Ever heard of soaking your nuts, seeds and grains? This may seem like a new fad or trendy thing to do… or maybe just like plain hard, time-consuming work. But hang on—there is really something to this process.
Nuts, seeds and grains are small, but amazing powerhouses with the potential to grow and bear life and nourishment. They contain natural inhibitors that prevent them from germinating before environmental conditions are right so that their survival is ensured. However, these protective agents act as enzyme inhibitors and can wreak digestive havoc on your body. Whole grains also contain antinutrients in their outer layer, such as phytates or phytic acid, which work as a shield to the seed, but as inhibitor to nutrient absorption to us. Iron, calcium, copper, zinc, and magnesium cannot be properly digested and absorbed with the presence of these antinutrients. High levels of phytic acid can lead to zinc deficiencies, which have been shown to play and active role in depression (Swardfager, Hermann, Mazereeuw, Goldberger, Harimoto, & Lanctot, 2013).
So should we eat white, refined starches—no way! Soaking and/or sprouting can take care of the problem!
Soaking is quick and easy. It sounds like a lot work, something you may not have time for, but with a little planning, you can soak and leave them be and come back with them ready to go.
Foods require different soaking times. As a general rule with nuts: the harder the nut, the longer the soak. Long-soak (almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts); Medium-soak (pecans, walnuts and Brazil nuts—oilier and swell up quickly); Short-soak (cashews, macadamias and pine nuts). Over soaking creamier nuts breaks down their precious and flavorful oils.
Five Good Reasons to Soak:
Improves Digestion: Soaking raw nuts, seeds and grains in warm, salted water stimulates the ideal moist germinating conditions these foods wait for in nature, essentially tricking the food into sprouting, which neutralizes enzyme inhibitors.
Unlocks Nutrients: Soaking activates the full nutrient potential of the food. Live enzymes are released. Vitamin A, C and the B vitamins get a boost, and protein becomes more available. Chronic exposure to cigarette smoke and alcoholism caused by anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and mental health issues can lead to secondary deficiency of Vitamin A (Combs, 2008).
Produces Better Flavor and Texture: Soaking the food makes it softer and easier to blend, and gives a creamer texture.
Reduces Cook Time: Soaked grains cook more quickly, and soaked brown rice, when cooked gets fluffy likes its white counterpart.
Prevents Blender Wear and Tear: Soaking hard and fibrous foods means less labor for the motor.
How to Soak:
- Soak in glass or ceramic bowl, fully covered with warm water, salt and apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. You could do: 1 cup almonds, ¼ tsp salt ½ tsp of vinegar or lemon juice to two cups of water.
- Cover the food with a thin dishtowel so that it can breathe and let stand at room temperature for 4-8 hours depending on the hardness of the nut.
- Rinse, strain, and rinse again. There you go!
Combs, G. F. (2008). The Vitamins: Fundamenal aspects in nutrition and health. (3rd Edition ed.). Burlington: Elsevier Academic Press.
Swardfager, W., Hermann, Mazereeuw, Goldberger, Harimoto, & Lanctot, K. L. (2013). Zinc in Depression: a meta analysis. Diol Psychiatry , 74 (12), 872-878.