Do you ever eat a couple of handfuls full of cashews or a few tablespoons of a nut butter and wonder why it feels as though you dropped a bowling ball in your stomach? It’s because nuts that have not been soaked contain enzyme inhibitors that can cause uncomfortable digestion.
Now when I first read about this process in Nourishing Traditions I thought it was a bit extreme and not really needed. Then when I actually tried it and compared it to the raw or roasted nuts or nut butters that I had been eating I was convinced!! It really does make a difference and they taste amazing too!!
If nuts and seeds are something you eat often, they better be SOAKED. I have done my homework for you, and everyone from Sally Fallon and Weston A Price are agreeing.
Why Should you Soak Nuts?
Unlike grains, nuts contain smaller amounts of phytic acid. Their real issue for us is having high amounts of enzyme inhibitors. These enzymes are useful to seeds and nuts because it prevents them from sprouting prematurely. But they can really strain your digestive system (which is probably why my body was reacting to them raw).
Soaking your nuts in warm water will neutralize these enzyme inhibitors, and also help encourage the production of beneficial enzymes. These enzymes, in turn, increase many vitamins, especially B vitamins. It also makes these nuts much easier to digest and the nutrients more easily absorbed. And, yes, this is a traditional method of preparation. For example the Aztecs would soak pumpkin or squash seeds in salty water and then, sun dry them.
For those of you who soak your grains already, I was curious as to why you used salt instead of a cultured or acidic addition. Sally Fallon answered here.
Why soak nuts, grains and seeds?
1. To remove or reduce phytic acid.
2. To remove or reduce tannins.
3. To neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
4. To encourage the production of beneficial enzymes.
5. To increase the amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins.
6. To break down gluten and make digestion easier.
7. To make the proteins more readily available for absorption.
8. To prevent mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
9. To help neutralize toxins in the colon and keep the colon clean.
10. To prevent many health diseases and conditions.
Q. When soaking nuts, why is the salt needed?
A. The salt helps activate enzymes that de-activate the enzyme inhibitors. For grains, we soak in an acidic solution to get rid of phytic acid. Nuts do not contain much phytic acid but do contain high levels of enzyme inhibitors. The method imitates the way the native people in Central America treated their nuts and seeds–by soaking them in seawater and then dehydrating them.”
(So nuts are prepared slightly differently because they don’t have as much phytic acid, but do have high amounts of enzyme inhibitors.)
Like I said before, if the research didn’t convince me, or if I didn’t care a hoot about what traditional societies did, I would still be convinced by my own experience. I do so much better with soaked nuts, and I like them all the more for their improved taste. I would even prepare them this way solely for the culinary improvement!
While the basic method is the same with all nuts and seeds (soaking in a brine and drying afterwards) there are some slight variations so I will be listing nuts separately. I, once again, owe Sally Fallon the credit for this research. Thank you, Sally Fallon!
The basic method is as follows: Dissolve salt in water, pour over nuts or seeds , using enough water to cover. Leave in a warm place for specified time. Then drain in a colander and spread on a stainless steel pan. Place in a warm oven (no warmer than 150 degrees) for specified time, turning occasionally, until thoroughly dry and crisp. Really make sure they are all the way dry! If not, they could mold and won’t have that crispy wonderful texture. I have found the longer I soak a seed or nut, the longer it takes to dehydrate them.
I use a food dehydrator instead of an oven. It works so well, and keeps my oven free. However, if you don’t have that option, most of us with newer stoves can’t set our ovens at the required 150 degrees Fahrenheit. While I have not personally experimented with this, I have heard of others who leave their ovens cracked to keep the temperature lower or who occasionally open up the oven to also keep the temperature lower. You could put in an oven thermometer to keep track of the temperature. While this would not be the most energy efficient method, it could work. If worse comes to worse, while doing it at 200 degrees (the lowest temperature many stoves will go to) will destroy all those good enzymes and won’t be optimal, I would rather have soaked and slightly toasted nuts then unsoaked nuts.
4 cups of raw, hulled pumpkin seeds 2 tablespoons sea salt 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional) filtered water
Soaking Time: At least 7 hours, or overnight Dehydrating time: 12-24 hours, until dry and crisp
Pecans or Walnuts
4 cups of nuts 2 teaspoons sea salt filtered water
Soaking time: 7 or more hours (can do overnight) Dehydrating time: 12-24 hours, until completely dry and crisp.
Pecans can be stored in an airtight container, but walnuts are more susceptible to become rancid so should always be stores in the refrigerator.
Peanuts (skinless), Pine nuts, or Hazelnuts (skinless)
4 cups of raw nuts 1 tablespoon sea salt filtered water
Soaking time: at least 7 hours or overnight Dehydrating time:12-24 hours, until completely dry and crisp
Store in an airtight container
4 cups almonds, preferably skinless- SF notes “Skinless almonds will still sprout, indicating that the process of removing their skins has not destroyed the enzymes….[they] are easier to digest and more satisfactory in many recipes. However, you may also use almonds with the skins on. “ 1 tablespoon sea salt filtered water
Soaking time: At least 7 hours, or overnight Dehydrating Time:12 -24 hours, until completely dry and crisp
4 cups of “raw” cashews 1 tablespoon sea salt filtered water
“Some care must be taken in preparing cashews. They will become slimy and develop a disagreeable taste if allowed to soak too long or dry out too slowly, perhaps because they come to us not truly raw but having already undergone two separate heatings. You may dry them in a 200 to 250 degree oven-the enzymes have already been destroyed during processing. “
Soaking time: 6 hours, no longer Dehydrate at 200 degrees F: 12-24 hours Store in an airtight container
4 cups of raw macadamia nuts 1 tablespoon sea salt filtered water
Soaking time: At least 7 hours or overnight Dehydrating time: 12-24 hours, until dry and crisp
ENJOY and let me know how you feel
Reference: Nourishing Traditions, 2nd edition, pg 452-453, 512, 513-517