Have you ever eaten a handfuls full of nuts and wonder why it feels as though you dropped a brick in your stomach? This happens because nuts that have not been soaked contain enzyme inhibitors that can cause uncomfortable digestion. If you have experienced this, please keep reading!
Soaking nuts is a very important step. Make sure that you start off using RAW nuts. Roasted nuts and seeds are “dead”. They have been heated to the extent of killing the living enzymes, which is what we are after.
Seeds and nuts remain dormant until they are in a safe environment to begin the sprouting and growing process. They are high in vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, nuts and seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition but these nutrients need to be released. Soaking nuts and seeds is a long-lost, traditional method of preparation. When nuts/seeds are soaked and/or sprouted in water, the germination process begins, in which the active and readily available amounts of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, proteins and essential fatty acids begins to be activate.
However, nuts and seeds also contain phytic acid and large amounts of enzyme inhibitors which protect them from sprouting until they have the rain and sun they need to grow. They contain enzymes inhibitors that will limit digestion and it will significantly boost the nutrition of the nuts/seeds. And unfortunately, these natural chemicals are quite hard on the stomach, so this simple process can make all the difference in how you feel after consuming them. Soaking also makes them much easier to digest and the nutrients more easily absorbed by your body. So, if you’ve ever had tummy trouble after eating nuts and seeds, don’t give up on them yet! This technique could make all the difference for you, it did for me. Soaking and sprouting your nuts and seeds increases their vital minerals and nutrition, while also simultaneously allowing the inhibitor enzymes to shed off the nuts and into the water (that’s why it is important to rinse them off well), making them easier for your body to assimilate and digest out of the body.
The Aztecs would soak pumpkin or squash seeds in salty water and then sun-dry them. Using sea salt in your soak water helps de-activate the enzyme inhibitors and makes your nuts and seeds extra tasty.
Why soak nuts, grains and seeds?
1. To remove or reduce phytic acid.
2. To remove or reduce tannins.
3. To neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
4. To encourage the production of beneficial enzymes.
5. To increase the amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins.
6. To make the proteins more readily available for absorption.
7. To prevent mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
8. To help neutralize toxins in the colon and keep the colon clean.
9. To prevent many health diseases and conditions.
Basic Soaking and drying Instructions: 1 Tbsp sea salt to 4 cups of nuts
- Dissolve sea salt in fresh water, pour it over nuts or seeds, be sure to use enough water to cover them. You will need 2 times the amount of water as you have nuts in the bowl.
- Leave them in a warm location for the specified time, (indicated below). Select a clean cloth and lay it over the bowl as a cover. This type of lid allows the contents of the bowl to breathe.
- Drain them in a colander and be sure to rinse them well.
- Spread them out on your dehydrator sheets in a single layer and dry them at 115 degrees until they are thoroughly dry and crisp. Make sure they are completely dry. If not, they could mold, and won’t have that crunchy, yummy texture you expect from nuts and seeds. The dry time will vary due to the machine you own, the type of climate you live in and how full your dehydrator is when drying them. Expect anywhere from 12 + hours.
- What if I don’t have a dehydrator? You can roast them with minimal damage to the delicate oils. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven on the lowest setting. Leave in until slightly brown, stirring them occasionally. This takes about 20 minutes depending on the size of the nut. Don’t leave them unattended. You don’t want them to burn. The nuts won’t be raw most likely after this process but they will be easier to digest and enjoy.
- I like to do a lot of nuts and seeds in a big batch to save time and energy when using my dehydrator. This way, I always have properly prepared nuts and seeds on hand for snacks, salads and recipes. It is best to store the dehydrated nuts in the frig to extend their shelf life and to keep them crisp.
Each nut varies in the length of time that they need to be soaked. This should be noted in the recipes but if it isn’t you can refer to the chart posted below as a reference. If you are soaking nuts for an extended period of time it would be advisable to change out the water a few times. After you are done soaking the nuts or seeds, be sure to discard the soaking water and give the nuts a quick rinse. Almonds for example definitely need to be soaked to release the enzyme inhibitor. A time saving step that I always take when I buy almonds is as soon as I get home with them, I start the soaking process. Once they have soaked the appropriate time I then dehydrate them. This may seem odd to some of you, it sure did to me in the beginning. In doing this process you will have released the inhibitors, then in dehydrating them it makes them dry again for storing in glass jars. Now they are ready for snacking or to be used in recipes.
Below are the soaking times for the most popular nuts:
Almonds: 8-12 hours
Brazil Nuts: 8 hours
Cashews: 2-3 hours
Hazelnuts: 8-12 hours
Hemp Seeds: Do not soak
Macadamia Nuts: 8-12 hours
Pecans: 4-6 hours
Pine Nuts: Do not soak!
Pistachio Nuts: 4-8 hours
Pumpkin Seeds: 8 hours
Sesame Seeds: 8 hours
Sunflower Seeds: 2 hours
Walnuts: 4 – 8 hours
Does soaking nuts and seeds affect the taste?
- The answer is test, do a little test study for yourself to see. You will see especially in walnuts and almonds, they have a much more appealing taste after they are soaked and rinsed. In as little as 20 minutes the soak water is brown. After a couple of hours, the dust, residue and tannins from the skins are released into the water and the nut emerges with a smoother, more palatable flavor. You’ll notice that soaked walnuts do not have that astringent, mouth-puckering taste to them. This is because when soaking walnuts, the tannins are rinsed away, leaving behind a softer, more buttery nut. The soak water from nuts and seeds should always be discarded and never used as water in a recipe. Be sure to really rinse the nuts well after soaking them.
Do soaked nuts and seeds have to be dehydrated?
- Answer — If you are unable to dry your nuts or seeds, only soak an amount that you can be sure to use within two or three days. For convenience, I like to soak nuts and seeds in mason jars, rinse them after 12 hours, and then if I don’t have a chance to dry them, I store them in my refrigerator in water. It is important to rinse them twice a day with fresh water. You want to use these nuts within a few days, because as with any live food, mold tends to set in within days if you’re not careful.
Know your nuts!
- Now considered a “super food”, walnuts are one of the nutritious nuts.
- They are high in alpha-linolenic acid and omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help reduce the potential for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and clinical depression.
- Walnuts have also been shown to aid in the lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and the C-Reactive Protein (CRP). CRP was recently recognized as an independent marker and predictor of heart disease.
- These should be stored in the frig or freeze due to their high fat content.
- Substitutes: butternuts OR pecans (not as crunchy or flavorful) OR hazelnuts (not as rich) OR pine nuts (especially in pesto)
- High in protein, zinc and calcium, almonds are also a great source of vitamin E magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron.
- Another nut that can help reduce bad cholesterol.
- They are also a great plant-based protein that can double as a source of fiber.
- Substitutes: hazelnuts (for baking) OR Brazil nuts OR cashews OR pistachios (unsalted)
- Extremely high in selenium which is a powerful antioxidant. It also improves mood and mental performance.
- They are also high in minerals such as zinc, copper, iron, and magnesium.
- In addition to selenium, they contain very good levels of other minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. Copper helps prevent anemia and bone weakness (osteoporosis).
- Manganese is an all important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
- Unshelled brazil nuts will keep in a cool, dry place for a few months. The best way to store is to put them in air-seal bags and place inside the refrigerator. This method will prevent them from turning rancid.
- Substitutes: macadamia nuts (use 3 times as many) OR paradise nut OR almonds OR pecans
- They are a good source of potassium, B vitamin, foliate, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and copper.
- Cashews are packed with soluble dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals and packed with numerous health promoting phyto-chemicals; that help to protect against diseases and cancers.
- Substitutes: peanuts (for making nut butter) OR pine nuts OR almonds OR pecans
- Zinc, vitamin E, vitamin A are only a part of what these tasty nuts provide.
- They also have been proven increase the results of a diet designed to lower cholesterol.
- They are packed with many important B-complex group of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. These vitamins functions as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism.
- Substitutes: walnuts
Hazel Nuts (also known as fillberts):
- These nuts are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals and packed with numerous health promoting phyto-chemicals. Altogether, they help protect from diseases and cancers.
- Hazels are exceptionally rich in folate, which is a unique feature for nuts. 100 g fresh nuts contain 113 mcg. Folate is an important vitamin that helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, nucleic acid synthesis, and most importantly, neural tube defects in the fetus. Good news for expectant mothers!
- Un-shelled hazels can be placed in cool dry place for years. Store shelled (without the outer coat) nuts inside airtight container and place in the refrigerator to avoid them turn rancid.
- Substitutes: beechnuts OR almonds OR walnuts OR pecans OR Brazil nuts OR macadamia nuts
- Good for your cardiovascular system, and filled with calcium, vitamins D, C and A.
- Pine nuts are excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins functions as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism.
- Pine nuts can be good for your eyes and immune system.
- Unshelled nuts have long shelf life and can be stored for many months. Shelled kernels deteriorate soon if exposed to warm, humid conditions. Therefore, store shelled nuts in airtight jars and store in the refrigerator.
- Substitutes: walnuts (this is a common variation in pesto) OR almonds (this is a common variation in pesto) OR hazelnuts (this also works in pesto) OR cashews (raw, unsalted) OR peanuts (unsalted) OR sunflower seeds
- One of the few nuts that have palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. It is said to help reduce stored body fat by increasing metabolism.
- They are also rich in omega 3′s and vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and iron.
- These should be stored in the frig or freeze due to their high fat content.
- Substitutes: Brazil nut (stronger flavor, 3 times as large) OR pecans OR walnuts OR almonds OR cashews
- Pistachios are rich source of energy and contain many health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. These nuts are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and an excellent source of antioxidants.
- Regular intake of pistachios in the diet help to lower total as well as LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol” levels in the blood. Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet that is rich in dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
- The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.
- Unshelled or with shell pistachios can be placed in cool dry place for many months, whereas shelled (without the shell) kernels (nuts) should be placed inside airtight container and kept in the refrigerator to avoid them turn rancid.
- Substitutes: pine nuts OR blanched almonds
- The seeds contain good quality proteins. 100 g seeds provide 30 g or 54% of recommended daily allowance.
- Pumpkin kernels are also excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins functions as co-factors for enzymes during cellular substrate metabolism in the body. In addition, niacin help reduce LDL-cholesterol levels in the blood. Along with glutamate, it enhances GABA activity inside the brain which in turn help reduce anxiety and neurosis.
- Whole un-hulled seeds store well for few months placed in cool dry place. However, hulled pumpkin kernels deteriorate soon if exposed to warm, humid conditions; therefore, should be placed in an air-seal container and stored inside the refrigerator.
- Substitutes: squash seeds OR sesame seeds OR sunflower seeds
- Delicious, nutty and crunchy sunflower seeds are widely considered to be healthful foods. They are high in energy but also contain many health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for wellness.
- Good source of proteins with fine quality amino acids such as tryptophan that are essential for growth, especially in children. Just 100 g of seeds provide about 21 g of protein (37% of daily recommended values).
- Sunflower kernels amongst are one of the finest sources of B-complex group of vitamins. They are very good sources of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, folic acid, thiamin (vitamin B1), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), pantothenic acid, and riboflavin.
- Sunflower are incredible sources of folic acid. 100 g of kernels contains 227 mcg of folic acid, that is about 37% of recommended daily intake. Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis. When given in expectant mothers during peri-conception period, it may prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
- At home, store whole seeds at room temperature in a bin or jar. However, sunflower kernels should be placed in an air-tight container and stored inside the refrigerator.
- Substitutes: pumpkin seeds OR peanuts (for snacking) OR pine nuts