Article by Andrea Cole, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
Nuts and seeds are a spectacular food. Not only do they taste great, and not only are they packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats, but they are also convenient to carry on the go. There are unhealthy food choices everywhere around us, so I always recommend packing a healthy snack to avoid succumbing to junk food. In this article, I’m going to explain the concept of “sprouting”, where these already healthy foods becomes super charged. Raw, organic, non-irradiated nuts and are not cheap by any stretch, so you want to get the most out of them, and sprouting is definitely the answer.
When nuts and seeds are raw they have a protective phytic acid coating as well as enzyme inhibitors, both of which combine to prevent rotting and allow them to stay alive and viable until they are ready to germinate in the spring. As a result of the enzyme inhibitors, much of the nutrient value is not extracted during our digestion process; even worse, raw nuts and legumes can actually destroy some enzymes in our digestive tract and can be very hard for many people to digest as it forces our Pancreas to release large amounts of enzymes to compensate. Sprouting replicates the natural germination process and thereby releases the enzymes, fats, vitamins and minerals. It also adds flavour. If you find raw nuts bland, you will be pleasantly surprised with their enhanced flavour after sprouting.
There is some confusion around the terminology for soaked and dehydrated nuts and seeds. The terms “activated”, “germinated” or “soaked” are often used to describe the process of soaking for a period of time and then dehydrating at a temperature below 110F. Temperature is key because higher temperature would damage the oils in nuts and turn them rancid and will also destroy the natural enzymes that help with digestion and absorption. The term “sprouted”, which applies more to legumes and grains, is not really applicable to most nuts and seeds because you don’t produce a root or sprout, nor do you want to for most types (see the chart below). Nonetheless, the end result is the same – the goal is to “wake up” the nut and end its period of dormancy, thereby inactivating the enzyme inhibitors.
I often buy a few different kinds of my favourite organic raw nuts and seeds combine them in a bowl and soak them overnight with some sea salt then put them in the oven on the lowest setting for the whole next day and overnight again. The end goal is the nuts have a nice crunch, and this may take anywhere from 12 to 36 hours, depending on the types of nuts and the temperature. Many people use a dehydrator for this as your oven may not go as low as 110F and it’s a long time to leave your oven on. My preferred choices for nutritional benefit, good fats and lower carbohydrate nuts are Almonds, Walnuts, Pecans, Brazil Nuts and Pumpkin Seeds.
This process is time-consuming, I agree. I don’t always have time or forget to get them soaking. Thankfully there are more and more quality products on the market that have the time and work of soaking and dehydrating done for us. Living Intentions nuts and seeds are a great time-saver for me. Organic Traditions has sprouted flax and chia seeds which are great for baking. Always store your nuts in the fridge, they can become rancid quickly when exposed to heat because of their high fat content.
Axe, Josh Dr. “Sprout Guide: How to Sprout Grains, Nuts & Beans”. Web. Sept 22, 2016. https://draxe.com/sprout/
Organicconsumers.org. “What’s Wrong with Food Irradiation?” Feb. 2001. Web. Sept. 22, 2016. https://www.organicconsumers.org/old_articles/Irrad/irradfact.php
WebMD. “Should You Sprout Your Food? What to know about sprouting grains, nuts and legumes”. Feb, 2014. Web. Sept 22, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/sprouting-food#1
NutHut.ca. “Is There a difference between Soaked and Sprouted?”. March 2016. Web. Oct 20, 2016. http://www.nuthut.ca/blogs/information/99899654-is-there-a-difference-between-soaked-and-sprouted