Humans have been enjoying nuts and seeds for thousands of years, and for good reason. Nuts and seeds such as almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, sunflower, and hemp serve as a valuable source of nutrition and concentrated energy in a delightfully compact, not to mention delicious, package. Quick, healthy, tasty and convenient - you can't go wrong with that. While most of us are familiar with nuts and seeds in their raw and roasted forms, there's a 3rd way of processing that proves to be even more healthful: soaked and sprouted.
Here are 4 of the top benefits of soaking and sprouting. If you tend to shy away from eating nuts and seeds because you find that they're hard to digest, this information will be especially helpful for you.
1. It's easier on the belly
Nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains have a naturally occurring compound known as phytic acid, which acts as an anti-digestive, or "anti-nutrient" compound. By its nature, phytic acid inhibits enzymatic activity within the nut, seed, etc that would otherwise trigger the germination process. That is until the conditions are ideal for the seed to germinate and grow into a new plant. This is nature's way of ensuring that this process doesn't happen at the wrong time. The issue is that phytic acid binds to nutrients and can burden our digestive system. The soaking process deactivates phytic acid, which makes for a much happier belly.
2. It increases bioavailability
Another benefit of soaking is that the fats, proteins, and starches within the nuts and seeds are broken down into easier-to-absorb essential fatty acids, amino acids, and simple carbohydrates. The body can then utilize these macronutrients much easier for energy right away. Phytic acid can also bind to critical minerals such as iron and zinc, decreasing the body's ability to absorb and utilize them. Remember, we can be eating all of the healthiest foods on the planet, but if we can't absorb the nutrients it does us little good. Bioavailability is key!
3. It enhances flavor and texture
This one is perhaps the easiest benefit to detect right away - sprouted nuts and seeds simply taste better! The sprouting process brings forward more subtle nuances of flavor and increases natural sweetness. It also makes many nuts such as almonds and cashews taste more buttery and smooth, and decreases any bitterness. If, after soaking, the nuts are then low temperature dehydrated, they also become incredibly light and crispy, making them a really enjoyable snack option, especially if you crave that "crunch".
4. It's cleaner
Depending on how they are processed after harvest, nuts and seeds may have residue left on them such as dust or dirt from their environment. By soaking first in clean water, and then rinsing thoroughly, they get the added benefit of a good soak.
Keep in mind not every variety of nut and seed soaks well. In general, the nuts/seeds with the higher fat content don't benefit much from soaking. Here is a quick guide:
Don't Need to be Soaked:
Basic Steps for Soaking/Sprouting:
Soak nuts or seeds for 8-12 hours in enough filtered or spring water to cover them, leaving enough room for some expansion. Using a glass jar is ideal. Add a sprinkling of pink Himalayan salt - about 1 tsp for every cup of nuts to help prevent spoilage and infuse with added minerals.
After soaking, rinse well in cold water.
At this point, you can do many things with your “activated” nuts such as:
- Dehydrate in a food dehydrator or oven at low temperatures for several hours until crispy. Season with salt, herbs, spices, etc as you wish.
- Make a yummy nut-based spread by processing with lemon juice, tahini, herbs, spices, and olive oil. Use as you would hummus!
- Make your own fresh nut milk. Blend with a little water in a ratio of 1 part nuts to 3-4 parts water, then, using a nut bag, squeeze out the milk. Add some vanilla or cacao powder, and a sweetener if you'd like, and drink up! Want fresh nut milk but don't have time to sprout? Try blending Dastony Sprouted Almond Butter with purified or spring water in a ratio of 1 Tbs nut butter to 1 cup water for instant nut milk – no soaking, blending or straining required.