Is soaking nuts and seeds necessary? YES! I’ve found that nuts that have been pre-soaked taste much better, are more nutritious and don’t end up undigested!
- Ever seen undigested nuts, grains or seeds in stool? This is due to the human body’s inability to digest certain proteins and nutrients in these foods
- Nuts and seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense but they also contain substances that interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients
- The simple process of soaking nuts and seeds reduces the anti-nutrient content and makes them more beneficial to the body (just like the process of soaking and sprouting beans and legumes)
Soaking is especially important if you are
- an athlete
- under stress
- nutrient deficient
- dealing with an infection, virus or illness
- coping with digestion concerns, and require foods that are easy to digest
- a young child – developing the enzymes to break down these plant foods
Enzyme Inhibitors in Nuts and Seeds
- Like grains, raw nuts (and especially raw seeds), contain moderate levels of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors.
- These enzyme inhibitors prevent the seed from sprouting prematurely, but can cause potential problems in humans by binding to nutrients in the body and contributing to nutrient deficiencies and digestive system irritation.
- Seeds and nuts store phosphorus as phytic acid and it becomes a phytate when it binds to a mineral. In the body, this process can stop nutrients from being absorbed in the digestive system and reduce the digestibility of these foods.
In other words, just because nuts and seeds are considered good sources of protein and nutrients, doesn’t mean your body can absorb these nutrients. All plants contain phytic acid in some levels, but grains, legumes, nuts and seeds typically contain the highest levels.
This is why it is helpful to reduce the phytic acid content of seeds and nuts and make the nutrients more available.
The Importance of Soaking Nuts and Seeds
Some phytic acid is naturally neutralized during the digestive process, but foods that are especially high in phytic acid benefit from the process of soaking (and sometimes sprouting) and dehydrating to further reduce the anti-nutrient content.
Soaking in a simple mineral solution (like salt) and low-temperature dehydrating helps to break down much of the phytic acid and make the nutrients in nuts more available to the body.
While many traditional cultures naturally soaked or sprouted seeds, this step is hardly ever taken with large scale production since it is time consuming. It is, however, simple and inexpensive to do at home and can greatly increase the nutrient content of the seeds and nuts you consume.
How to Soak Seeds and Nuts
There are two parts to soaking nuts and seeds: warm water and salt.
- The warm water will neutralize many of the enzyme inhibitors and increase the bioavailability of many nutrients, especially b-vitamins.
- The salt helps activate enzymes that deactivate the enzyme inhibitors present in nuts.
Within 12-24 hours (depending on the seed or nut), many of the enzyme inhibitors are broken down. After this point, a dehydrating process returns the nuts to a crisp texture.
Soaking Nuts and Seeds
- 2 cups raw organic nuts or seeds (it is better to soak one kind at a time)
- 3-4 cups warm filtered water (to cover nuts)
- 1 tablespoon salt
How long to soak your nuts or seed:
- Larger nuts like Almonds, Cashew, Pistachio, Brazil and Walnut require 12hrs
- Smaller nuts and seeds like Pumpkin require 8hrs
- Not all nuts and seeds can be easily soaked. Flax and chia seeds gel when soaked and are very difficult to work with.
What to Do:
- Place the warm water in a medium bowl or jar (half gallon or larger). Add the salt and let dissolve.
- Add the nuts or seeds, making sure they are completely submerged in the water.
- Leave uncovered on the counter or other warm place (not the refrigerator) for at least 7 hours, preferably overnight.
- Rinse in a colander
Making nut milk
- If you plan to use nuts or seeds to make homemade nut or seed milk this is the optimal time to make it, as the enzyme inhibitors are mostly removed and the nuts or seeds are already softened to make a more creamy milk
To keep the nut or seed or to roast them or make a nut butter
- Spread on a baking sheet or dehydrator sheet.
- Bake in the oven at a low temperature (100C or 210F is optimal) or dehydrate
- Completely dry the nut or seed as any remaining moisture in the nuts or seeds can cause them to mold.
- After every 5 to 10 mins, stir the nuts to ensure even drying
- Drying in an oven takes about 30 mins (in a Dehydrator this can often be up to 24 hours)
A Step Further: Sprouting
Sprouting goes a step further from soaking and reduces the levels of enzyme inhibitors even more. Often, products sold as sprouted nuts and seeds are merely “activated” by the process of soaking, but certain seeds can sprout after several cycles of soaking, rinsing, and giving exposure to air to allow germination.
- Raw sunflower seeds are the best candidates for sprouting
- Some nuts like pecans and walnuts will not sprout
If you want to add this additional step, soak the seeds with the process above. Then rinse and follow the normal sprouting process until sprouts occur. This will only work with non-irradiated seeds and only certain varieties.
This step does further reduce enzyme inhibitors, but except for those with digestive problems or severe nutrient deficiencies, this step is not often necessary and soaking alone is sufficient.
To Soak or Not to Soak?
As noted above, not all nuts and seeds can be easily soaked. For any nuts or seeds that can be soaked, you’ll have to weigh the benefits and see if the process is worth the time investment for you.
Personally, I like soaking because the seeds and nuts taste so much better once they are soaked and it makes the nutrients more available. If you consume a lot of nuts or seeds, this process may be especially helpful to you, as the higher levels of enzyme inhibitors may be more problematic.
Soaking and dehydrating organic raw nuts and seeds also creates an end result similar to roasted nuts, but without the added vegetable oils or high temperature roasting that can damage the nutrients and enzymes in these foods.
High quality pre-soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds can be hard to find, but you can accomplish the same end result by soaking your own at home. It takes a little time investment, but is well worth the taste and nutrient benefits.