By Grace Van Berkum, R.H.N.
Nuts and seeds are full of nutrients when you eat them raw, but you get even more when you soak them. Do you know why?
Most of us know that raw nuts and seeds are healthy protein, fat, and fiber sources. But did you know that you need to soak your nuts and seeds in water to make them healthier and easier to digest? Soak your nuts she said?! Que pasa?! Let me explain why and how one soaks their nuts (giggles inserted):
To increase nutrition, digestion, and absorption:
Nuts and seeds have an innate protection mechanism designed beautifully by nature (as nature always does). They are protected by their own “nutrition inhibitors” that keep them in a hibernation state to prevent them from sprouting and coming to life until the right conditions present themselves, such as a heavy rain storm. Plant seeds also have these inhibitors to protect themselves from predators. I think that is pretty flippin’ cool!
These nutrition inhibitors and other natural toxins that ideally shouldn’t be ingested are called enzyme inhibitors, phytates (phytic acid), polyphenols (tannins), and goitrogens. I like to refer to it as an “invisible shell.” This invisible shell can cause digestive problems for humans trying to eat it. So what do you do? You have to trick the nut or seed into thinking it’s the right time to come to life by removing this invisible shell! I know you’re thinking, “What? She wants me to remove an invisible shell?” Yes, yes I do.
And this is how you do it: simply soak them in water and voilà, you unlock their code to life. I know it sounds weird, but by doing this you are removing this invisible shell (enzyme inhibitors and other nutrition blockers) that not only prevents absorption of nutrients, but often hinders digestion. (For those who can’t digest nuts well, I highly encourage you to try this easy technique and see if your digestion actually improves because of this. Most people who try it are usually impressed by the improved results.) Once you’ve soaked them in water for a few hours or overnight (length of time depends on the nut or seed), you’ve now made a raw nut come to life. Now it is a living food!
This means you have to store it in the fridge. Think of it like any living food—a vegetable will go bad and moldy if you don’t keep it in the fridge, or if you keep it in there for too long. Soaked nuts or seeds usually last 3–4 days in the fridge before mold starts to appear. Start with small batches so you’re able to eat it all before it goes bad.
Now you are able to not only digest a live nut better than a raw nut (your health is only as good as your digestion and absorption), but you are also increasing its nutrition while making it more hydrating as they are now softer, contain more water, and are easier to chew. Pretty darn groovy. Digesting raw nuts or seeds that have not been soaked are not only harder to digest but also more dehydrating.
So a couple of key points:
a)Use clean water only as the water will be absorbed into the nut or seed, i.e. do not use tap water because it is not your best choice for pure, clean water.
b) Use raw nuts or seeds only (organic if possible), that have not been coated in oils or sugars. Planters peanuts or beer nuts do not work.
c) Make sure water completely covers the nuts or seeds. More water is better than less water.
d) Cover and store on counter or in a cupboard, away from strong light. Always store nuts and seeds away from light as it damages the beneficial oils over time. The harder the nut, the longer you need to soak. See list below for approximate times.
e) Discard the water the next day. Do not use! Here’s the fascinating thing: you will now see that the water is brown! It’s actually pretty gross. That’s the nutrition inhibitors that hinder your digestion and absorption.
f) Use the nuts or seeds as needed, and remember it is now a living food so store it in the fridge.
If you can’t soak your nuts overnight, or even for a few hours, do not fret. Do what you can. At the very least, let them sit for a few minutes and give them a VERY good rinse. This helps.
Approximate Nut and Seed Soaking Times:
- Almonds: 8–12 hours
- Hazelnuts: 8 hours
- Pecans: 8 hours
- Pistachios: 4 hours
- Brazil Nuts: 2 hours
- Cashews: 2 hours
- Macadamia Nuts: 2 hours
- Pine Nuts: 2 hours
- Walnuts: 2 hours
- Pumpkin Seeds: 6 hours
- Sesame Seeds: 6 hours
- Sunflower Seeds: 4 hours
- Chia Seeds:2–8 hours
- Flax Seeds: 2 hours
- Hemp Seeds:0 hours
So now that you’ve soaked your nuts and seeds, what do you do with them?
These are my Gracious Living faves:
1) Put on top of salads for protein.
2) Put in raw food desserts, like chocolate truffles or protein bars.
3) Make almond milk or any other nut or seed milk.
4) Put in smoothies as a creamy protein source instead of milk.
5) Put in raw sauces, salad dressings, or nut and seed pates.
6) You could even dehydrate them to make them crispy again and it would still be considered raw as it is cooked at very low temperatures. (A little tamari and cayenne pepper before you dehydrate is delicious.)
Nuts are great way to increase natural nutrition, plant protein, and fiber. With a little bit of soaking, you are taking their nutrition and your digestion to the next level.
Remember to implement variety in your choices (don’t always stick to almonds, people) so that you are getting a varied source of nutrients and proteins, and so you don’t get bored either.
Now go soak your nuts!