Grains aren't the other food that needs soaking. One of the quick and easy fallback real food snacks are soaked nuts. And here’s why you should love them:
- Nuts are seriously nutrient-dense for a plant food.
- They are rich in minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc.
- Nuts are a good source of protein and include plenty of important amino acids like tryptophan and arginine.
- They’re also an excellent source of B vitamins, which are sadly lacking in the modern diet.
- Antioxidants like the vitamin E in nuts are important for protecting our bodies from oxidation.
- They’re quick and easy to take along anywhere if you need nourishing food in a jiffy!
But to get the most out of your nuts, you’re going to have to do a little work. I’m talking about soaking and dehydrating nuts - the lost art of preparing these little goodies. Our ancestors knew all about soaking nuts, and now we know why this is so important:
Nuts contain a lot of anti-nutrients like phytates and enzyme-inhibitors that block nutrient absorption and disrupt digestion. If you’ve ever suffered from digestive troubles after eating a bunch of raw nuts, this is why. Nuts are much more tolerable and healthy when they’ve been soaked, because soaking allows enzymes to do their work and neutralize the bad stuff. (Of course, it’s important to start with raw nuts to ensure their enzymes and nutrients are still intact.)
Instructions for Soaking and Dehydrating:
Raw Almonds*, Macadamia Nuts, Peanuts, or Pecans
- Mix 4 cups of nuts in a bowl with 2-3 teaspoons of unrefined sea salt and enough water to cover the nuts. Soak for 7-12 hours.
- Strain the nuts, then spread them out on a large pan and dry in a warm oven for 12-24 hours.
* Many of the almonds in stores come from California, where laws dictate that almonds sold as food must be pasteurized or otherwise sterilized before sale. Because of this, finding truly raw almonds is getting difficult. You can read more about this here. If you’re not sure if your almonds are truly raw, you might get better results by following the instructions below for cashews.
Cashews are a little different because soaking them too long will distort their texture and taste. Generally cashews are not truly raw because they are exposed to heat during typical processing, so drying them at 200-250 degrees is fine.
- Soak for up to 6 hours, but not any longer.
- Strain and dry in a 200-250 degree oven for 12-24 hours.
Is 150 degrees too hot to preserve enzymes?
This is a common concern, but I’ve heard this addressed in a way that makes sense. The destruction of enzymes starts at a dry-heat temperature of 150 degrees (wet-heat is 118 degrees). However, even if your oven is set at 150 degrees, it’s unlikely your soaked nuts are going to reach that temperature. Trust me, I can stick my hand in my 150-degree oven and touch the pan (or the drying nuts) without it being too hot. The fact that’s it’s not too hot to touch is a great indicator that enzymes can still survive.
However, this is where there's a clear advantage to owning a food dehydrator: you can set it at 100 degrees and have absolutely no worries about destroying valuable enzymes. Using the oven you risk losing some enzymes, but it's the most practical method for most people.
But what if my oven doesn’t go below 200 degrees?
Well, you have a couple choices:
1. Roast the nuts at 200 degrees. You’ll lose the enzyme content, but because you soaked the nuts first you’ll still be neutralizing the bad stuff.
2. Set your oven at the lowest temperature and prop the oven door open with a utensil while you’re dehydrating the nuts. You can keep track of the real oven temp with a thermometer. I haven’t done this personally, but I imagine it’s safe if you keep an eye on it. If you have little toddlers with curious hands running around, however, this might not be the best idea.
3. Shell out the cash and buy a dehydrator. They’re not cheap, but they are super useful. Because not only is this the easiest way to dehydrate nuts, you can also make dried fruit, meat jerky and yogurt in a dehydrator. I am definitely drooling at the idea of getting one of these (then I can stop making yogurt in a cooler), but at the moment it’s not fitting in the budget so I’ll just have to be patient...
4. Dry your nuts in the sun. I don’t have any experience with this so I won’t try to tell you how to do it. But I imagine it requires two things: warmth and sunlight. If you can’t get those two things going for at least several hours I don’t see how this would work. I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience drying nuts in the sun, though.
Although I don't think nuts should be the focus of a healthy diet, they are definitely a healthy (and handy) side item. Having a handful of soaked nuts a few times a week is certainly a convenient way to keep your body nourished.