Should you soak your nuts for better nutrition? Do you soak your nuts? Do you even know what I’m talking about? Do I even know what I’m talking about? Let’s talk our way through this and see if we can figure this out together.
If you make your own almond milk you know that soaking the nuts overnight makes it easier to break down the almonds in the blender so you get a smooth and creamy milk. The same is true for cashews when you make cashew cream. But did you know that there are some people who believe that you should soak your nuts and then dehydrate them before eating them whole?
According to some raw food proponents and holistic food experts, you should soak raw nuts in order to break down the shell of the nut for easier digestion and better absorption of nutrients. The scientific reasoning behind this theory has to do with the phytic acid found in nuts, seeds, and grains.
Phytic acid is the principal storage form of phosphorous. During the digestion process phytic acid binds minerals in the digestive tract which inhibits the absorption of certain minerals, such as iron and zinc, calcium, magnesium and manganese. However, soaking nuts for at least four hours before consuming them can remove up to two-thirds of the phytic acid, making the nuts more nutrient friendly and easier to digest. But here’s the thing, while soaking nuts can help the body absorb certain minerals, the process of soaking also results in the loss of minerals, water-extractable proteins and vitamins.
So what’s the right answer when it comes to the proper way to prepare and consume nuts?
The reality is that phytic acid is found in all plants. If you’re eating plants, you’re eating phytate, which means that you should eat as much iron and zinc rich foods as possible if you don’t soak your nuts. If you don’t eat a lot of nuts, then you’re probably fine not soaking them if you eat a lot of green leafy vegetables every day. The good news is that a healthy and well-functioning body is good at regulating phytic acid and balancing the gut.
Potential Benefits of Phytic Acid
There are some studies that indicate that phytic acid isn’t all bad. Research has shown that phytates have anti-inflammatory properties and have been shown to help normalize cell growth and stop the growth of cancer cells. They are also thought to help protect against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Benefits of Soaking
- Breaks down the shell of the nut for easier digestion
- Breaks down phytic acid for better absorption of minerals, such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and manganese
- Nuts are easier to chew
Benefits of Phytic Acid
- Helps to normalize cell growth and prevent growth of cancer cells
- Helps to protect against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Now that you’re totally confused about the best way to consume nuts, let’s talk about balance.
In my opinion (remember, this is my opinion, not medical advice), if you eat a well-balanced diet that’s rich in leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables you could probably get away with not soaking your nuts. However, if you don’t consume foods that are iron and zinc rich, or if you have an iron deficiency, then you would probably be wise to soak your nuts. Also, if you have a hard time digesting nuts and/or chewing them, soaking would most likely help with those issues.
Because I don’t have an iron deficiency or any issues with digestion I don’t always soak my nuts. I do if I’m making almond milk or cashew cream, but not if I’m eating them as a snack or adding to a recipe.
Soaking and Dehydrating Nuts
Cover in purified water and soak for at least four hours. I prefer to soak them in the refrigerator if I’m soaking overnight.
Discard nuts that float to the top as they may be rancid.
Drain and rinse the nuts.
If you’re not going to eat them immediately you must dry them with a dehydrator or in the oven to avoid mold.
Soaking Times Dehydrating Time in Oven
Almonds: 6-8 hours 170° for 12 hours or until completely dry
Cashews: 2-4 hours 200° for 12 hours or until completely dry
Walnuts: 4-8 hours 170° for 12 hours or until completely dry
Hazelnuts: 4-8 hours 170° for 12 hours or until completely dry
Pecans: 6-8 hours 170° for 12 hours or until completely dry
Peanuts: 8-12 hours 170° for 12 hours or until completely dry
If you’re dehydrating in a dehydrator follow the instructions on your specific dehydrator.
I couldn’t find a resource that I felt comfortable citing so my suggestion would be to store the completely dry nuts in an airtight container in the freezer for no more than three months. Make sure that there isn’t any moisture left in the nuts after you dehydrate them or they could get moldy and make you sick.
One more thing….
I always buy organic nuts, whether they’re raw or dry roasted, because I don’t want to eat nuts that have been treated with toxic propylene oxide (PPO) gas. Raw nuts are pasteurized to protect consumers from salmonella, which means that companies either steam pasteurize, or they use PPO. Even dry roasted and chocolate covered nuts are subjected to the process. Check out this guide for more information.
If you have problems digesting and/or chewing nuts, or if you have an iron or zinc deficiency, you might want to consider soaking your nuts. However, if you’re like me, and you don’t have any of those issues, you may not want or need to soak them.
There are so many “rules” when it comes to food that it begins to feel like white noise. As an ethical vegan I don’t pay attention to the meat and dairy hoopla, but I do get annoyed by all of the craziness of the health industry, such as, olive oil and coconut oil are good for you, wait no, they’re bad; or, drink a glass or two of red wine a day for better health, wait no, you’ll get cancer; or, refined sugar is the devil, wait no, all food turns into sugar so never mind; the list goes on and on. The last thing I need to worry about, or take up more of my time, is soaking and dehydrating my nuts because unsoaked nuts might lead to low iron and/or other problems.
I’m not convinced that soaking my nuts is as vital to my health as some might suggest. At the end of the day, I’d be discouraged to learn that vegans are choosing to forgo eating nutrient, vitamin, and protein rich nuts because they’re too overwhelmed by the process of soaking and dehydrating nuts, and afraid of becoming deficient in certain nutrients because they didn’t soak them.
In my opinion (again, it’s my opinion only), if you eat a wide variety of dark leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables every day, along with whole grains and nuts, chances are you’re going to be at optimal health, whether or not you soak your nuts.
Always consult a doctor if you have questions or concerns about your health or diet. Needed to be said because we live in a litigious society. 😉