Soaking Nuts, Seeds, & Grains

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Soaking Nuts, Seeds, & Grains

IntroductionSoaking For HealthHow To SoakQuick Soaking For BlendingHow To DehydrateHow To Sprout

About fifteen years ago Steven Acuff introduced me to the teachings of the brilliant Sally Fallon. I purchased her landmark book, Nourishing Traditions and it literally changed my life and my health. One of the most valuable lessons I learnt was the health benefits of soaking and dehydrating or sprouting nuts, seeds and grains.I have not looked back.

The following information is my interpretation of information I gathered from her teachings and from other raw whole food classes. Grab a copy of this informative book to learn more about the virtues of soaking in more detail. My motto, “Be a soaker not a bloater”.

Here is some information to get you started.

Soaking For Health

Nuts, seeds, and grains are nutritional powerhouses. But in order to capitalize on their nutritional profile and protect ourselves from natural toxins that protect them but harm us, they need to be soaked and dehydrated or sprouted.

Some of the principle reasons why soaking is beneficial to our health:

  • it removes anti-nutrients like phytates, tannins and goitrogens
  • it helps to neutralise enzyme inhibitors
  • it increases the potency of nutrients such as Vitamin B
  • it makes proteins more readily available
  • it eradicate toxins contained in the colon and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria like lactobacilli which we know is vital for intestinal and colon health
  • it promotes the growth of healthy enzymes vital for healthy digestion

Nuts, grains and seeds are one of the ultimate gifts from the gods. So the gods made sure the natural order protected them. To ensure survival of the species, nuts, grains and seeds contain inherent toxic inhibitors that protect the plant from germination until the ideal conditions are present. It is not until they get wet and there is sufficient moisture that they germinate.

This natural protective phenomenon is a wonderful thing for the survival of the foods. But if not neutralised before consumption by humans, it can really wreak havoc in our digestive systems if consumed in vast amounts. Have you ever noticed after eating a lot of grains, nuts or seeds that you have a horrible stomach ache? These toxic substances that protect grains, nuts and seeds from destruction from insects and microbes act as enzyme inhibitors in the human digestive process and spell bad news for our health if we get too greedy without soaking them.

We are all familiar with the most well known digestive enzymes that we learnt in Biology 101, protease, which digests protein, lipase, which digests fats, and amylase, which digests carbohydrates. Well, these ingenious protective components the gods bestowed on nuts, seeds and grains are not such happy chappies inside the human body. It only makes sense I suppose. What do warriors do? They wage war! Well, they wage a war of sorts. They act as enzyme inhibitors upon entering the body and interfere with the chemical order of our natural enzymic activity.

Another problematic component contained in grains is the presence of phytates. There are a lot of anti-nutrients present in foods that inhibit the absorption of nutrients. I will just focus on phytic acid, which is ever present in grains. Nuts and seeds do not generally contain phytates. But grains are riddled with them. Health and nutrition panels are always preaching the virtues of whole grains. But it is in the outer layer or the bran of the grain that the phytic acid is found. I am not for one minute suggesting that we all switch to the milled and refined grains that have the outer part removed but also every other good part! Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of iron, calcium, copper, zinc and magnesium, which makes it a very undesirable little pain if not properly eradicated.That is where soaking comes to the rescue!

Soaking raw nuts and seeds increases the nutritional content of Vitamins such as Vitamin A, C and, in particular B Vitamins. Soaking nuts and seeds in warm salted water activates the beneficial enzymes that then neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors making them more digestible and easily utilised. Soaking grains in an acidic warm water solution (I use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar diluted in water) also encourages the production of these friendly enzymes, and beneficial bacteria, which, in turn, neutralizes the phytic acid in the grains that put such a strain on the digestive system.

I remember the first time I soaked brown rice for 36 hours. Even though I knew it would ferment and that was the goal, I still found it difficult to believe that something so smelly was so good for me! But since making macrobiotic pickles and cultured vegetables, I have embraced the virtues of live fermented foods. By lacto-fermenting foods we are boosting their nutritional profile which enhances the digestive process and the growth of friendly bacteria. Nuts, seeds and whole grains are no different. They are much easier to digest, and their nutrients are more potent readily available, and they taste a lot bitter if they are first soaked in warm water for varying degrees of time.

If you are saving the nuts and seeds for later use you will need to dehydrate or sprout and dry them. However, if you are using them in smoothies or soups you can just soak and rinse. I do it all the time. If I am preparing milk for smoothies or soups, I just soak, rinse, blend and chow. With grains, I really only eat millet, quinoa, amaranth and brown rice these days. I always soak, rinse, cook and serve.

A tip that might encourage you to take the extra time to soak grains: soaking whole grains really softens them up and makes them a lot more light and fluffy. A lot of people who have told me they don’t like the gritty taste and texture of brown rice are amazed with the difference soaking makes to this grain. Brown rice more closely resembles white fluffy rice once soaked for 24-48 hours! Give it a go, You will be pleasantly surprised.

How To Soak

Use raw organic nuts and seeds wherever possible.

  1. Place the desired nuts or seeds in a glass bowl and cover them with warm distilled, purified or filtered water with a teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt dissolved in it. You will want to use a ratio of at least 2:1. Two parts water to 1 part nuts or seeds.
  2. Keep the bowl at room temperature and cover with a flour sac cloth or thin tea towel that breathes. Soak the food for the recommended amount of time (in the char below) to make them as digestible as possible.
  3. The soaking water will contain all of the toxic enzyme inhibitors which we are trying to remove. So proper rinsing is really important. Drain the food and rinse thoroughly until the water comes out clear in the final rinse. Some people recommend doing a final rinse with a diluted solution of apple cider vinegar in order to remove any remaining bacteria.

As a general rule with nuts: the harder the nut, the longer you need to soak. Long soak nuts such as almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts are best soaked for about 12 hours. Common medium soak nuts are walnuts, brazil nuts and pecans. They require less soaking time as they swell more quickly as they are oilier. Short soak nuts are cashews, macadamias and pine nuts. They require the least amount of soaking as they do not contain inner skins, and therefore not as many enzyme inhibitors.

See below for more specific guide times for soaking each specific thing.

Remember that the longer nuts, seeds and grains are soaked the more they swell and become water logged. If you are following quantities in recipes, particularly from sources that don’t soak their nuts, you might want to hold back some of the water recommended in the recipes in order to achieve the desired consistency. It is also really important to rinse and drain several cycles to ensure you remove all of the enzyme inhibitors.

Generally my rule is “floaters are bloaters." Throw out any nuts that float to the top as they are generally rancid. It is better to be safe than sorry. Discard them and you will be better off. It is not uncommon to have a few floaters every time you soak. One other thing to note is that with some of the soft creamy nuts like cashews and macadamias, over soaking can remove some of the rich healthy oils that you want to utilise. For most nuts, the easiest and convenient thing to do is to soak right before you go to bed, and rinse, drain and dehydrate as soon as you wake up. Or soak before you go to work in the morning and then rinse drain and dehydrate overnight while you are sleeping. Then they are ready to use for breakfast in the morning!

Here are some more specific guide times for the grains, nuts and seeds that I use most often:

Food Soaking Time (Hrs) Sprouting Time (Days)
Almonds 8-12 No Sprouting or 3 Days
Adzuki Beans 8-12 4
Amaranth 8 1-3
Barley 6 2
Black Beans 8-12 3
Brazil Nuts 3 No Sprouting
Buckwheat 6 2-3
Cashews 2-4 No Sprouting
Chickpeas/Garbanzo 8 2-3
Flaxseeds ½ No Sprouting
Hazelnuts 8-12 No Sprouting
Kamut 7 2-3
Lentil Beans 7 2-3
Macadamias 2 No Sprouting
Millet 5 12 hours
Mung Beans 8-12 4
Oat Groats 6 2-3
Pecans 6 No Sprouting
Pistachios 8 No Sprouting
Pumpkin Seeds 8 3
Radish Seeds 8-12 3-4
Sesame Seeds 8 2-3
Sunflower Seeds 8 12-24 hours
Quinoa 4 2-3
Walnuts 4 No Sprouting
Wheat Berries 7 3-4
Wild Rice 9 3-5

Quick Soaking For Blending

You can soak the quick way in order to soften foods so that they liquefy better. This is helpful for all blenders. But particularly important for conventional blenders. 

To soak nuts, seeds, and grains the fast way: place the food in a glass bowl, cover with boiling water and let soak for 10 minutes or more. Drain thoroughly, discard the soaking liquid, and rinse. Soaking the fast way has no nutritional benefit and destroys live enzymes.

How To Dehydrate

I have an Excalibur 9-Tray With Timer and I highly recommend it. 

To dehydrate activate nuts, seeds, and grains:

  1. Spread the thoroughly rinsed food out on mesh trays and place them in the dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can place them on a tray in the oven on the absolute lowest setting of warm – which is no higher than 100 Fahrenheit. But a dehydrator is preferable.
  2. Leave your dehydrator set to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and set the timer for 24 hours, and check them after about 18 hours to make sure they are completely dry.
  3. After they are dry, leave them in the dehydrator with the power off for a further 24 hours to ensure they are completely dry. 
  4. Place them in sealed glass jars and store them in the fridge for later use in recipes.

Just a tip – if the nuts are not completely dry before you store them, they will quickly gather some very undesirable mold. So make sure they are crunchy before storing away. I let me nuts completely cool for a while before I store them and I leave the lid off the glass container for a further amount of time. I have been burnt by mold before!

How To Sprout

To sprout nuts and seeds you can use a special sprouting jar (which can be purchase online store or from health food stores) or use a mason jar. They are inexpensive and can be sterilised and reused.

  1. Place your soaked and rinsed nuts or seeds in the sprouting jar and cover with the lid or cloth.
  2. Lay your jar down on an angle on a sunny windowsill or kitchen bench to allow the excess water to drain, and leave to sit in the light.
  3. Every eight hours or so, thoroughly rinse the contents of the jar by filling it with water, placing a lid on the jar, and shaking, and then draining.
  4. Repeat this process every eight hours making sure you get all of the water out each time by laying the jar at an angle.
  5. Keep the jar in the sunlight when your nuts or seeds start to sprout and continue the process until fully sprouted.
  6. Do a final very thorough rinse by rinsing and draining a few times and then allow the sprouts to dry thoroughly. If they are not completely dry they will spoil. I have had that happen before!
  7. Once completely dry to the touch, store sprouts in the fridge for use. Most sprouts will keep in the fridge for 2 - 3 days.
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