3 minute read | by Sally Garrard | Advanced Sports Dietitian | Image Credit
Who doesn’t love a nut! Creamy cashews, crunchy almonds, delicious pecans or heavenly macadamias? One of my favourite shops to visit is Mick’s Nuts in West End – their range of fresh nuts is off the charts. Sometimes I hear conversations of people saying “nah, I better get raw ones, they are much healthier”…and ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I end up having a conversation with them that is to follow below…which then ends up in more nuts being purchased. I should be on a retainer J
Activating nuts – what is all the hype about?
Let’s start with WHAT activating your nuts does. The soaking and roasting process of any nut (or seed, grain or legume) will breakdown a compound called phytic acid (or phytates). And why would you want to do that? Well, phytates are a compound in plant foods that lowers the bioavailability of important nutrients such as iron, zinc and calcium.
Nuts aren’t necessarily a rich source of these when you look at a mixed diet à animal sources are far better absorbed and are greater provider of these nutrients in total content. HOWEVER, should you be limiting your animal foods, or choose a vegan style of eating, then nuts, seeds, legumes and grains become a rich source of these nutrients in your diet, so maximising the absorption of them makes sense.
This said, phytates aren’t necessarily BAD either…and in fact, they do come with benefit. Phytates have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which is great if you are an athlete recovering from tough training sessions. And because phytates do bind iron, this is seriously beneficial if you eat a fair bit of red meat à it is thought one of the causes behind high bowel cancer rates in our Western population is due to high iron intake from red meat sources. So if you love a good steak, then serve up salad with raw pecans along-side it.
Back to soaking and roasting plant foods…we have been doing this for eons out of practicality (ever tried eating a dried lentil?) or taste (Bircher/oats soaked overnight have a way creamier taste), but now with a little more science, perhaps we can understand why it is we should go out of our way to apply this to foods we might have previously thought was always “healthier” being in the raw state.
If you are vegan or have very limited animal sources of food in your diet, I would recommend you activate or roast your nuts more than eating them in a raw state.
If you are an omnivore, or eat red meat regularly, then serve up some raw nuts or seeds with this meal, and have roasted nuts less frequently.
We don’t need to be hard-line one way or the other – you get benefit from raw, and you get benefit from roasted, it just depends on your own personal circumstances.
HOW TO ACTIVATE!
The process is simple….but looooong!
- Soak in plenty of water for 12-24hrs
- Roast on low temperature (60-80°C) for up to 24hrs, or until the nuts are completely dried out
#1: There are many guides out there adding salt to the process; I can’t find any rationale to this (other than flavour) so it is up to you if you choose to do this. I find it unnecessary – as when you eat a variety of roasted / activated nuts, there is plenty of flavour with them just as they are.
#2: Cranking the temperature up to 140°C right at the end – 2 reasons…1) you need to leave the house or 2) it gives the nuts a different flavour. Personally I take this option 9 times out of 10!