Learn how and why you need to prepare nuts before use.
If you like to attempt healthy baking treats in recipe books, you will most likely have come across the instruction to soak the nuts and seeds prior to using them in the recipe. This can seem like a bit of a hassle, especially when you want to make the dessert now, not in 8 to 12 hours time. I was often tempted to forego the soaking time, but in training to become a CNM Natural Chef I learnt why there is good reason not to forego this stage.
Nuts and seeds are extremely nutrient-dense and provide good sources of protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre and essential fats, as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals. However, plants contain their own protective mechanisms, which include numerous enzyme inhibitors as well as toxic substances such as phytic acid, which binds with the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, thereby blocking their absorption. In nature these mechanisms are what would keep the plant safe until conditions are right for germination. Unfortunately, in humans they place a huge strain on the digestive system unless suitably ‘de-activated’. So in order to benefit from the nutrition contained in nuts, we need to know how to prepare them properly.
The best way to eat nuts is soaked. After soaking they can also be dried in a warm oven or dehydrated and eaten raw, or gently roasted. The process of soaking in salted filtered water overnight activates enzymes that neutralise the inhibitors, making the nuts easier to digest and their nutrients to become more available. An internet search on the topic will reveal various tables with soaking times for each particular type of nut or seed. However, a general rule of thumb is to soak all hard nuts and seeds overnight, while nuts like cashews require no more than about 6 hours of soaking time. Place the nuts or seeds in a glass bowl or jar and cover well with filtered water. For each cup of nuts or seeds add a teaspoon of sea salt. Soak them overnight and in the morning drain and rinse very well. The nuts and seeds are then ready to be used in any number of ways.
Try making your own nut or seed milks, which are super-nutritious and a great alternative to dairy-based milks. Take 1 cup of almonds (soaked overnight in salted water and then well drained as above), blend with 3 to 4 cups of filtered water (depending on how thick you like the milk), and a pinch of Himalayan salt. Strain through a nut milk bag to make a delicious creamy milk perfect for making porridge, smoothies, or in your favourite hot drink.
By CNM Natural Chef Cheryl Thomson.
CNM is the College of Naturopathic Medicine, where you can train for a career in nutrition and other natural health therapies. You can also train to become a CNM Natural Chef http://www.naturopathy-uk.com/courses-eu/courses-natural-chef/ or a CNM Vegan Natural Chef https://www.naturopathy-uk.com/courses-eu/courses-vegan-natural-chef/