There’s been a lot of talk about soaking nuts and seeds (and grains and legumes) to neutralize the anti-nutrients that naturally occur in these plant foods. A new term that I’ve noticed being used is to activate them. I really like this term because it emphasizes the fact that raw nuts and seeds are living foods that just need a little push to make their incredible nutrition available.
If you’re new to traditional preparation of foods, you may ask, why should I bother to soak and dry nuts and seeds? There are several reasons that will illustrate to you just how far away we have come from the wisdom of our ancestors in regards to food preparation for optimum nutrition.
I remember as a child going to my aunt’s house for a holiday and chowing down on the nuts that were put out for company. We had to shell them and that was hard work. Although the almonds were easier to shell, I distinctly remember not liking them because of the skin and the fact that they upset my stomach.
Now I know why.
Nuts and Seeds Contain Phytic Acid
Phytic acid, also know as phytates, or IP-6 – is the storage form of phorphorus in plants. Phytic acid binds to minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium, and manganese in the digestive tract, making them unavailable. When we consume foods with phytic acid, our ability to absorb the minerals is impaired and mineral deficiencies and bone loss may result.
Eating a handful of nuts now and then will not make a big dent in your nutrient absorption, but if you eat a lot of nuts and seeds (and grains and legumes) it will impact your health. Lots of folks on grain-free, healing diets substitute nuts and seeds for flour and eat it on a daily basis. For them it is crucially important prepare the nut and seed flours properly or mineral deficiencies may develop.
Phytase is the enzyme that breaks up phytates. Some animals have plenty of it. Humans do not. The way to reduce phytic acid and neutralize it, is to soak, sprout and/or ferment the nut or seed. This also applies to grains and legumes.
If you notice a heavy feeling in your gut after eating regular commercial nuts, then you are experiencing indigestion from the nuts. You may also see pieces of nuts in your stool the next day.
If you are a person who eats several items made from nuts everyday, then you really need to activate them!
Nuts and seeds Contain Enzyme Inhibitors
Nuts and seeds also contain enzyme inhibitors which prevents the seed from sprouting prematurely. Nature in her wisdom has set it up so that the nuts and seeds can survive for long periods of time while waiting for the perfect conditions to germinate. These conditions include warmth and moisture.
A salty brine is the best way to deactivate the enzyme inhibitors in nuts and seeds. (In grains you would use a slightly acidic brine).
Enzyme inhibitors may clog up or denature the active site of an enzyme rendering it non-functional. This also forces the human digestive system to work overtime in order to breakdown this food.
Soaking Releases the Anti-Nutrients
It is very important to remove the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that are present in the nuts. While these substances protect the nut from premature sprouting, it is not wise to eat nuts that have not been properly prepared in the traditional method of soaking and/or sprouting.
This preparation method neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors and makes the nut a perfect snack that is much easier to digest. This is especially important for people on healing diets like SCD or GAPS or Paleo AIT who already have digestive issues. These folks cut out grains, but nuts and seeds also have similar issues with anti-nutrients.
In her wonderful bookNourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon Morell teaches us how to soak and/or sprout various nuts. According to Fallon Morell, many traditional cultures used salty sea water to soak nuts and the sun to dry them. In our culture we can use a good quality sea salt and water to soak the nuts, and the oven (between 135 and 150 degrees) or a dehydrator (at 120 – 135) to dry them.
Activated Nuts and Seeds
- A variety of nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts
- Note: if you are using cashews soak them between 3 and 6 hours or they will become slimy
- Sea salt (where to buy)
- Place each variety of nuts in a separate pot or large bowl with 2 – 3 tablespoons of sea salt that is dissolved in water
- Soak for 8 – 12 hours
- Drain nuts through a sieve, rinse under running water and shake the excess water out
- Place each variety of nuts on separate dehydrator sheets
- Dry at 135 degrees F for 12 – 14 hours of until they are crispy and dry
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Soak Time: 10 hours
Dry Time: 12 hours
For instructions and video on how to skin almonds and make almond flour click here.
Clearly, most commercial nuts are NOT properly prepared so home preparation is a must. If you just can’t find the time to do this — and you really can because you can do a lot of nuts at a time and freeze them — which is what I do. But, if you just want to buy them, see the link below.