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

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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