Other than eating it raw, why would you soak grains, like buckwheat before cooking? What is the benefit of doing this?
The benefits of soaking buckwheat are the same for all plant parts that are considered true botanical seeds. In culinary and grocery terms, this means all grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. All of these benefit from being soaked to some degree; some, like beans, much more than others. The process of soaking brings the seed back to life and unlocks more nutrition and health benefits while reducing nutrient-inhibitors. When the seed is dry, it is in a dormant mode, like a hibernation stage, and its hardness gives us many clues about this. Sure, we can cook it down to become soft, but when we soak it before this, we are working in alignment with nature and getting much more of the seed’s beneficial potential for us.
Some nutrient inhibitors that are common are phytates and lectins, which get a lot of bad press, often wrongfully, given that we are very disconnected from our food today and nature in general. Most information today is also delivered as sensationalist and exaggerated sound bites, which do not factor in the context and do not provide a comprehensive, complete picture perspective about the topic at hand. The result, in this case, is that it has a lot of people today fearing foods like grains and beans altogether. To learn more about this and the health benefits of soaking, please refer to my Holistic Guide to Lectins, Phytates, and Oxalic Acid for Healthy Eating.
Unfortunately, in our modern society where people always seem to be short of time, soaking is not a very common practice, but this used to be originally how grains and beans specifically were consumed. Water, through the action of soaking, revives the seed and changes the (bio)chemical reactions within it in our favor. This includes predominantly, but not only, easier digestibility and higher nutrient density.
Therefore, I encourage each person to do what they can if optimal health and nutrition is a priority for them, and at the very least focus on soaking those “seeds” that benefit from it the most. This means all beans; certain grains, especially any gluten-containing grains like wheat, spelt, and rye berries, barley, as well as whole or steel cut oats; some nuts, especially almonds and cashews; and some seeds, like sunflower and sesame seeds. Buckwheat, rice, and lentils, for example, are not as high on that list of importance, so it is up to each person whether they choose to soak these or not. Nuts and seeds, like walnuts, pecans, and hemp seeds are also lower on the priority list of soaking. Flax and chia seeds will gel in the presence of water and are most often consumed already ground down or as part of smoothies.
In summary, soaking does not have to be and should not be an all or nothing, black and white, approach. Soak when you can, what you can, and what is of most value and importance for you to soak based on your health needs and preferences.