Nuts and seeds are inherently difficult to digest
Just like grains and legumes should be soaked in an acidic medium to neutralize the anti-nutrients, nuts and seeds should be properly prepared as well. Nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that prevent the digestive enzymes in our digestive tract from breaking down the nutrients in the nuts, thereby causing poor nutrient absorption and poor digestion.
Soaking to maximize digestion and nutrient absorption
Nuts and seeds should be soaked in filtered water with salt overnight. The salt water activates enzymes that neutralize the enzyme inhibitors in the nuts and seeds (Fallon 512). So basically we are neutralizing the enzyme inhibitors so they can’t neutralize our own digestive enzymes. The salt activates enzymes in the nuts and seeds that neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
The general recipe is add 1 t salt to every 1 cup of nuts and add enough filtered water to allow the nuts to expand.
After the nuts are soaked, you can dry them out in a dehydrator or oven at the lowest temperature. If you don’t have time to soak and dry them, and you don’t have poor digestion from nuts, you can also just toast them in the oven or on the stove top. Toasting alone will partially neutralize the enzyme inhibitors, but not as much as soaking in salt water or sprouting.
Try making my nut and fruit granola, like a sweet trail mix.
Special care for cashews: Cashews should not be soaked more than 6 hours. Since the enzymes in these nuts were already destroyed during processing with heat, it is not necessary to try to minimize the temperature at which they are dried out. You can cook them in a 200° to 250° oven for 12 to 24 hours until crisp (Fallon 515).
Sprouting: taking it to the next level
While sprouting also neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors, it increases digestion and nutrient bio-availability in several other ways. Sprouting:
- opens up the germ of a seed to release more of its’ stored nutrition
- makes available live enzymes in the sprout that aid digestion
Nuts and seeds will sprout as long as they are not irradiated or exposed to much heat in the processing. For example, pecans and walnuts that have been removed from their shells cannot be sprouted due to the heat used to deshell the nuts (Fallon 113). And just because a nut or seed says it’s raw on the package doesn’t mean it’s truly raw; it just means it’s not toasted.
How much will soaking and sprouting reduce the anti-nutrients?
The general understanding is that soaking as mentioned above does not reduce the phytic acid completely. Sprouting reduces it even more, and fermenting reduces it almost completely, making the minerals more bio-available. I heard there are studies to prove this, but they were never quoted.
Source: Fallon, Sally with Mary G. Enig. Nourishing Traditions: The cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats. Brandywine, MD: New Trends Publishing, 2001.