Raw nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors. This is the mechanism employed by nature to protect the seeds until the environment is just right for germination. Eating them raw will activate those inhibitors, which in turn neutralize some of the body’s own enzymes, thus affecting digestion and causing bloating.
Nuts also have phytic acid, which binds to minerals, preventing the body from absorbing them. Eating large quantities of unsoaked, raw nuts and seeds can therefore lead to mineral deficiencies.
There is another concern in regard to nuts and seeds, as they contain phytoestrogens, which are similar to the estrogen hormone. Eating regularly unsoaked seeds will create hormonal imbalance, as the human body will receive greater doses of estrogen.
Some people have allergies to nuts and seeds. These allergies are usually caused not by the seeds themselves; the real cause are the enzyme inhibitors which trigger the body immune system response.
Even a healthy digestive system can extract only a fraction of the available nutrients from unsoaked nuts and seeds.
Soaking and Sprouting
There are two workarounds to avoid all these problems.
First, nuts and seeds can be roasted, at the expense of destroying many of the nutrients.
A better method is germination. Soaking the nuts and seeds in pure water will start the sprouting process. In reaction with water, the enzyme inhibitors and the phytic acid are neutralized and complex biochemical processes are started, releasing all the available nutrients. People with allergies should try to consume small quantities of soaked nuts and see if the symptoms persist. There are good chances that the body will tolerate them much better.
To grow sprouts, the seeds should be left longer and the water must be changed daily. Sprouting is a bit more complex and needs a particular approach depending on the plant. However, sprouts are packed with nutrients and therefore the best form the plant can be eaten. Sprouts can also be bought from most organic stores, so you should make them a regular addition to your diet.
To Soak and Sprout – How Long?
In this table you’ll find the approximate soaking and sprouting times for the most common types of seeds and nuts.
|Adzuki||8 hours||3-5 days|
|Almond||8-12 hours||12 hours|
|Brazil nut||Do not soak||N/A|
|Chickpeas||12 hours||12 hours|
|Lentils||8 hours||12 hours|
|Mung beans||1 day||2-5 days|
|Kamut||7 hours||2-3 days|
|Wheat||7 hours||2-3 days|
|Oats||6 hours||2-3 days|
|Spelt||8 hours||2-3 days|
|Rye||8 hours||2-3 days|
|Barley||6-8 hours||2 days|
|Buckwheat||15 minutes||1-2 days|
|Chia||2-12 hours||1-2 days|
|Quinoa||2 hours||1-2 days|
|Millet||8 hours||1-2 days|
|Rice||8-12 hours||3-5 days|
|Corn||12 hours||2-3 days|
|Pepita||8 hours||1-2 days|
|Hemp||Do not soak||N/A|
|Sunflower||2 hours||2-3 days|
||8 hours||3-5 days|
|Alfalfa||8 hours||2-5 days|
|Sesame||8 hours||1-2 days|
|Pistachio||Do not soak||N/A|
|Macadamia||Do not soak||N/A|
|Pumpkin||1-4 hours||1-2 days|
Nuts and seeds are very important for a balanced and healthy diet. They are packed with useful nutrients and they are a good source of healthy fats.
There are so many ways to eat them: added to salads or as raw snacks. Sprouts can be added to sandwiches and even made into delicious crackers.