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Health & Nutrition

Why You Should Soak Your Nuts and Seeds

why-soak-nuts-and-seeds

High in vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, nuts and seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition. However, nuts and seeds also contain phytic acid and large amounts of enzyme inhibitors which protect them from sprouting until they have the rain and sun they need to grow. And unfortunately, these natural chemicals are quite hard on the stomach.

So, if you’ve ever had tummy trouble after eating nuts and seeds, don’t give up on them yet!

Why You Should Soak Your Nuts and Seeds

In nature, a seed or nut normally gets enough moisture from rain to wash off the acids and enzyme inhibitors so it can germinate and produce a plant. By soaking nuts and seeds before you eat them, you imitate nature by neutralizing these toxic growth inhibitors, releasing the natural enzymes and vitality within them.

These enzymes, in turn, increase the vitamin content of your nuts and seeds, especially the B vitamins. Soaking also makes them much easier to digest and enables their many nutrients to be more easily absorbed by your body.

You can soak many different types of nuts and seeds, and then set them out to sprout for a few days. Like bean sprouts, they will germinate  into tiny, nutritious seedlings. This is a modern preparation method that many raw and traditional foodies use. (See note below table.)

By fully sprouting the nut or seed, it transforms from a unit of storage into a growing green plantlet. This enhances its nutrition, but it also greatly changes its taste and texture, and makes it highly perishable, so you always have to use up sprouted nuts and seeds within a few days.

In contrast, soaking and then drying nuts and seeds is a long-lost, traditional method of preparation and preservation used worldwide for thousands of years. For example coastal Aztecs (and Central American people today) would soak pumpkin or squash seeds in sea water and then sun-dry them.

Using sea salt in your soak water helps de-activate the enzyme inhibitors and makes your nuts and seeds extra tasty. Gently drying them at a low temperature locks in the nutrition and enzymes for months of future use, and preserves the buttery flavor and crispy texture we love so much about eating nuts and seeds.

How to Soak Nuts and Seeds

To soak and dry your nuts and seeds properly in today’s modern kitchen, you will need a good dehydrator. You will set the dehydrator between to about 115 degrees so the healthy, vitamin-producing enzymes in your soaked nuts remain intact. Heating them above 115 degrees (which is too low for an oven) will destroy the enzymes and some of the vitamins. (Where to find a good dehydrator)

The basic method is to dissolve sea salt in filtered or spring water, pour it over nuts or seeds, using enough of the brine to cover them. Leave them in a warm location for the specified time, then rinse and drain them in a colander and spread them out on your dehydrator sheets.

Dehydrate them at 110 degrees F for 12-24 hours (sometimes longer if you soaked them longer), until they are thoroughly dry and crisp. Make sure they are completely dry and crisp. (It’s very hard to over-dry them.) If not, they could mold in storage, and won’t have that crunchy, yummy texture you expect from nuts and seeds.

I like to soak and dry several pounds of nuts and seeds in a big batch to save time and energy when using my dehydrator. That way, I always have properly prepared nuts and seeds on hand for snacks, salads and recipes. I store my dry, crispy nuts in large mason jars in the fridge to keep them fresh for many months.

The following info (much of it sourced from Nourishing Traditions) will help you sort it out.

Raw Nut or Seed (4 cups) Sea Salt Soaking Time Drying Time
 
Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds
(hulled)
2 Tbsp. 8 hrs – overnight 12-24 hours
 
Sesame 2 tsp. 8 hrs – overnight 12-24 hours
 
Walnuts, Pecans & Brazil Nuts
Pecans can be stored in an airtight container, but walnuts are more likely to go rancid, and should always be stored in the refrigerator.
2 tsp. 8 hrs – overnight 12-24 hours
 
Pine nuts, Peanuts & Hazelnuts
Remove skins, if any, before soaking. Store in an airtight container.
1 Tbsp. 12 hrs – overnight 12-24 hours
 
Almonds*
1 Tbsp. 10 hrs – overnight  12-24 hours
 
Macadamias 1 Tbsp. 8-12 hours 12-24 hours
 
Cashews & Pistachios**
Store in an airtight container.
1 Tbsp. No more than
2 hours, if at all
12-24 hours at 200-250 degrees. 

 

One Step Further: How to Sprout Nuts and Seeds

If you want to fully sprout your nuts raw-foodie style, you can use the above soak times as a guideline. After soaking, rinse and drain your nuts/seeds, then and leave them out in a covered bowl or tray to sprout, rinsing them with purified or spring water once a day. Do not dehydrate.

Pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamias and pasteurized almonds will NOT sprout, but they still contain phytates and enzyme inhibitors that should be removed by soaking.

Only make as many fresh, raw sprouted nuts or seeds as you can eat in 2-3 days. Store them in a jar in the refrigerator.

(Remember these are technically sprouts and won’t last long, whereas nuts and seeds that are soaked and then dehydrated will last much longer in the refrigerator.)

Recipes using soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds: Crunchy Sprouted Buckwheat Granola and High-Energy Raw Breakfast Bowl

Notes

*  Truly raw almonds are no longer available commercially in the U.S., though people who live in California can still buy them from the farmer’s market. Since 2007, all U.S. almonds must be “pasteurized,” meaning fumigated with chemicals—or steamed, if organic. To get truly raw almonds with all their enzymes and vitamins intact, you must live in California, get them imported from Spain, or order them online. 

**  Cashews will become slimy and develop a nasty taste if allowed to soak too long or dry out too slowly. Pistachios will also fall apart into mush if soaked too long. This is because cashews and pistachios are not truly raw, but get heated after harvest to extract them from the inedible fruit and skins in which they grow. If you do soak them at all, dry cashews and pistachios thoroughly in a 200 to 250 degree oven—the enzymes have already been destroyed during initial processing. 


34 Comments

  • the approved almond pasteurization methods are shown at Almond Board: Pasteurization of Almonds and, aside from the roasting methods, the 2 applied to “raw” almonds are both light surface treatments intended not to denature the internal amino acids (which would include enzymes) and such… (of course whether it really avoids this is a good question)
    so i’m wondering how much of this fuss is justified? where is the evidence or references to show that the enzymes are actually destroyed in the process? your link is to an article about legal battles over organic exemptions, not exactly a model of useful scientific information on the issue of pasteurization, its methods, or effects.
    further, even if enzymes are denatured by either or both processes, why would it not still be valuable to get rid of the enzyme inhibitors (which could still interfere with digestion?) and whatever degree of phytates/phytic acid would get washed away by the soaking process?
    i find the recommendation against soaking strange and not given any justification in the text. in my experience they’ve only gotten soft as described as being normal, not “mush”.
    ultimately i’m left unsure whether or not the described processes would even negate their ability to sprout, and intend to do the obvious thing and try it to see what happens, but will also tend to err on the side of soaking regardless, because really why not? unless there’s some unmentioned reasons beyond “wasting time” and “it might get mushy”.
    aside from all that, thankyou for providing this handy reference for the rationale and technique specifics for soaking nuts.

  • Thanks for this — I love the chart! I’ve soaked cashews to make a dip, but never tried drying them back out. Good to know that won’t work for some nuts. Will nuts actually sprout, or is that mostly just for smaller seeds? When you say “set them out,” are you just talking about on a paper towel, or are you rinsing and resoaking? I’ve done that with beans and gotten sprouts that way, just changing the water out each day (and putting a little raw apple cider vinegar in there).

  • Great article indeed. I normally have a smoothie made of almonds and seeds. But did not know about the toxics present when not soaked in salt water overnight. Many thanks for this. However, I have a quick question, can I use the seeds and almonds immediately after soaking i.e. not drying? Also, will this make the smoothie salty?

  • Thanks for the great information. I have been soaking/dehydrating nuts and seeds for some time, but have not used salt before – I will try using it for my next batch. Are there any studies indicating whether any beneficial water soluble vitamins or minerals are lost in the soaking process?

  • Does soaking almonds in the seasalt and water and then dehydrating them remove any of the fumigation toxins that are pumped into them?

    • No. It only removes the anti-nutrients that make almonds hard to digest and assimilate nutrients from. Soaking and drying almonds only works for truly raw, organic almonds. If they have been chemically pasteurized, you should not soak them.

  • We just recently purchased a dehydrator this past summer and have enjoyed using it. I know I need to be soaking but I’ll confess I frequently forget to do it. Thanks again for linking up to the HomeAcre Hop

  • good tip!! I love nuts and seeds… especially when eaten with chocolate :o) Thanks for linking up to Tasteful Tuesdays! love it! Really appreciate you stopping by my blog! I’m trying to keep in better touch with my linkers/readers… If you already follow me, please let me know I will find your blog on Bloglovin (I’m transferring my follows there)if you don’t follow in any way, would you consider following via GFC or other method?
    http://www.nap-timecreations.com

  • I had heard about soaking nuts before, but it seemed like such hard work. Thanks for laying out the options and benefits so clearly. I haven’t got a dehydrator, but as you mention, pistachios and cashews can be dried in the oven. Think I will start there!

  • Thank you so very much for sharing! I’ve been trying to eat clean for awhile now and I think that was God’s way of preparing for the discovery of some food allergies and intolerances in our family. This will be of great benefit!

  • Thanks for this excellent information and the chart is very helpful! I just received a trail mix as a gift with soaked nuts and seeds… Talk about tasty too!!!

  • I am really new to healthy eating, so I am trying to research whatever I can, and then go with my gut. 😉 I did order Buckwheat Honey (raw) because of all the good things I read about it. It’s different but good. and I think a tsp of the honey with raw minced garlic clove, cured a really bad sore throat overnight for my son, he is an adult..
    I love finding this info about nuts & seeds…

  • I am lucky to be able to eat nuts and seeds with absolutely no problems, but I found this post very, very interesting. It’s incredibly well researched and contains so much useful information!

  • Hi,

    Do steam pasteurized almonds need to be soaked (I know you say don’t) ? Are the enzyme inhibitors already destroyed? Thanks, Volarte’

    • It is not clear whether or not pasteurization destroys all the enzyme inhibitors in almonds. Probably not, since they are not sprouted. However, you simply can’t soak pasteurized almonds (unless you’re making almond milk) because they usually turn to mush.

  • Great article. I have soaked pasteurized almonds, however, and they never got mushy on me. I only do it for 7 hours, though.

    Also, Nourishing Traditions (or at least my version) doesn’t say how to soak Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, or pistachios. Where did you get the information for these nuts from? Did it come from an updated edition? Thanks for any info.

    One more thing–the destruction of enzymes begins at 118 degrees for wet heat and 150 degrees for dry heat (according to Nourishing Traditions). So, it’s OK to dehydrate nuts at temperatures of up to 150 degrees. Actually, Sally Fallon has even said that it’s probably all right to dehydrate nuts on the lowest setting of an oven, which is usually 180 degrees. She said that a few enzymes might end up getting destroyed, but probably not many.

    • Soaking and sprouting is what does the trick. But then you have soggy nuts. If you want them crispy and crunchy again, you have to dehydrate. You could roast them in the oven to get them crunchy again too, but you lose a lot of nutrients and change the flavor. For some recipes, like nut milk, soggy nuts are fine, just discard the soak water.

      Best to you!

  • Since the almonds I buy are labeled “raw” but from California, I know they are in fact pasteurized. Thus not truly raw. I know there are several methods of pasteurization. Do you have any idea how nuts are done?
    If they are pasteurized is there really any reason to eat them? And if so, do you still recommend soaking them? Thank you.

    • If they are organic almonds, then they have been steam pasteurized. If they are chemically-farmed almonds, they will have been treated with any one of a handful of approved fumigation chemicals. (Ew!) Pasteurized almonds still retain their protein, fats, carbohydrate and minerals, so organic, steam-pasteurized almonds are still a good food choice—they just aren’t “turbo-charged” by soaking and sprouting. If you live in California (or have friends or family here), you can still get real raw almonds at many farmer’s markets. The pasteurization law does not apply to small farms doing direct-to-consumer sales. You can also find them online at http://livingnutz.com/.

      Pasteurized almonds may not be able to sprout, but you can soak them if you want to soften them for making almond milk. Soaking will also remove some of the tannins in any almonds as well as help the indigestible skins to come off more easily, but otherwise there is no other value to soaking pasteurized almonds.

  • Is it still true that raw almonds in the U.S. are “pasteurized”? If so, your link to buy direct from a farmer did not work.
    Thank you!
    Janet K

    • Yes, the U.S. almond industry has been pulverized by the pasteurization requirement. Unless you can get truly raw almonds directly from a farmer who does not pasteurize them, you have to import them. The link for where this ridiculous law stands is updated now…

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