Go Soak Your Nuts

I’ve heard many times over the years that nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein and healthy oils, good for the brain, the nerves, and youth-preserving hormone levels. 

However, I’ve always encountered several obstacles to making them a major part of my diet.  For one, I was never wild about the taste, particularly the over-salted packaged varieties.  Two, many fresh nuts are difficult to crack and extract the meat from–one of those foods that seem to burn more calories to prepare and eat than you derive from digesting them.  Which brings me to the most significant obstacle:  digestion.  Eating nuts and seeds often left me feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

When I talk about nuts here, I’m talking primarily about almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans.  By seeds I mean mostly pumpkin, flax, sunflower and sesame seeds.  Peanuts are something else altogether, a kind of legume, like a bean.  Peanuts can be very allergenic.  Even if you’re not aware of a peanut allergy, they can increase inflammation and worsen other allergies.  Personally, I avoid them completely.

Helen and I have recently been exposed to a way to prepare nuts and seeds that I find delicious, nourishing, and easy on the digestion.  It’s going to sound a little crazy, but here it is:  soaking them in water overnight, then draining and dehydrating them (in a food dehydrator).  In the case of cashews, I slow-roast them instead of dehydrating.  The idea with the dehydration is to keep them raw, but cashews have to be steamed to open the shell, so they’re not really raw anyway.  It all sounds like a big waste of time, right?

Soaking and draining the nuts breaks down chemical compounds called phytates, or phytic acids.  Phytic acid is found within the hulls of nuts, seeds, and grains.  Cooking nuts and seeds reduces the phytic acid, but soaking is better and sprouting is best of all.

Phytic acid is a strong chelator of important minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, and niacin.  It’s a kind of preservative that keeps these minerals from being released until the seed is ready to germinate.  During germination, an enzyme called phytase is released, which breaks down the phytic acid, releasing the nutrients stored in the seed to fuel growth.

I suspect that the phytic acid in unsoaked nuts and seeds is what led to my digestive difficulties in the past.  I also find that the flavor of nuts and seeds is improved by soaking and dehydrating or roasting.

It’s a bit of a project, but you can do a huge load at once.  If you’re not going to eat them all within a week or two, I might refrigerate them in the New Orleans summer.  If you’re willing to put the work in, you’ll have a perfect snack to munch on throughout the day.  Supplement with a tablespoon or two of fish oil every day and that will keep you young and strong like a bear!

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~ by nolashaolin on June 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “Go Soak Your Nuts”

  1. […] soup made with a real bone broth at least once per week.  Snack on seeds and nuts, and incorporate them into your meals (salads, soups for example) as much as you can.   Eat some […]

  2. […] posted before about how healthful nuts and seeds are as a snack. Check out that post here. The upshot of it is, that seeds and nuts contain chemicals known as phytates that inhibit […]

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