Soaking & Sprouting Nuts And Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, essential fats and minerals in a raw food diet. They are delicious and a really versatile ingredient, being used whole, crushed, as a nut butter, and blended into all sorts of yumminess.
Which Nuts & Seeds Need Soaking & Why
Several nuts and seeds benefit from being prepared by soaking or sprouting to be easier to digest. Phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are present in nuts and seeds. They help to protect the nut or seed until it germinates. However, when digested, it can bind to minerals which reduces absorption of the nutrients eaten as well as directly causing gastrointestinal irritation. In small quantities, the stomach discomfort isn't usually a noticeable problem. In children, those already with sensitive digestions, or when consuming larger amounts this tends to become much more noticeable and is often experienced as bloating, diarrhoea and stomach discomfort.
There are 3 things that can help to break down these irritating components as well as encourage activation of helpful enzymes. This is salt, water and low-level heat. Traditionally this was done by soaking nuts in sea water then sun drying them. It is worth noting though that if the sun is too hot, then the nuts may no longer be raw, and if the sun isn't hot enough for long enough, then the nuts may start growing mould. An easier way of making sure that the nutrients are preserved is to use a dehydrator.
I find that the easiest way to prepare nuts is to soak all my nuts as soon as I buy them then dehydrate them together. They will typically keep for a few months this way but can be stored in the freezer for longer. To preserve the fatty acids the best, airtight containers in the dark are recommended, as are buying unshelled nuts. Shelling nuts for me though just isn't practical so I don't tend to do that.
To soak nuts and, I put the nuts in a bowl, add enough water to cover them, then add approx 1/4 - 1/2 tsp of salt per 1 cup of nuts.
Soak my nuts and seeds for 7-12 hours with the exception of cashew nuts (1-4 hours is fine). The nuts and seeds this makes the biggest difference to are:
- Pine Nuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
So these are the ones I tend to stick to. Don't soak seeds like linseeds (aka flax seeds) or chia seeds or you'll just end up with a big mess as they bind together with moisture.
Once soaked, rinse well then spread out in single thickness on a dehydrator tray and dry at around 100-110F for 10-24 hours or until they take on a more crispy crunchy kind of texture. Dehydrating times will vary depending on the size of the nuts, the outside temperature and humidity.
If you don't have a dehydrator, you can either use the nuts after soaking without drying after - they keep well in the fridge for a couple of days. Or you could use your oven on the lowest setting with the oven door slightly ajar. If you have a suitable thermometer, you might want to check what temperature you are on to decide how far open to put your door. You ideally want to keep the temperature below 150F.
If you are making nut milk, or sauces without a high speed blender, you will be better off not dehydrating the nuts, and using them straight after rinsing following their soak.
Sprouting Nuts and Seeds
Some people prefer to sprout their nuts because it increases the beneficial enzyme activity significantly as well as increasing their vitamin A, B, and C content. This process involves repeated rinsing and draining every few hours after the initial soaking period for a 1-4 day period until the nut starts to sprout. Sprouts should be 1/8 inch to 2 inches long. However, not all nuts will sprout this way, and some nuts have been damaged slightly by flash blanching the shell to remove them. They will still benefit in the same way from soaking, but they won't grow a sprout. It is also worth noting that sprouts can become contaminated with bacteria, including E.coli, therefore, you may want to consider where you are purchasing your seeds from and ensure your hygiene practices would reduce the chance of cross contamination.