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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 06, 2008

Dear Mark: Soaking Seeds and Nuts

By Mark Sisson
85 Comments

Dear Mark,

I love nuts, but they most definitely do NOT love me back! Since going “primal” about 18 months ago, I’ve increased my consumption of nuts and seeds. Well actually, I’ve gone overboard.  (Seems I just can’t have a handful and call it a day.) Now nuts and seeds in virtually any amount cause me to have major digestion issues. It’s indescribably bad, let’s just leave it at that. I’ve read a lot about soaking (sprouting) nuts and seeds and it seems to make a lot of sense to try this. I’d love to have your opinion on this!

Though I haven’t had problems like this myself, I know it’s a common issue for many people. Of course, the more nuts you eat (as we Primal types are wont to do), the more apparent the situation becomes for those who are sensitive. The offending characters, it seems, are lectins, phytates, and enzyme inhibitors, notorious little “anti-nutrients” that put some people’s stomachs through the ringer. Even if you don’t show obvious symptoms, many argue, you may be compromising nutritional uptake by eating raw nuts.

While roasting nuts can reduce these anti-nutrients and perhaps clear up the problem for some people, it may not do the full job for others. Furthermore, though roasting may disable the anti-nutrients, it doesn’t enhance the bioavailability of nuts’ vitamin and mineral content. As I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s some concern about heat rendering nuts rancid.

I’d definitely recommend soaking for people who have problems digesting nuts and even for folks who don’t. Soaking and rinsing raw nuts more effectively deals with the phytates and enzyme inhibitors than roasting does. Another benefit to soaking is enhanced flavor.

When I make nut butter, I like to soak raw nuts (almonds being my favorite, of course) in some salt water overnight. Some people choose to soak a full 24 hours. Right after they’re done soaking, it’s crucial to thoroughly dry them. The best ways to ensure they’ll dry all the way through is to lay them out in a single, sparse layer in the sun or in a warm oven (lowest possible setting—ideally not more than 120 degrees). If you have a dehydrator or don’t mind investing in one, that’s a good route to go as well.

Though soaked/sprouted almonds might be more common, I wouldn’t hesitate to soak other varieties like walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. (Pumpkin seeds are excellent this way as well.) I’ve heard conflicting reports on a few other kinds like pine nuts and macadamia nuts. Sally Fallon, expert behind Nourishing Traditions, recommends soaking and drying for these varieties but suggests a shorter soak time (no more than 6 hours). If you’re less comfortable soaking these varieties and don’t want to eat them raw, I’d lean more toward the common sprouted nuts.

As always, thanks for the great questions, and keep ‘em coming!

yksin Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Is Flax Bad?

Make Your Own Primal Energy Bars in 10 Easy Steps

The Seasons for Nuts and Seeds

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47 Comments on "Dear Mark: Soaking Seeds and Nuts"

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DR
8 years 2 months ago

Homemade nut butter – yum!

Chris - Zen to Fitness
8 years 2 months ago

Mark, great comprehensive guide to soaking of nuts and seeds. I have myself experimented with soaking some nuts in salty water overnight and drying them in the sun, it makes them taste amazing and I like to do a batch regularly.
Its definitely worth the time and hassle for the taste alone. Its great to know that it removes those pesky anti-nutrients as well!

Sasquatch
8 years 2 months ago

Mark,

It’s great to see this post.

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 2 months ago

I have never even heard of soaking nuts before. I don’t seem to have any trouble with raw nuts so I don’t know if I would go through the hassel myself. Sounds like a promising option though!

punpun
punpun
4 years 24 days ago

Surely you meant to say you don’t know if you’d go through the *hazel* yourself.

Robert M.
Robert M.
8 years 2 months ago

Have you considered soaking in a brine of sodium bicarbonate (i.e. baking soda) instead of salt? I know this works wonders for beans.

Anna
8 years 2 months ago
I soak nuts in a weak sea salt solution, then dry them on two large sheet pans in my oven. The oven temp only goes as low as 170°F, so I use a wooden spoon to crack the oven ajar just a bit. The thermometer inside the oven indicates that keeps the temp around 150°F and allows the moisture to evaporate. Every few hours I stir/shake them up to assist the evaporation rate. Not the most energy efficient way, but it works without buying a dehydrator. Stacking would increase efficiency. I let it go overnight this way or turn it… Read more »
new_me
new_me
8 years 2 months ago

I am an avid reader of Sally Fallon and have soaked, salted and dried my nuts and seeds ever since I read her recommendation. The end result is a wonderful improvement over what I used to eat. There is a unique crispness and flavor to them. It is all well worth the effort, which really isn’t much. 😉

new_me
new_me
8 years 2 months ago

I’m still wondering about eating various squash seeds. Has anyone tried squash seeds other than pumpkin? I did some research and the general consensus is that it is ‘safe’ to eat them. I think I’ll have to give it a try and let you all know how it turns out.

Daryiam
Daryiam
3 years 19 days ago

Butternut squash seeds are my favourite! Even better than pumpkin. Roasted in coconut oil and garlic, yum.

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 2 months ago

New_me,

Make sure that you post somewhere around here on your findings! I would be interested in other squash seeds too.

markus
markus
8 years 1 month ago

if this is applicable: one needs to be aware that the peanut is not a nut – but a legumes – and as such contain the hight antinutrient content mark mentions to a far greater degree than true nuts

i should suggest avoiding these altogether

it’s very difficult in some countries to obtain raw nuts – like the UK – and i found out the hard way that soaking already processed nuts is – well – uck?

M

Cat
Cat
7 years 4 months ago

Dear Mark,

I have Celiac and am gluten intolerant and bake with blanched almond flour sometimes. I have trouble digesting it though. Can you please tell me if you know anything about soaking actual almond flour, how and if that would help once the nuts are already ground into flour? Thank you.

ray
ray
6 years 8 months ago
DEAR CELIAC–about soaking almonds–the point of soaking RAW ALMONDS is to spout them and make them a living food so they are more nutritious and the coating that is harmful comes off. Then you can also slide the almond skin off after 24 hours and it is like blanched. (Therefore you can’t soak almond flour –it is not a live almond anymore). When you soak almonds 24 hrs you will see they grow in size 30 to 40 % and the tip grows out a bit. (My wife has celiac too and can’t eat all almond shaped nuts and fruits… Read more »
Lisa
Lisa
6 years 8 months ago

I have some soaked walnuts and pecans drying in the oven right now. Do they just need to dry to the touch or do they need to stay in there longer? Thanks.

Lisa
6 years 8 months ago
Lisa, I dry two sheet pans of nuts that have been soaked a few hours in a slight sea salt brine (about 4 pounds of nuts at a time, spread out in a shallow layer) in my oven for most of the day, until they have a crispy texture when chewed. Periodically I stir the nuts to allow even drying. I use the lowest tempt setting on my oven (170F°) and keep the door propped open a bit with a wooden spoon to reduce the temperature slightly as well as to allow water vapor to dissipate. Allow the nuts to… Read more »
Lisa
Lisa
6 years 8 months ago

Thanks!
That’s exactly how I’m drying them. Door propped open, oven set at 170, thermometer hanging steady at 150!

Lone_wolf
Lone_wolf
6 years 4 months ago

Due to regulations, the only almonds I can get in my area are “steam pasteurized.” Does this kill the nut and make it no longer a living food? Will sprouting work with these?

Lone_wolf
Lone_wolf
6 years 4 months ago

And can I sprout nuts that were previously frozen? Are they supposed to be cracked first?

carsie252
carsie252
6 years 4 months ago

What about nuts in shells?

Shan
Shan
6 years 1 month ago

Can I soak pre-roasted nuts? My boyfriend bought $20 worth and I’m hoping I can salvage their nutritional value!

cis
cis
1 year 14 days ago

You can soak them, but they won’t sprout (obviously) as they are no longer raw.
Also, they may have been roasted in bad oils (hydrogenated or bad types of oil). Check the label…

Nan
Nan
5 years 11 months ago

@LONE WOLF: If you run a search for raw pasteurized almonds you should fine a few companies that sell nuts who assure customers the nut is still alive. D&S Ranches is one.

RawLIsa
5 years 8 months ago

why do you recommend salt in your soak water? From research that I read, extra salt is not heart friendly and as I understand it just water will release the phytate and enzyme inhibitors.

why do you say you have to completely dry the nuts after soaking. It is important to rinse them, but why dry?

I hope you see this post so long after the article!

Many thanks for the discussion.

Bob Garon
5 years 7 months ago

@RawLisa I have the exact same questions.

Additionally…

1) How long is the ideal time to dry the nuts? How will I know they’re ready?

2) What would be the consequence if the nuts are not soaked? I pretty much just buy raw nuts & seeds, make a mix, toss in some dried fruit, and enjoy. Is that so bad? I haven’t experienced any digestive issue.

Thanks
Bob

Tyler
Tyler
5 years 4 months ago

What about buying pre-sprouted nuts and seeds? I don’t have a dehydrator and thought it would just be one step out of the equation.

Kelly
5 years 4 months ago
Mark – I did not read all the comments, so if this was already discussed I apologize. For sure soaking is beneficial. However it may also be that since you were eating mixed nuts EVERYDAY that you developed a food sensitivity, an auto-immune reaction. You already know that grain proteins can slip through the intestinal lining. Well it seems so can an food particle, especially in a damaged gut – which is 99% of America, Primal in recent years or not. I am still researching this but it seems that food rotation is really important. i.e. eat almonds one day… Read more »
Owen
Owen
5 years 3 months ago

If you’re rotating foods but love mixed nuts, my first thought is to unmix them: hazelnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, and pecans all belong to different families and may possibly be tolerated on consecutive days. (Note however that cashews and pistachios, for example, are in the same family, as are walnuts and pecans, so neither pair should be eaten too close together.)

kim
5 years 2 months ago

Starting to experiment with sprouting almonds. I am unclear if I should rinse off the brine before dehydrating or just drain and dehydrate? Thanks!

Kamela
4 years 9 months ago
So, here’s my question! I found this blog just the other day and am completely hooked. 🙂 I’m going back and forth between going totally Primal, and sticking with a more Sally Fallon type diet. I’ve been known to soak and enjoy delicious steel-cut oats, and I make a mean sourdough bread. The thing I just don’t get is this: why are grains considered totally evil, but nuts and seeds are okay? All of them are seeds, essentially baby plants. All contain phytates, lectins, and other anti-nutrients. What makes nuts and seeds a staple of the Primal diet, and grains… Read more »
Matt
Matt
4 years 9 months ago
I think it has to do with the fact most grains are cultivated and require processing, whereas nuts and seeds can be gathered from wild plants. Also I think a key to living primal is the 80/20 balance Mark advocates – sticking to the primal doctrine 80% of the time while reserving 20% to balance the demands and realities of living in a non-hunter gatherer society. Personally, I love ice cream, cookies, nachos, and other non-primal fare, so I’ll occasionally indulge. In the end it’s all about what makes you happy and what makes you feel good. Life is short,… Read more »
Geoff
Geoff
4 years 9 months ago
Your wondering is understandable. As I make the circuit from Paleo to Primal to Weston Price approach advocating websites, my head starts to hurt. I believe it is safe to say that (a) the science and evidence are rapidly evolving and growing, and (b) there are a lot of individual differences, so one ultimately has to experiment and arrive at one’s own conclusions about what works. If I understand things correctly, there are a couple of inaccuracies in your summary characterization of the Primal diet. My take: (1) Nuts and seeds are generally considered snacks rather than staples by most… Read more »
sarah
sarah
1 year 8 months ago
Matt
Matt
4 years 9 months ago

Sorry if I overlooked this detail somewhere, but why do you have to dry the nut after soaking it? I understand mold and such can grow, but if you eat it promptly, does it make a difference nutritionally if the nut is still wet or if you’ve dried it?

Also, are any of the beneficial nutrients in the nut affected by soaking?

Judith
Judith
4 years 8 months ago

If walnuts are so good for us then I don’t understand the hype on their content of Omega 6 being more than Omega 3 When omega 6 is so bad for you. look forward to a reply.
Judith

Greg
Greg
4 years 7 months ago
One thing I notice was omitted in the article: Nuts must NEVER be bought raw. The instant that any nut is taken out of its shell, the oils in it start to go rancid. It is better to not eat nuts at all than to eat raw nuts sold in most supermarkets, even if said nuts are soaked/sprouted/roasted, etc. In China and many other countries, nuts are always sold IN THE SHELL. Whole, in-shell, organic nuts have a very long shelf life, and the oils will not go rancid. So far, Whole Foods has told me that in-shell nuts are… Read more »
Coco
Coco
3 years 12 days ago

I don’t agree with that. Where I live, I never once managed to find in the shell nuts that weren’t rancid but I buy raw shelled nuts that are very fresh and kept cold. I just need to check the date on the package and I’m good to go. The best are fresh in the shell almond though, it’s delicious but oh so rare.

Greg
Greg
3 years 12 days ago
Which in-shell nuts did you find that were rancid? And how could you tell they were rancid? Also how do you know the raw shelled nuts are very fresh? Does it say on the package when they were harvested?…most do not….The sell-by date is not at all a reliable indicator of freshness. Also, most packaged nuts are not kept cold. There is only one nut harvest per year and that is in the fall around October-November. The reason I care about this issue is that Americans favor convenience and producers favor profits, but traditionally, nuts have never, ever been sold… Read more »
Chris
4 years 7 months ago

I am not sure if anyone else has mentined but in the link where Sally Fallon describes the nut sprouting process she only indicates that cashews be soaked for 6 hours or less and not the others mentioned in the same paragraph which you also mentioned

livex
livex
4 years 6 months ago

i’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t soak their nuts

Kerri
Kerri
4 years 6 months ago
I have been primal for a month now and have also experienced some digestion problems and believe it could be the nuts and seeds. About an hour after a handful of trail mix I get a very uncomfortable feeling just below my sternum which feels like something is just sitting there, undigested. I had suffered from IBS and had corrected it with “All Bran Buds” but have gone off of them along with all other grains and the IBS has returned. Not sure if the seed/nut sensitivity would cause that. I was so gung ho about going primal and have… Read more »
Alison
Alison
2 years 5 months ago

Hi. I have a question.
It is said you should soak nuts such as almonds overnight. However when soaking in vitamin c your site says just 5 minutes. Can you confirm what action should be done ? Many thanks.
God bless

Jaden
Jaden
2 years 3 months ago

Hi. To roast almonds in the oven at 170 F, how long approximately would that take (or the shortest amount of time I could get away with)?

P.S. Love your site, thank you for all the great, detailed info!

Fittsdawg
Fittsdawg
1 year 9 months ago

Mark,
How do you eat your macademias? Raw? Bought raw, then soaked and dried? Bought raw, soaked and roasted? Bought raw in the shell or out? Bought roasted and sea salted?

Vitalia
Vitalia
1 year 8 months ago

hehe makes me laugh when I hear people have problems digesting nuts. Yes, it needs to be soaked. raw nuts have a natural anti-enzymatic property on them making it nearly impossible to digest unless you take enzymes. However, sprouting them makes them digestible.

joseph
joseph
1 year 7 months ago

I was wondering if it the nuts have to be whole to realize the benefits of soaking. Many nuts I buy at the market are broken, so they are not intact seeds.

Marilyn
Marilyn
1 year 3 months ago

Wow! Long list of questions! @ Joseph, you can soak pieces of nuts. The recommendation to soak whole nuts is that they are usually fresher. The pieces of nuts can go rancid more easily. Have you tried it yet?

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