Q and A on Soaking in Dairy


Raw Milk

Question from a Fan of the Weston A. Price Foundation:

I would like to clarify WAPF’s position on soaking in dairy. There are many voices on the internet quoting Rami Nagel’s (author of Cure Tooth Decay) research analysis or Amanda Rose’s comments on her research that we should NOT be soaking grains in dairy (i.e. buttermilk, yogurt, kefir). The conclusion they make based on their analysis of phytic acid research seems to be that soaking in dairy is actually counterproductive. As you can imagine, this is VERY confusing since WAPF/Sally Fallon recommend soaking with dairy such as yogurt, kefir and buttermilk, as a means for reducing phytic acid and improving the digestibility of grains.

Again, here is the link I posted on the Weston A. Price Foundation FB page that I first stumbled upon: http://purehomemaking.com/2011/05/hot-off-the-press-dairy-is-out-for-soaking-grains/

I didn’t think much of it, until I started to do some googling and talking to some real foodie friends to see what others had heard/were saying out there.

Just a couple of examples of the comments I’ve seen on real foodie blogs …

• Sarah at Healthy Home Economist says: “The method I used was based on a conversation Rami Nagel and I had at the Wise Traditions Conference last month. That conversation really set me back on my heels as Rami told me that … soaking flour in cultured dairy really does NOT break down the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients or improve digestibility that well according to his research. Soaking in water plus an acidic liquid such as lemon juice, vinegar, or liquid whey apparently breaks down these little nasties much much better. According to Rami, ‘Calcium when souring reduces how much phytic acid is removed. So if a grain is soured with too much calcium, such as milk or yogurt, not as much phytic acid will be removed.’”

• Amanda Rose at Rebuild From Depression/Phytic Acid Research says: “There is an extremely obscure body of literature that suggests we should leave out these dairy additions altogether. The calcium in the dairy actually inhibits the breakdown of phytic acid …”

I would REALLY appreciate hearing WAPF’s position on this topic:

To soak with dairy or not, that is the question …

Many, many thanks in advance. Warm regards, Kelly

Answer from Sally Fallon Morell:

There are a number of traditional foods in which grains are soaked in a fermented dairy products. Kirshk from the Middle East is one that comes to mind. Calcium may inhibit the breakdown of phytic acid, but the minerals in dairy products will also compensate for any mineral blocking by phytic acid. Of course, if you are allergic to dairy, you would not want to use these recipes.

I am somewhat perplexed by the exclusive focus on phytic acid. It is important to neutralize phytic acid, but there are many other components in grains that need to be broken down, such as enzyme inhibitors, lectins, hemagglutinans, etc. These are done over time in an acidic medium and acidified dairy foods would do the job just as well as other acidified liquids.



Sally Fallon Morell

Sally Fallon Morell is the author of Nourishing Traditions cookbook and the founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit with membership of 13,000 worldwide.

To find local grassfed milk in your area, and fermenting starter cultures or whole and sprouted grains, visit these links on Hartke is Online Resources page.

This post is part of the Real Food Wednesday blog carnival on Kelly the Kitchen Kop.


  1. I addition to the anti-nutrients Sally listed, there are other reasons to ferment grains. The fermentation process also starts to break down gluten and bran. Both of these are more difficult to digest in un-fermented forms.

    Fermentation can actually produce additional vitamins or make minerals more easy to digest.

    The singular focus on phytic acid is tunnel vision in my opinion. Yes its important, but its not the only thing going on in the bowl. Remember, grandma’s usually know best.

  2. Coyotevick says:

    I prefer just to use whey and skip all the discussion. It’s acidic, and it has cultures to begin fermenting the grains. It’s really the easiest way to do it. Besides, what else are you going to do with the gallons of whey you have leftover from making greek yogurt? (I kid, of course there are tons of things to do with whey. But there’s no shortage of it in my house!)

  3. @coyotevick: Would you be willing to share some of the ways in which you use whey (pun not intended).  I usually don’t have it by “the gallon” but I have a couple of pints at all times and never quite know how to use it all up.  I’ve heard of people talk of adding it to real homemade bone broths, but I’m not sure to what they are referring.  You surely wouldn’t add it during cooking, right?  Any ideas would be great. And I agree with you about just soaking in whey to start with – lots of good stuff in whey.  I thought even people who are “allergic to milk” could have whey, right?

  4. I am with Sally on this one. Out ancestors used dairy for soaking purposes, and they knew what they were doing. The more I study traditional foods and food preparation, the more I am impressed with how well these older methods work.

    To focus on a single aspect, like phytic acid, is to ignore the fact that many other things and processes are involved, as Sally pointed out. If it is a traditional method that has passed the test of time, it is good enough for me.

    I soak grains as Sally suggested in Nourishing Traditions, and have had wonderful results.

  5. Kimberly Hartke says:

    D. – I use whey to culture and preserve homemade mayo. Do you have a Nourishing Traditions cookbook? Sally Fallon has a whey beverage and quite a number of recipes for using whey.

    You can find the book for sale on our resources page:


  6. Pavil, the Uber Noob says:

    The other bonus of using acids with flour is the boost from mixing in the baking soda.
    As to the uses of whey; it is a wonderful inoculant for fermenting a host of foods that can be made in the kitchen. If I have excess, I either drink it (with salt & pepper) or add it to the compost. Since it is a super food, I am more likely to drink it.

    Ciao, Pavil

  7. S. T. Walker says:

    I think she has a point, after all when Westonprice originally checked the teeth of some people who worked in was it England, in the factories? the only thing he changed in their diet was to give them cod liver oil, right? He didn’t change anything else about thier diet, and it was a pretty poor diet, their teeth improved due to that one change so i wonder about all this focus on phytic acid.
    i mean if i wasn’t fermenting or taking clo or butter oil then i change to doing those things i should see an improvement in my health no?

  8. Thank you so much for the clarification!

  9. Sounds like most of the readers concur with Sally: phytic acid is not the only reason to soak or ferment grains, and traditional cultures have always been healthier than what we see going on in the world today, including those that use dairy products.
    Question to consider, as those of us that are particularly mineral deficient, and do want to ensure that phytic acid is reduced to the maximum: how much calcium is there in whey, anyway? It seems to me that the milk solids would retain much of the calcium, and that any buffering effect from calcium in leftover whey would be nominal at most?
    Either way, I will continue to make true buttermilk biscuits, and certain breads with milk (apple spice muffins!!!). Every day, and every, AHEM, *month* I am amazed at the difference between whole grains, and soaked/soured/fermented whole grains in my diet that I changed to 2 years ago. I love not having heavy duty cramps anymore!

  10. Someone just directed me to this post and I see that I am quoted. I tend to agree with Fallon’s comment here in this post but what’s odd about this discussion is that there appear to be many people soaking with added dairy because of Fallon’s argument in Nourishing Traditions that we should do that to reduce phytic acid. She basically started the movement to reduce phytic acid in food. I simply suggest that if that is your goal, don’t use a calcium addition. Warm water works better according to the experiment I found in the food science literature. Warm water, time, and wild yeasts are what many cultures have used to ferment their foods and we have no reason to believe that there is any need for the dairy addition.

    The quote from me above comes from this article:


    In a movement that quotes Fallon as identifying a method for “proper preparation of grains,” I am just suggesting that there may be more than one way to skin a cat.



  1. […] but research has shown that it doesn’t do the best job with phytic acid. Sally Fallon says it does a lot of other things well, so I still sometimes soak with dairy, especially if I’m making pancakes or if I have a lot […]

Speak Your Mind