I love nuts. They are the snack I eat every day and I don’t know what I would eat instead if there were no nuts. For me, nuts are a great source of protein, minerals, vitamins and healthy fats as I don’t eat meat (although I eat fish). Long term vegetarians already know all the benefits of soaking nuts (or do they?) but I don’t soak my nuts so I wanted to investigate what this hype is all about. Why is soaking nuts a good practice and what happens when you eat nuts which haven’t been soaked? You can find answers to these questions if you continue reading.
Why soaking nuts matters
The reason why you should soak the nuts is very simple: soaked nuts are easier to digest and more nutrients from the nuts are going to be absorbed by your body. But why?
Raw nuts naturally contain a compound called phytic acid. This acid can actually block the absorption of minerals by binding to them, especially when it comes to zinc, calcium and iron.
Cooking will reduce phytic acid to some degree but more effective methods are soaking, lactic acid fermentation and sprouting. Now, if you are a vegetarian and rely on the nuts to get essential minerals from, you should really make an effort to soak nuts and ‘activate’ them to make the most of the nutrients they contain.
Hmm, life is busy and difficult as it is and now I have to put effort into soaking nuts as well?? Oh, dear.. why does it have to be so complicated and isn’t there an easier way? Good news! There is an easier way, actually! I researched and found that you can buy already activated nuts online, but it will cost you, of course.
On Amazon UK, I managed to find activated nuts from various brands and these are not cheap but if money is not a problem for you and you just want to save some time, then go ahead, get yourself some.
I do think they are quite expensive so I might buy them only once in a while as a treat. I think that most people would rather soak the nuts themselves rather than buy them so expensive online. It’s not so difficult actually, it just requires some planning.
How long should you soak nuts for?
How long you should soak nuts for depends on the type of nut and its density. The harder a nut is, the longer it will need to soak.
Almonds would need 8-12 hours of soaking, while cashews need only 2-3 hours and walnuts 4 hours. I eat almonds a lot and 8-12 hours of soaking seems a lot but if you do it overnight is actually not that hard. You just need to remember why it’s worth doing it and how grateful your body will be to you after eating soaked nuts. Of course, you will have to plan ahead to start with but once you get used to it, it will become part of your life and your routine.
It’s good to know that the soaked nuts can be eaten just like that, but they won’t be crunchy. If you want to restore the crunchiness you should dry them by spreading them onto a tray in a single layer and dry at a low temperature (generally no higher than 150°F, although there are exceptions) in dehydrator or oven for 12-24 hours or until nuts are slightly crispy.
What about seeds?
The seeds require soaking too as they also contain phytic acid. From the seeds, I eat pumpkin and sunflower seeds a lot, normally in muesli or porridge. According to the chart on the Vegetarian Times website, both pumpkin and sunflower seeds should be soaked for 8 hours. See their chart for details on how long to soak other seeds for.
Other ways to reduce phytic acid from nuts
During my research, I came across a great article by Michelle who looked at phytic acid in great detail and summarised some studies on reducing phytic acid from various foods. There are some other things you can also do to increase the absorption of nutrients when you eat nuts:
- eat nuts with vitamin C rich foods as vitamin C helps with iron absorption: for example, when you eat muesli which contains raw nuts you can add some fruits to it which are rich in vitamin C
- consume probiotics, especially lactobacilli as this may help increase mineral absorption
If you want your body to absorb more nutrients, soaking nuts and seeds is definitely the way forward, especially if you are a vegetarian. Carnivores can get iron and zinc from meat easily, but vegetarians rely on foods such as nuts and seeds to get important minerals from and if the nuts are not soaked, vegetarians could be easily missing out resulting in mineral deficiencies.
It’s worth knowing that phytic acid occurs in grains too so it’s not only the nuts and seeds that need soaking. If you want to learn more, check the sources I listed below.
After reading all this and learning so much about phytic acid, I will definitely try and do some changes to the way I prepare food. What about you? Do you soak your nuts? 🙂