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The Benefits of Soaking Nuts and Seeds

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From early 2012 to early 2013, the only overt fat I consumed with regularity was a single avocado in my salads. I was mostly turned off by nuts and seeds during this time period, and I think this is because I suffered from poor food combining as well as indigestion from not soaking these foods throughout 2011. Admittedly, I shoveled them into my mouth while hungry some nights during my salad days as a raw fooder.

In winter 2013, I began researching human beings’ omega-3-to-omega-6 ratio, trying to get mine as close to 1:1 as possible, and experimented, doubling my fat intake to about 10 percent of my calories and making rich, creamy, satisfying salad dressings such as Pepper-Tomato Walnut Dressing and Tomato-Herb Flaxseed Dressing in addition to my standby topping, Creamy Avocado, whose recipe is one of more than 25 featured in Alive!, my raw food transition book. At this time, I finally learned how to properly soak nuts and seeds. My stomach and entire body are relieved I learned how to soak nuts and seeds, let me tell you.

Nuts and seeds contain enzyme inhibitors, or anti-nutrients, which are designed to protect the plants from being eaten in large quantities by causing key nutrient reserves to be depleted in the consumer to the point that indigestion, disease and even death might occur. Thus, these enzyme inhibitors enable the crops to survive and the species to carry on, much as alkaloids prevent greens from being exterminated.

Abundant in minerals and high in fat, nuts and seeds are best soaked or partially sprouted before being eaten to improve digestion. Mimicking rain, or nature’s way of removing enzyme inhibitors, this germination process awakens these foods from a dormant state, neutralizing their enzyme inhibitors and activating beneficial enzymes and microorganisms that break down other indigestible toxins such as phytates (phytic acid), polyphenols (tannins) and goitrogens. Also, with soaking, the taste of these foods also comes alive.

Recipe for Tomato-Herb Flaxseed Dressing from Brian Rossiter
Photographed is Tomato-Herb Flaxseed Dressing. Soak flaxseed for six to 12 hours.

Digestion Perfection with the Vegan Healing Diet Plan by Drs. T.C. Fry, Herbert M. Shelton and David Klein explains what happens to nuts and seeds when they are soaked. “The soaking and germination process hydrates and softens the hard fiber and reduces complex proteins into readily digestible amino acids. Germinated nut and seed blends (or patés) are perhaps easiest on the digestive system—simply blend one to two ounces of nuts or seeds with water, fresh-squeezed orange juice, a slice of orange or a tomato in a blender, then use this as a salad dressing or dip for vegetables.”

Each nut and seed calls for its respective soaking time to neutralize enzyme inhibitors, activate nutrients and promote the growth of digestive enzymes. Place nuts and seeds in a glass bowl or mason jar and fill with lukewarm filtered water. Add a few to several ounces of water beyond the top of the contents because some nuts and seeds—almonds and chia seeds are good examples—expand in water. Cover with a lightweight cloth such as cheesecloth or sprouting lid to enable these foods to “breathe.”

If necessary, drain and refill the soaking water every eight to 12 hours. Rinse the nuts or seeds after soaking. Nuts and seeds may be enjoyed right away after soaking or dehydrated until completely dry.

Following are lists of soaking and sprouting times for nuts and seeds. Research produced varying lengths of times—sometimes differing by several hours or even days, in the case of sprouting—which I’ll share by offering time ranges. No primary source for soaking times exists.

Soaking and Sprouting Times for Nuts

Almonds whole and shelled on a white background

  •  Almonds
    • Soaking: 8 to 12 hours
    • Sprouting: 12 hours to 3 days
  • Brazil nuts
    • Soaking: No soaking required or 3 hours
  • Cashews
    • Soaking: 2 to 4 hours
  • Hazelnuts
    • Soaking: 8 to 12 hours

Hazelnuts overflowing from a wooden bowl

  • Macademia nuts
    • Soaking: No soaking required or 2 hours
  • Pecans
    • Soaking: 6 hours
  • Pine nuts
    • No soaking required
  • Pistachios
    • Soaking: No soaking required or 8 hours
  • Walnuts
    • Soaking: 4 hours

Dried walnuts on a white background

Soaking and Sprouting Times for Seeds

  • Buckwheat
    • Soaking: 6 hours
    • Sprouting: 1 to 3 days
  • Chia seeds
    • Soaking: 30 minutes to produce thick gel
  • Hemp seeds
    • Soaking: No soaking required
  • Flaxseed
    • Soaking: 6 to 12 hours

Flaxseed on a wooden spoon on a wooden surface

  • Pumpkin seeds
    • Soaking: 6 to 8 hours
    • Sprouting: 1 to 3 days
  • Sesame seeds
    • Soaking: 8 hours
    • Sprouting: 1 to 3 days
  • Sunflower seeds
    • Soaking: 2 to 8 hours
    • Sprouting: 1 to 3 days

Sunflower seeds and a sunflower on a wooden surface

It must be noted that in nature, most nuts and seeds contain water compared with the dehydrated and, in many cases, cooked or otherwise processed beyond 104 to 118 degrees—the temperature ranges cited for what constitutes a raw food—nuts and seeds sold in stores. These fresh, wet foods would go moldy without some of these forms of processing. This said, many or even most raw fooders include nuts and seeds in their diets. Of all the nuts and seeds, I enjoy mostly macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and flaxseed, adding them to herbs and citrus juice in whipping up hearty and heart-healthy salad dressings.


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