SOAK YOUR NUTS

I love nuts and seeds and for anyone on a predominantly plant based diet they are a great source of protein, good fat, minerals and vitamins. 

You may often find recipes call for you to soak your nuts citing the removal of phytate; indeed if you have eaten our raw granola or any of our cakes, you may know that we soak our nuts. If you'd like to know WHY? here is a guide to what phytate is, and why we soak our nuts. 

Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in our body and around 80-90% of it is found within our bones and teeth. It's many roles include working in conjunction with other vitamins and minerals (such as B group, calcium, magnesium and vitamin D) to encourage strong bones and teeth and it is also involved in the creation of energy. Symptoms of deficiency include weakened bones and teeth, fatigue, loss of appetite, low immunity and weakness. 

Phosphorus is available in most foods; and the best dietary sources are high protein foods which can include meat, fish, poultry and dairy. If you are following a plant based diet then a high source of phosphorus will be from plant seeds, nuts, legumes and the bran of grains however phosphorus in these foods is found in a bonded version called phytate, or phytic acid.

Only around 50% of this stored form of phosphorus is available to us as humans because we lack enzymes called phytases which are needed to release the phosphorus from the bonded form phytate for absorption. Additionally when eaten, phytate can also act as an inhibitor to other enzymes - binding to minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc and therefore if consumed at the same time may lead to a deficiency in these. Phytate can also inhibit digestive enzymes such as pepsin or trypsin which are needed for protein breakdown .

Techniques such as sprouting, fermenting and soaking may be recommended, especially if you follow a vegetarian, plant based or vegan diet. If we look back to traditional food techniques and our ancestors you will see that many of them soaked their grains prior to making porridge, bread and other foods, and these techniques can be employed today. Soaking nuts, seeds and grains can help release the phytate which can make the digestion of these foods easier, help with phosphorus absorption and the availability of the minerals consumed at the same time. Sprouting takes this one step further as enzyme inhibitors are reduced and at the same time healthy enzyme content is increased. 

So, when you see the words, soaked or activated - the food manufacturers may be referring to this process; activation usually calls for the soaked seeds to then be dehydrated. Eating nuts in this state may aid in easier digestion. Recipes for overnight oats and bircher muesli which call on soaking oats overnight also follow this same principle. We, ourselves, soak our nuts and seeds as we follow a plant based diet and for us we find it beneficial.