articles were saying to soak for less time than 24 hours, to use starter culture, ACV. Then the article from instructables brought me here... where it says to do just what I did do!?

So please help. A few people said if you see bubbles and it smells bad then it's gone bad. I had bubbles and it smelled of sick. It's supposed to smell tangy though. Confused.

Unknown said...

The Egyptians, as we are, were very unhealthy people

Pei said...

Hi, Stephan I've been soaking brown rice the way you recommended for months and enjoy the taste of it. Meanwhile I've realized that I started eating occasional semi-white basmati rice (with germs but no brans) after eating only whole grains for more than a decade whenever I forgot to soak the brown rice. I know my whole foods-based diet allows some room for occasional white rice.

I've been having this question since the very beginning when I first found out about your method: can we use the same batch of rice for repeating soaking? I didn't want to eat the PA rich brown rice in the first couple rounds of soaking so I just changed the water and added the soaking liquid repeatedly from the previous soaking to the same batch of rice without cooking it until the end of the 4th day. I've noticed that the rice ferments much faster this way, but am not sure if there's enough phytase left at the end of soaking. Please advise.

the differential said...

Could I use reverse osmosis purified water, or distilled water? These methods don't necessarily remove 100% of chlorine, but typically remove 95% or more.. Would this be sufficient? Just not sure where to obtain dechlorinated water.

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