Do you eat a lot of nuts? Or are you curious how to get the most nutrition out of the nuts you’re eating while also making them easy to digest? Then you’ll want to read about the how and why of Sprouting Nuts!
Every living thing has some form of defense – some animals run, others fight. When faced with too much sun, apples produce phytochemicals in their skin (changing the color), which protects the apple. And in this particular case, the apple’s defense mechanism actually makes it more nutritious for us. (Check out Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson for more fascinating information on food like this). However, nuts, unlike apples, have a defense mechanism that makes them harder to digest and can effect mineral absorption unless they are prepared properly.
It’s Not What You Eat, It’s What Your Body Absorbs
Enzyme Inhibitors and Phytic Acid
Their are two components of raw nuts that can make them problematic if we eat a lot of them. These are enzyme inhibitors, their defense mechanisms, which give our digestive systems a strain and phytic acid, which is a substance that binds to minerals in our bodies thus keeping us from being able to absorb them. Rather than being a defense mechanism, phytic acid’s main purpose in a plant is to store phosphorus which the seed will use when it is ready to sprout and grow. You may see the word “phytate” thrown around out there in and around the conversation of phytic acid. Phytate is the name of the substance after phytic acid binds with a mineral (which happens when we’re digesting it). So, because of the phytic acid, it gets the minerals, not our bodies.
Enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid are only part of the plant-eating discussion and beyond the scope of this healthy whole-food blog. If topics like this interest you, I highly highly recommend The Plant Paradox – The Hidden Dangers of Healthy Foods by Dr. Steven Gundry MD.
But It’s Not All Bad
Now, before you go thinking that phytic acid is a bad thing, there’s actually a great article on the benefits of phytic acid. This couldn’t just be a black and white issue now could it? Personally (adding in that I’m not a health professional, just a Biomedical Engineer turned my own personal Health Hacker), I think it all comes down to our individual situations. Are you vegan or a vegetarian whose major protein source comes from nuts? Are you a person who eats mass quantities of nuts? Do you have a GI disease or disorder? Those are the folks who most likely need to pay close attention to how they are preparing their nuts (and grains and legumes …. again, the The Plant Paradox has some great information!).
Personally, I dealt with a leaky gut for many years and I needed all the help I could get when digesting food and absorbing the nutrients. Back then, I soaked and dehydrated all my nuts. Now, that I’m healed and eat a very balanced, unprocessed, whole-food omnivore diet, I still do follow the same preparation methods many times, but do I avoid raw nuts completely? No, definitely not. Do I try and remove all phytic acid from the foods I eat, definitely not that either.
Traditional Food Preparation
I also do believe that the traditional preparation of foods (soaking, sprouting and fermenting being a few examples) is a lost art, at least in the United States. And that is sad.
Almost all of my knowledge on traditional preparation of foods has come from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. I found this cookbook when I was following a gut-healing diet years ago called GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome).
This cookbook is like having a cooking class with your great great-grandmother (or maybe your grandmother, if she cooked traditionally). It is void of the beautiful pictures that we’ve come to expect in today’s modern cookbook, but that extra real-estate is filled to the brim with the kind of food knowledge that should be passed down and yet somehow hasn’t. Sally teaches you how food aught to be prepared; paying attention to making the food easy to digest and eating only the most nutrient-dense foods. If you’ve never heard of it, I recommend a trial run from your local library … or a go nuts with a purchase right off the bat! This will be the cookbook I give to my children when they leave the house one day. Maybe it will become your favorite gift to the ones you love as well.
OK, so All Health Talk Aside – Soaked and Dehyrdated Nuts Taste Really Good!
Soaking Nuts – The How To
This part is very simple. It just takes time. Purchase raw nuts, soak them in water and salt, then dehydrate in the oven on the lowest setting possible (hopefully no more than 150) or in a dehydrator if you have one. All you needs is warm water and salt. The salt neutralizes the phytic acid and the warm water neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors.
- Almonds – 1 teaspoon salt for every cup of nuts. Soak 7 hours to overnight, then dehydrate.
- Cashews – 1 teaspoon salt for every cup of nuts. Soak no more than 6 hours, then dehydrate. These are really the only nuts you need to be careful with the soaking time.
- Pecans and Walnuts – 1 teaspoon salt for every cup of 2 cups of nuts. Soak 7 hours to overnight, then dehydrate.
If you’re eating nuts that are not soaked and dehydrated, by all means avoid ones that are coated in vegetable oil!
And for some great recipes check out: