I, like most people, enjoy eating nuts and seeds.  They make a great, portable snack and play a big role in Paleo treats and baked goods.  What you may not be aware of, however, is that seeds and nuts contain antinutrients that wreak havoc in our intestines and digestive systems.  Grains, beans, and legumes also contain these antinutrients and are one of the reasons they are not included in the Paleo lifestyle.


I first learned about the benefits of soaking nuts and seeds from Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions.  She explains in the book how soaking nuts and seeds in a saltwater solution is crucial in removing the antinutrients present in them, particularly the phytates and enzyme inhibitors.  Both of these things greatly take away from the nutritional value of these foods. 




Soaking nuts and seeds removes and/or reduces the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, making them more nutritious and easier to digest.  Specifically, soaking initiates the sprouting process, which in turn, neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and removes phytates that are found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes. Before my family and I adopted the Paleo lifestyle, we soaked and sprouted all of our grains and beans as well.  If you do eat grains, I strongly urge you to soak and sprout them before consuming. 

But why do we want to get rid of phytates and enzyme inhibitors?  Let’s start with phytates first.  Phytates do our bodies harm by blocking the absorption of minerals, like magnesium, calcium, iron, and most of all, zinc.  Phytic acid binds to these minerals, therefore preventing them from being absorbed in the intestine.  I think it goes without saying that these minerals are essential not only for strong bones and teeth, but for overall health as well.  A deficiency in any of these minerals causes a myriad of health problems, making the removal of phytic acid a necessary and critical step.



Now on to the enzyme inhibitors.  Nuts and seeds all contain enzyme inhibitors.  Nature made them this way for a reason.  Enzymes are unstable and therefore need to be kept in the seed until conditions are right, to prevent the seed from germinating prematurely.  Soaking in water sends a signal to the seed that it is time to sprout and grow into a plant.  When this happens, the enzyme inhibitors are neutralized and the beneficial enzymes, ones that are bioavailable to us, are produced.

When we eat nuts and seeds that have not been properly soaked, we are ingesting these enzyme inhibitors which then interfere with the absorption of proteins.  This leads to gastric distress and a deficiency in amino acids.  That’s bad news.  It is for these reasons that properly soaked nuts and seeds are so much easier for our bodies to digest. 



Now that you know why you should soak your nuts and seeds, your next thought is probably, “But I don’t have time to be soaking my nuts and seeds before eating them.”  Let me tell you from personal experience, soaking nuts and seeds won’t take but a moment of your time.  The actual soaking and dehydrating times, are both inactive preparations, meaning you won’t have to lift a finger, in fact, you don’t even have to be home while these take place! 

I know your days are busy enough as they are, and thankfully, properly soaking your nuts and seeds requires little else than a bit of forethought.  I will cover the various soaking times below, but basically all soaking entails is placing your seeds and nuts in a bowl covered with warm, filtered saltwater, and then allowing them to soak.  That’s it.  Easy peasy. 



Dehydrating your soaked nuts is optional but I highly recommend it for a number of reasons.  One, as long as you dehydrate below 125 degrees, your nuts will remain raw and all their beneficial enzymes and minerals will be preserved.  Second, dehydrating the nuts returns them to their crispy state which is required for many recipes.  And last, but definitely not least, making “crispy nuts”, as Sally Fallon calls them, (and how I refer to them in my recipes) taste delicious!  I think the flavor and texture are both greatly improved after soaking and dehydrating.  Besides, not many of us prefer to eat soft, wet, soggy nuts (wow, just read that back, I promise you this blog is G-rated).  Nuts and seeds are meant to be crunchy, it’s part of their appeal, and dehydrating them returns them to this desired state while preserving the nutrients present in them. 


Soaking Times


Pecans & Walnuts  

  • 4 cups raw pecans or walnuts
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)


Soak overnight, or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24.
Rinse and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.
 

Almonds
  • 4 cups almonds
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)

Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24.  Rinse and sprinkle with salt/chili powder/honey/or other flavorings if desired and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.
 

Macadamia Nuts
  • 4 cups raw macadamia nuts
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)

Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24. 
Rinse and dehydrate at 105-125 for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.

Pine Nuts & Hazelnuts
  • 4 cups pine nuts or hazelnuts
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)

Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours and up to 24.
Rinse and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours or until crisp, turning occasionally.
 

Pumpkin seeds
  • 4 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)

Soak overnight or a minimum of 7 hours, and up to 24.
Rinse (or not, they’re good salty) and dehydrate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.  If desired, sprinkle with salt or cayenne pepper before placing in dehydrator.


Sunflower Seeds

  •  4 cups sunflower seeds
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • warm, filtered water (enough to cover)

Soak for 7 hours.  Rinse and sprinkle with salt if desired and dehydrate at 105-125 degrees for 12-24 hours, or until crisp, turning occasionally.