Here at MNB we go absolutely nuts for nuts!
I’m totally nuts about nuts.
Ah, to munch on walnuts
or brunch on almonds,
I will lunch on pecan nuts
and crunch on cashews…
They seem like a great choice of snack – high in protein and essential fats, and riddled with fibre, antioxidants and minerals. This we know to be true, but they also contain natural chemicals that could interfere with your digestive system and prevent you from absorbing all of that wonderful nutrition.
Similar to how grains and legumes contain phytic acid, nuts contain enzyme inhibitors. Enzyme inhibitors act by binding to enzymes and decrease and/or block their actions. The enzyme inhibitors are beneficial to nuts, as they prevent the nuts from prematurely sprouting, however they also act on our digestive enzymes, preventing their proper digestion and absorption.
Nuts and seeds also contain small amount of phytic acid, which our digestive system is also unable to break down. Eating large amounts of raw nuts could then lead to symptoms such as feeling ‘heavy’, feelings of uncomfortable fullness, even nausea. Not only this, but it puts a massive strain on our our digestive system, compromising already fragile digestive tracts.
So what now, do we stop eating nuts?
Definitely not! Because a life without nuts is like a life not even worth living, is it not? It is comparable to a life without love. Or a life without country sides and fresh air. Or a life without friendship. Or Game of Thrones.
So no, we do not have to stop eating nuts. We just have to activate them!
We have all heard about activated nuts – and how pricey they can be at our favourite health food store.
But what if I tell you that going to all that expense is not necessary, and you can save yourself a fortune by activating nuts yourself?
Activating nuts is an ancient and traditional practice that required the soaking of nuts and seeds in brine and letting them dry in the hot sun. Nowadays, we have a much faster and more sanitary method of drying, but the objective remains the same.
The soaking times of nuts vary according to what text you read. My personal method of activating nuts is inspired by Sally Fallon, as described in her book, “Nourishing Traditions”.
This table shows you the different soaking times of nuts, the drying times, as well as how much salt to use for every cup of nuts.
How to activate your nuts…
- Dissolve salt in enough water to cover the amount of nuts/seeds you are activating.
- In a large bowl place your nut or seed of choice.
- Cover with the salt water solution.
- Soak for the required number of hours.
- Strain and rinse the nuts.
- Spread over a dehydrator rack, or baking tray.
- Dry in the dehydrator for around 12-24 hours.
- If drying in the oven, set the oven at the lowest temperature possible, preferably no more than 65C. Stir or turn them occasionally, for the required drying time.
- And the result? A crunchy, delicious, totally bio-available and stress-free, nut!
It is important to ensure that your nuts really are dry and crispy before removing them from the dehydrator or oven, otherwise there is a risk that your beautiful and expensive nuts will become riddled with mould. Always check your nuts and seeds thoroughly (by chowing down a few), to see if they really are completely dry, even if at the end of the recommended drying time stated in our table. After they are completely dry, you can store these babies in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Storing them at low temperatures preserve their nutrition and prevent the rancidity of their natural fats.
The reason nuts are soaked in salty water is because the salt acts to awaken enzymes that are then able to break down and neutralise enzyme inhibitors. This is different to grains and legumes, which are soaked in an acidic medium (either vinegar, whey or lemon juice), as it is required to remove the high levels of phytic acid that naturally occur in these foods. As nuts do not have a lot of phytic acid, but instead high levels of enzyme inhibitors, a different soaking method is necessary.
Soaking the nuts and seeds deactivates the enzyme inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting, as well as removes any phytic acid present. Therefore, after soaking there may be evidence that your nuts/seeds have started sprouting. This is perfect, as all sprouted foods have become ‘alive’ again, and are able to be easily digested by our digestive systems, and their nutrients assimilated.
Stay tuned for a super nourishing snack recipe using activated nuts! Let me give you a hint. They are a little spicy and a little bit sweet. I can’t wait!
fOR FURTHER READING:
- Sally Fallon’s Book, Nourishing Traditions (2001)
- Jude Blereau’s Book, Wholefood (2006)
- Deshpande, S.S. et.al. [Article], Fermented Grains, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds; A global perspective (2000)
- Admassu, S [Review]. Biologically Active Compounds of Plant Foods: Prospective impact on human health and dilemmas associated with these compounds (2008)
- Amy Crawford’s Blog, The Holistic Ingredient see here
- Emma Sgourakis Blog, The Nutrition Coach, see here