We snack on nuts a lot in our house, particularly since trying to eat fewer biscuits and cakes. We love them in all shapes and sizes (yes including roasted and salted peanuts). Compared to a chocolate biscuit, a nut is undoubtedly a good snack option. However, it is possible to make a humble nut even more nutritious and digestible.
Friends, let me introduce the ‘crispy nut’. This looks and tastes pretty much like a normal nut but it has been soaked in salted water to reduce enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. The result is a nut which will be digested much more readily than a nut straight from the tree. In Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon says that nuts are best soaked or partially sprouted before being eaten
because nuts contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that can put a real strain on the digestive mechanism if consumed in excess. Nuts are easier to digest and their nutrients more readily available, if they are first soaked in salt water overnight, then dried in a warm oven…..Salt in soaking water activates enzymes that neutralise enzymes inhibitors.
My understanding is that there are 2 ‘problems’ with a completely raw nut:
1. Enzyme inhibitors. Our bodies love to consume enzymes in food. This word brings back memories of chemistry lessons, test tubes and catalysts for me. Sally Fallon describes enzymes as
Complex proteins that act as catalysts in almost every biochemical process that takes place in the body. Their activity depends on the presence of adequate vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium.
Enzymes have 3 roles in our bodies: there are metabolic enzymes, digestive enzymes and enzymes we consume in foods. Enzymes in food initiate the process of digestion in the mouth and stomach. Consuming active enzymes in food reduces the strain on the pancreas which can otherwise be overstimulated to produce enzymes that ought to be in food. Nuts are rich in enzymes, but these are only accessible if the enzyme inhibitors are deactivated.
2. Phytic Acid. All nuts, grains and seeds contain phytic acid. This is simply phosphorous which is stored in the seed as phytic acid. It has a protective role for the seed as it prevents it from sprouting unless the conditions are right. However, when consumed the phytic acid combines with other minerals (notably iron, zinc and calcium) and prevents these minerals from being absorbed well by the body which can, long term, lead to mineral deficiencies. Phytic acid is probably of most concern to those eating a standard industrialised diet or a more plant based diet without lots of good quality fats and meat.
Both the the enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid in nuts can be reduced by soaking, sprouting or fermenting. I have known about this for some time and I have seen plenty of recipes calling for ‘crispy nuts’ (ie soaked nuts). For some reason going through this extra stage of soaking the nuts has seemed unduly tedious to me and I have really put off experimenting with soaked nuts. However, in the spirit of this blog, I am giving it a go. Let’s jump in to the world of enzyme rich nuts!