Why Soak Your Nuts & Seeds?
What I love about consuming a “paleo” type diet is that it is nutrient-dense and eliminates many toxins found in foods (if you are focusing on getting food from quality sources). One reason we avoid grains, legumes and soy is due to the anti-nutrients found in these foods. These anti-nutrients include phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid, which is a plant’s storage form of phosphorus, binds with minerals and makes them unavailable to our bodies. The phytic acid will bind with minerals like calcium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and iron and keep our bodies from being able to absorb and utilize them. Phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors can impair the action of enzymes, such as pepsin, trypsin and amylase, which are essential in the digestion of proteins and starches. A diet that includes large amounts of these anti-nutrients can lead to mineral deficiencies and potential digestive issues. You can see how a diet that is based heavily on grains, legumes, and soy for the primary source of nutrients can be problematic.
One thing we must be aware of is that nuts also contain high amounts of phytic acid. This is one reason why we shouldn’t go crazy on consuming large quantities of nuts AND learn how to prepare them in such a way as to reduce the phytic acid content. Soaking nuts and seeds is a traditional practice used by our ancestors to neutralize harmful anti-nutrients. Soaking and dehydrating nuts and seeds will help reduce phytic acid, neutralize enzyme inhibitors and make vitamins more available. I personally think they taste better prepared this way. I also notice that my digestive system is much more able to tolerate soaked and dehydrated nuts and seeds.
How to soak nuts and seeds?
- Rinse off your raw, organic nuts or seeds with purified water
- Put nuts or seeds in a glass bowl and cover with purified water
- Add a about a tablespoon of sea salt to the water
- Cover with a breathable cloth or towel for 7-24 hours depending on the nut/seed
- Drain water off and rinse multiple times
- Place nuts/seeds in a dehydrator OR place on a baking sheet in the oven at the lowest possible temperature and dry them (time varies depending on nut or seed). I line my baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle nuts/seeds with sea salt before dehydrating or putting in the oven. You could also add other spices and seasonings.
I use this chart for soaking times. I printed it out and keep it in my recipe book.
Take home message…
In the context of a nutrient-dense “paleo” type diet filled with tons of vitamins and minerals, a handful of nuts or seeds as a snack every day will generally not be problematic for most people. It is likely that our bodies can handle small amounts of phytic acid. It is a great idea to soak and dehydrate your nuts and seeds to remove anti-nutrients and improve digestibility. If you are someone with compromised digestion, soaking and dehydrating nuts and seeds is very important AND/OR it may be necessary to reduce or eliminate consumption all together. I personally was not able to tolerate any nuts and seeds for a while until I did some gut healing. I can now tolerate small quantities of nuts and seeds and do soak and dehydrate them prior to eating. Nut flours can be soaked, but it changes the consistency of them when using. I do use nut flours in baking without soaking, but only use them occasionally.