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Soaking Beans, Seeds and Grains to Reduce Lectins, Optimize Digestion and Nutrition

Beat the Bloat

We all know that old refrain: Beans! Beans! The Magical Fruit! The More You Eat, The More You… you know the rest. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Beans, seeds and grains (in small quantities) can be an amazing source of protein and vitamins. Properly soaking beans, seeds and grains is just one key to making them digestible and removes lectins and saponins.

Beans are Great Colon Food if You Cook Them Right

The whole mission of a bean, seed or grain is to be a seed of its mother plant, continuing beanly-evolution. For this to work, the bean must pass through your digestive system as intact as possible in order to “seed” itself outside of your body.

Evolutionarily speaking, these seeds want to come out your other end without being broken down. In other words, beans, seeds and grains want you to expel them out whole and unharmed. Before the modern toilet, the bean would germinate and reproduce itself in the earth once released back to the soil. It appears the evolution of beans, grains and seeds simply haven’t caught up with technology, having not gotten the memo about plumbing!

So why eat them at all? It turns out, beans are a great source of resistant starch – the nutrients the colonocytes, or colon cells, love to feed on. However, without proper preparation, you can miss out on a lot of their nutritional value, and they can wreck havoc on your digestive system. These foods don’t have to give you gas or bloating and soaking them the right way is the key to making them digestible. 

Why does something so good hurt so bad?

Beans and other seeds have their own natural defense system that includes anti-nutrients such as phytates, saponins and trypsin inhibitors. That is to say, the stuff evolutionarily designed so the bean can pass through our systems unscathed.

These anti-nutrients are also what allow beans to be stored for a long time without going bad. Pretty great if you’re a bean or other seed, but pretty lousy if you’re a human trying to eat them without having endless gas, bloating or stool changes (Mega Lousy for a first date, for sure).

Additionally, the phytic acid that protects the bean also prevents you from absorbing all the good nutrients that beans have to offer. Beans then cause gas and discomfort because they are hitting your gut in a form that’s hard to digest. Over time, eating unsoaked beans can really irritate the gut and contribute to health problems, such as IBS, SIBO and leaky gut. 

Some harder beans, like kidney, black, and navy beans also have oligosaccharides (large, complex sugars) that can completely do a number on your digestion.

Let’s look at the facts:

As detailed on the Weston A. Price website, “Legumes have their own agenda, which is to germinate, grow and perpetuate their genetic inheritance, rather than go softly into your cassoulet. These seeds are well-armed with anti-nutrients… and some have specialized complex sugars that can wreak painful revenge upon the mammalian gut that consumes them without proper disarming. But long ago clever humans devised ways to coax these sometimes headstrong legumes into many safe, savory and nutritious transformations.”

In other words, although beans have been a part of human diets around the world for thousands of years, our modern use of beans “is not healthy or appropriate fare for humans and our digestive systems.”

The Solution

In order to render them appropriate fare, we need to soak our beans until they are soft and cook them slowly over low heat. This will remove all of the afore-mentioned anti-nutrients.

In the case of softer beans like lentils and peas, “the soaking helps denature phytic acid, and gentle cooking makes the vegetable protein digestible, especially if served with digestion-enhancing spices.” However, this is not enough for harder beans like kidney, black or navy beans. These “contain certain oligosaccharides (large, complex sugars) that can completely confound digestion.”

The Why

To quote the Weston A. Price foundation again, “mammals do not produce the enzyme alpha-galactosidase in their digestive tracts, which is necessary to break down these sugars. When consumed, these oligosaccharides reach the lower intestine largely intact, and in the presence of anaerobic bacteria, ferment and produce carbon dioxide and methane gases. As a result, we feel a good deal of discomfort, not to mention embarrassment in polite society.

The solution has been to prepare the beans in a way to neutralize or otherwise get rid of these sugars in the resulting cooked beans.”

What about nuts?

Phytic acid is also present in nuts and seeds, so these should be soaked as well to maximize digestibility. According to the Weston A. Price foundation, “based on the accumulation of evidence, soaking nuts for eighteen hours, dehydrating at very low temperatures—a warm oven—and then roasting or cooking the nuts would likely eliminate a large portion of phytates.

Nut consumption becomes problematic in situations where people on the GAPS diet and similar regimes are consuming lots of almonds and other nuts as a replacement for bread, potatoes and rice. The eighteen-hour soaking is highly recommended in these circumstances.

It is best to avoid nut butters unless they have been made with soaked nuts—these are now available commercially. Likewise, it is best not to use nut flours—and also coconut flour—for cooking unless they have been soured by the soaking process.”

The good news is that you can easily get past defenses of nuts, seeds, grains and beans with a little work and can enjoy their benefits with less discomfort – huzzah! These foods have been part of the human diet for millennia, but to make them digestible, you have to soak them and cook them over a low heat in order to remove the anti-nutrients, especially phytic acid. Here’s how: 


Kidney shaped beans and dried/split peas

Add a pinch of baking soda and enough water to cover in a large pot and soak uncovered for 12-24 hours. Drain, rinse and cook as usual.

Examples of kidney shaped beans include:

·       Red kidney beans

·       White kidney beans (cannellini beans)

·       Pinto beans

·       Anasazi beans

·       Black eyed beans (black eyed peas)

·       Great Northern beans

·       Lima beans

Non-kidney shaped beans (and other legumes)

For more oval shaped beans and other legumes, soak for 12-24 hours in filtered water to cover plus 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of dried beans/legumes used. Drain, rinse, and cook as usual. 

Examples of non-kidney shaped beans include:

·       Black beans (turtle beans)

·       Navy beans

·       Fava beans

·       Adzuki beans

·       Chickpeas

·       Lentils

For maximum digestibility, it is best to rinse and refresh the filtered water and baking soda or the acidic medium once or twice during the soaking period. If you forget, no worries.I try to always soak beans for the full 24 hours instead of just overnight.


Grains are similar, and we benefit from removing the anti nutrient coatings on the outside of grains. Here’s a quick recipe to make your oats more digestible:

Overnight Breakfast Oats

1 cup Gluten-free oats
2 cups filtered water, 
1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

  1. Combine oats, 1 cup of water and Apple Cider Vinegar in a bowl overnight (covered if you have cats or other sweet beasts who may try to devour your breakie right off the counter!)
  2. In the morning, add 1 cup filtered water and cook over medium for 3-10 minutes, tasting as you go – they will cook much faster than usual


Here is a quick how-to from the book Nourishing Traditions on soaking different types of nuts and seeds:

Raw Pecans & Walnuts

Soak 4 cups pecan or walnuts in warm filtered water with 2 teaspoons sea salt for 7 hours or longer (up to 24 hours). Rinse and place on a stainless steel baking sheet and bake in a warm oven set at 105-150F for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

Raw Almonds

Soak 4 cups almonds in warm water with 1 tablespoon sea salt for 7 hours or longer (up to 24 hours). Rinse, place on a stainless steel baking sheet, sprinkle with salt/honey/other flavorings if desired and bake in a warm oven set at 105-150F for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally. (Note: Most almonds that are available have been pasteurized or otherwise treated. If they are no longer raw, soak them according the instructions for cashews below.)


Because “raw” cashews are not truly raw (heated to 350 degrees while in their shell to neutralize a toxic oil called cardol.), it’s not necessary to dehydrate them at a low temperature to preserve enzymes. Soaking still makes them more digestible, though! Soak 4 cups cashews in warm water with 1 tablespoon sea salt for no more than 6 hours. (Because they are not raw they do not contain valuable enzymes that prevent spoilage, so 6 hours is the max) Rinse, place on a stainless steel baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and bake at 200-250F until dry, turning occasionally.

Raw Peanuts

Soak 4 cups raw peanuts in warm water with 1 tablespoon sea salt for 7 hours or longer (up to 24 hours). Drain and rinse. Place on a stainless steel baking sheet.  Bake at 105-150F for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

Raw Pumpkin Seeds

Soak 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds in warm water with 1 tablespoon sea salt for 7 hours or longer (up to 24hours). Drain and rinse if desired, but they’re good unrinsed as well.  Spread on a stainless steel baking sheet. If desired, sprinkle with flavorings such as salt and honey or chili and lime before placing in the oven. Bake at 105-150F for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

Raw Sunflower Seeds

Soak 4 cups sunflower seeds in warm filtered water with 2 teaspoons sea salt for 7 hours. Rinse and place on a stainless steel baking sheet in a 105-150F oven for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.


**Please note! This is all the information I have on this topic. Please do not email to ask further questions, instead, reach out to your local Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter – google to find them.**

I hope you found this information helpful! I am currently focused on helping women to optimize their wellness through life coaching, and no longer provide Functional Medicine consultations with lab work, supplements, etc. Instead, I help women to regulate their nervous systems and manage their thinking and mindset, which is vital root cause medicine. You can learn more about this approach by listening to these episodes: polyvagal theory, leaky gut, and the nervous system.
To learn more about how we can work together, please see
Please do not email to ask if I can see you as a patient, and instead use the directory at to find a Functional Medicine provider who is doing laboratory-based clinic work.
Thank you!


  1. Kana Overman on September 27, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    I can not say how happy I am to have discovered you!!!

    • Victoria Albina on September 29, 2019 at 12:19 pm

      I’m so happy you discovered me too! Make sure to check out my podcast, Feminist Wellness, and to subscribe on iTunes 🙂

  2. Kate on September 30, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Very interesting and informative article. What is your advice on cooking beans in an Instant Pot? You say in your article to “cook beans slowly over low heat,” but the value of the IP is to cook beans quickly w/o soaking. Can the pressure cooking methods provide the same or similar benefits as a long soak? Health is my priority, so that is why I like your article but it is also why I purchased an IP. Can I make healthy beans in an IP?

    • Victoria Albina on September 30, 2019 at 2:44 pm

      Hi Kate!

      Glad you enjoyed the article.

      I love my IP too, but it doesn’t do the job of removing anti-nutrients, which is what soaking with a neutralizer does for us. I recommend soaking as indicated in the article and THEN cooking in your IP, likely for less time since the beans will be properly soaked.

      Hope that’s helpful!


  3. Marianne OMalley on October 9, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    Hi Victoria

    I would like to know what category for soaking do white beans like butter beans & cannelloni beans fall into also haricot beans & is it bread soda or lemon juice in the water? As regards seeds how can Chris seeds be soaked when they go jelly like or is it necessary to soak them or indeed not eat them at all?

    Many thanks


    • Victoria Albina on December 13, 2019 at 1:18 pm

      Hi Marianne,

      Asuki, lima, navy, pinto or other kidney-shaped beans are soaked with a pinch of baking soda, and then a 2-inch strip of kombu should be put int he water when you’re cooking them.

      I never soak chia seeds – can’t imagine that would turn out well!

      All the best, Victoria

      • Danielle on May 22, 2020 at 11:20 am

        Does the lemon juice start to go bad at room temperature while soaking? Is it necessary to refrigerate?

        • Victoria Albina on May 26, 2020 at 2:48 pm

          Hi Danielle,

          I have never had lemon juice go bad in a few hours, and no I don’t refrigerate the soaking beans. This is what I do, and you need to make your own best decision for your health!



  4. Jeanette Baker on November 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for this information. I’ve been fighting IBS, and other issues for many years. It is comforting to know we can have lentils, peas and other beans with the bad things neutralized. We also soak and dehydrate our nuts so your information was helpful on that issue.

    • Victoria Albina on November 21, 2019 at 1:40 pm

      My pleasure! Remember, this journey is HIGHLY individual – what works for one person might not work for you. Neutralized legumes, etc are generally much easier to absorb and process in the body, but not all bodies – you get to figure out what works for you! And remember, healing IBS is about far more than just what you eat – so much of it is about deep emotional, spiritual and cognitive healing. Can’t skip that step, my love. 😉

      Best of luck on your journey!


    • Alan Jaffe on December 23, 2019 at 7:49 pm

      I am just wondering about the nutritional content comparison between raw hulled sunflower seeds compared to those which are either pasteurized, sterilized, or heated in some way. I was thinking that since the kernels are encapsulated, they are greatly protected, thus the kernels (not out shelling) retains most of its nutritional value. Thoughts? Thx.

      • Victoria Albina on December 26, 2019 at 1:47 pm

        Hi Alan – this is not an area I have any expertise in! I would consult your local Weston A Price Foundation chapter – they may know or could point you towards someone who does.

        Best! Victoria

  5. Scott on December 3, 2019 at 3:22 pm

    Cam you explain why some beans require baking soda, an alkaline medium, and others an acidic medium? Thanks!

    • Victoria Albina on December 13, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Scott,

      To the best of my understanding, different beans/legumes have different types of antinutrients (phytic acid, saponins) in their coatings, and different neutralizing agents are needed to break those down for improved digestion.

      Thanks for writing in, and all the best! – Victoria

  6. Galia on January 23, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Hi! Glad I found this! Question, would quinoa need to be soaked as well? Thanks in advance!

    • Victoria Albina on January 24, 2020 at 9:31 am

      Hi Galia,

      Quinoa has saponins in its outer coating, so yes, Quinoa should be scrubbed under running water and then soaked with a splash of apple cider vinegar in the water. Rinse well before cooking

      Best! – Victoria

  7. Veronica medeiros on February 20, 2020 at 9:34 am

    Hi great article . What about the fungicides they spray on raw nuts? I’m struggling with that issue, not trusting nuts. Thank you

    • Victoria Albina on February 22, 2020 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Veronica,

      If you don’t trust nuts, then look for organic varieties or skip them all together 😉

      Best, V

  8. Gina on February 22, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    I use raw nuts and seeds and soak first with one exception — roasted pistachios. If a nut or seed is roasted, is it too late to benefit from soaking?

    • Gina M Whipple on February 22, 2020 at 11:49 pm

      I didn’t catch the cashew advice before my question above… I often do an overnight soak of 8-10 hours. Since this is more than the recommended total of 6, would it be safer to refrigerate while soaking? or will that not make a difference?

      • Victoria Albina on February 24, 2020 at 9:07 am

        Hi Gina,

        Im not sure what “safer” means here… but if it’s working for you to do a longer soak and to put the cashews in the fridge, then great! In my experience cashews can get overly smooshy after 6 hours – but you do what works for you!

        Best, Victoria

    • Victoria Albina on February 24, 2020 at 9:08 am

      Hi again Gina! I always start with raw nuts.

      Best! Victoria

  9. Hannah Michael on June 5, 2020 at 7:12 am

    Hi Victoria,
    I soaked my black beans with a little apple cider vinegar, swapped the water out twice and cooked them for 4 hours on low. They came out hard still. A little research suggests acidic mediums harden the shells on beans. Should I have used an alkaline while soaking? What do you think I did wrong? Thank you!

    • Victoria Albina on June 6, 2020 at 9:20 am

      Hi Hannah,

      Gosh, hard telling from here! Sometimes if beans are older, they need more soaking time or more cooking time.

      I have not found that ACV hardens the shell of beans. If you’re finding that, then try those same beans with baking soda and see what happens!

      Be well,


      • Hannah Michael on June 7, 2020 at 6:41 am

        Thanks Victoria! I’ll do some experimenting 🙂

  10. Jim Carter on September 23, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks Victoria! Q1- I’m eating lots of raw and cooked legumes along with raw and cooked veggies as part of anti-inflammation diet. Since on diet 2.5 wks, my gas bloating has gone way, way down. Would that suggest that legumes/lectins not really an issue for my genes/gut biome? Q2 – Where can I buy legumes that are soaked and ready for cooking or consumption? Or, do I have to do it on my own? I’m in coastal S. Cal. TIA

    • Victoria Albina on September 23, 2020 at 3:31 pm

      Hi Jim,

      Great to hear from you.

      Q1: hard telling! The gut is complex, and with only 2.5 weeks of data, it’s hard to definitively say that X lead to Y. In these cases I continue to gather data to see what I can learn from the patterns of consumption and symptom correlation

      Q2: I would ask Dr. Google – I have no clue what is available where in So Cal. I sprout my own because I like to know it was done right – to each their own! 😉

      Be well,


  11. Hana on September 30, 2020 at 9:53 pm

    Thank you for a great article. I have 2 questions:

    1. How do I eliminate bacterial growth in chickpeas while soaking overnight? does baking soda kills it or vinegar (I’m worries it will change the flavor).

    2. Can I really cook chickpeas for 4 hours and make falafel instead of soaking 12 hours? or would it cook them and will be different texture similar to can chickpeas.

    Thank you so much !!

    • Victoria Albina on October 21, 2020 at 10:24 am

      Hi Hana,

      1. I don’t worry about bacterial growth in chickpeas while soaking. If that’s something you’re worried about, perhaps you could put them in the fridge to soak? you have to do what feels right for you

      2. The texture may indeed be different, and you get to decide if that’s okay for you – the trade off may be a different texture for improved nutrient profile. up to you!



  12. Be on October 7, 2020 at 12:50 am

    Do you think that lime juice can be used as an acidic medium instead of lemon juice or baking soda?

    • Victoria Albina on October 21, 2020 at 10:15 am

      Hi Be,

      I can’t imagine how lime juice would be different from lemon juice – worth a try!

      Best, Victoria

  13. Becky H on October 18, 2020 at 10:55 am

    Greetings Victoria,

    Thank you for all your information I am curious, where do canned beans fall within the idea of soaking vs not soaking?

    Thank you for your help!


    • Victoria Albina on October 21, 2020 at 10:08 am

      Hi Becky,

      Canned beans are not soaked/sprouted with a neutralizing agent.



  14. Sita on October 28, 2020 at 1:33 am

    I am trying to figure out if it is necessary to rinse cooked beans and discard the cooking water if the beans were properly soaked. Will the lectins and other anti-nutrients end up in the water? Or are they deactivated so that discarding the water isn’t necessary? Also, with your oatmeal recipe, do you rinse and drain before cooking? Thank you!

    • Victoria Albina on October 28, 2020 at 6:21 pm

      Hi Sita,

      I would imagine that the lectins/saponins left in the water would be neutralized… but I can’t point to evidence for that. I just water my plants with that water and call it done!

      Oatmeal will soak up the water, so I just add more and cook



  15. Shlomo King on November 8, 2020 at 7:35 am

    If I do both soda and vinegar. Then what should come first ?

    • Victoria Albina on November 15, 2020 at 8:00 am

      No need to do both, just follow the instructions for one or the other 🙂

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