In University my family and friends joked that my diet consisted mainly of nuts and seeds. I had a couple friends even perform a rap at my wedding ceremony where one of the lines about my husband was:
For richer, for poorer, for better or for worse, all Jordan's got is seeds for dessert.
I eat a ton of nuts and seeds, okay?
In nutrition school I learned about soaking nuts, seeds and grains and why it's so important, and thought, do I really have to go through all the trouble? Firstly, it's really not much trouble, I'll show you! And yes, you'll want to because they're so delicious!
First, why is soaking so important?!
Nuts, seeds, and grains have things in them called phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. These are helpful in that they help prevent them from germinating before they're in the proper environment, however, they're not so helpful when we eat them. They bind with minerals and prevent us from digesting them and absorbing all the goodness they have to offer. This can cause nutrient deficiencies and digestive irritation for some people (bloat, the runs, lower belly pain, cramps etc.). They essentially pass through the way they went in... hello visuals!!
Soaking raw nuts, seeds, and grains helps to activate the sprouting process and makes the minerals, vitamins, fats, and proteins (all the good stuff!) more available to us and better absorbed.
What comes after soaking?
Once nuts and seeds are soaked in salted water they can either be rinsed well and dehydrated at a low temperature (around 115F)to preserve the enzymes, which are destroyed at high heat. Most ovens don't go down to 115F so you can use an oven set to as long as it can go, usually around 150F. The enzymes will no longer be in tact, but at least the phytic acid is reduced from the soaking! They can also be made into nut milk by using 1 cup soaked nuts per 4 cups water and blending well in a high-speed blender for a few minutes, then strained through a nut milk bag, a cheese cloth, or thin tea towel.
Soaked grains are rinsed well and then eaten raw, by blending into smoothie bowls or buckwheat pudding, and can also be cooked according to the recipe. Soaking grains greatly reduces the cooking time as well!
Do they taste different?
They are so tasty! Soaked and dehydrated walnuts are my favourite. No bitter flavour, just buttery, sweet, goodness. They are so crunchy too, like roasted, but with all the goodness still in tact! My love for nuts and seeds went up a notch, if that's even possible.
Soaked steel cut oatmeal is one of my favs! Cooks so quickly and is so creamy!
What about roasting nuts and seeds?
Roasting nuts and seeds without soaking them first means the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are still there, so I would limit but not necessarily eliminate these type of nuts! Sometimes, I crave the toasty flavour of roasted nuts and nut butter. If you soak and then roast your nuts/seeds, they will no longer be raw, but because you soaked them, the phytic acid will be reduced, so that's great! I would recommend roasting at a lower high heat, like 250F so that the outsides don't get crispy before the insides are done. You don't want a mushy centre! Stir occasionally and check at the 2 hour mark.
Truly "raw" nuts
Most cashews are not truly raw, even if they are labelled raw, as they need to be heat treated in order to be separated from their fruit. These will not sprout as the enzymes have been destroyed. However soaking is still beneficial for reducing phytic acid!
Almost all almonds grown in the States are "pasteurized" with steam or a chemical wash, which destroys the enzymes within them, making them no longer raw and no longer able to germinate/sprout. I've actually only ever had one batch of soaked almonds start sprouting after 12 hours of soaking, which meant they were truly raw. These were organic raw almonds from Central Roast. Tip, this is why almonds are labelled "natural" almonds, not organic or raw almonds (even in health stores!) :)
For the purposes of soaking, it's not the end of the world, but something I found interesting!
Is soaking nuts/seeds/grains for everyone?
Our digestive systems are designed to handle phytic acid in small amounts, but some people are more sensitive than others and certain diets are more prone to issues with phytic acid. If you can't do this extra step, it's not the end of the world. Seriously!
If you eat lots of nuts/seeds and foods high in phytic acid like grains, legumes, nut flours/butters, and beans (usually those that eat plant-based diets) I encourage you to at least try and and see if it helps you! Sometimes we don't know that something isn't right or that we can actually feel better until we try something different. Plus, they are honestly so delicious you may find it hard to eat non-soaked nuts anymore!
YOUR GUIDE TO SOAKING/ACTIVATING NUTS, SEEDS, AND GRAINS
4 cups of raw almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pecans, or walnuts (these are the ones I've tried!)
1 Tbs sea salt for almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, 2 Tbs for pumpkin seeds or walnuts (this helps to neutralize the enzymes!)
Water (filtered preferred, but not mandatory!)
DIRECTIONS FOR DEHYDRATING:
Measure the nuts and/or seeds into a medium-large glass bowl (not metal). Put the same nut/seed together (do not mix).
Pour the appropriate amount of salt for the nut/seed.
Cover nuts/seeds with water by 1-2 inches.
Leave bowl on counter with a loose piece of cling wrap or a cloth over top for 12 hours. Can soak cashews for 8 hours as they are a softer nut.
Rinse thoroughly to remove the salt residue.
If you have a dehydrator, place nuts/seeds in an even layer on the sheets and set to 115F to keep the enzymes in tact. Dehydrate for around 36 hours for larger nuts and around 24 hours for seeds.
If you are using an oven, turn your oven the lowest it can go, usually 150F. Place nuts/seeds in an even layer and dehydrate them for around 12 hours.
Check your nuts/seeds and if they are crunchy, they are done! If they are still a little "soft" in the middle, keep going. You want them to be completely dry to prevent mold growth.
Once they're done, turn off the oven or dehydrator and let the nuts/seeds come to room temperature and then pour into a glass jar.
Store them in the fridge if you're planning to use them before 3 months, or in the freezer otherwise.
Note: This is the dehydrator that I use! I love it!
FOR GRAINS (adjust ratios to your needs):
1 cup of grain (rolled oats, steel cut oats, millet, amaranth, rice, buckwheat etc.)
1 Tbs acidic medium (I like using lemon juice or apple cider vinegar)
Water to cover
Soak for 8-12 hours.
Rinse well before use. Use a fine mesh sieve for grains like amaranth or millet.
Can use raw in smoothie bowls or blended porridges, or cook according to instructions. Soaked grains may require less milk and less cooking time.
If you have any questions, just let me know and I can try and answer them! Enjoy soakin' your nuts!!!
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