Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
6 Oct

Dear Mark: Soaking Seeds and Nuts

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

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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 experienced a lot of the positive things that come along with it such as energy, weight loss, better sleep and my joint pain has disappeared. The digestive problems are affecting my daily activities and I’m not sure what to do from here.

    Kerri wrote on May 16th, 2012
  2. 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

    Alison wrote on June 14th, 2014
  3. 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!

    Jaden wrote on August 22nd, 2014
  4. 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?

    Fittsdawg wrote on March 2nd, 2015
  5. 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.

    Vitalia wrote on March 17th, 2015
  6. 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.

    joseph wrote on April 8th, 2015
    • 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?

      Marilyn wrote on September 6th, 2015

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