Over the last couple of days, I have had many clients and friends ask me about activated nuts. Why do you do it? How do you do it? What’s the big fuss?
So I thought I would clear it up 🙂
Firstly the WHY. The best way this was explained to me is as follows – all living things (plants and animals) ultimately want to reproduce so that the species can continue to survive. Therefore, they don’t really want to be eaten and need to protect themselves from that threat. For animals they have some very obvious protective mechanisms – teeth, claws, the ability to run and get away. For plants, on the other hand, the mechanisms are less obvious, but still very much present. While I would love to see the day when an almond jumped up and began running for dear life, I don’t think their evolution is moving in that direction. They do however, have a sneaky little weapon called PHYTIC ACID up their sleeve (note: this goes for all nuts, seeds, legumes and grains)
Phytic acid is actually an antioxidant compound found in plants, and is their storage form of phosphorous. This is important for the plant, as it acts as the energy source when the seed is sprouting. Luckily for the plant, they have the enzyme phytase that is required to break down the phytates. As do animals with more than one stomach. For us unlucky humans, we don’t have this enzyme, and therefore lack the ability to breakdown the phytic acid.
So what does this mean? Due to the structure of phytic acid, it is easily able to bind up with minerals – including zinc, iron and calcium. When these minerals become bound, the body’s ability to absorb them from the digestive tract, and subsequently utilise them within the body is impaired. To put it simply, you get less nutrition out of the food that you are eating.
Now this may be ok if you are only eating a few nuts/seeds/grains/legumes at a time, and the remainder of your food is incredibly nutrient dense. However the reality in our society today is that we are OVER consuming nuts/seeds/grains (particularly these!)/legumes, and the rest of the time are consuming food that is heavily processed, or grown in poor conditions and as a result quite depleted in nutrients. Furthermore, phytic acid can impair our digestive enzymes, further reducing our ability to digest the food that we have eaten.
But at first you said they were an antioxidant? Does that mean they are beneficial?
I’m glad you asked! To complicate matters, studies have found that there are in fact some benefit to the consumption of phytates (the bound version of phytic acid). As an antioxidant, they have the ability to reduce inflammation, chelate some heavy metals, as well as being somewhat protective against cardiovascular disease, cancer and type II diabetes.
Ok Kate, now I’m confused. So should I eat phyic acid or not?
As with many things health related, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive line in the sand. So what do I believe? That you should avoid phytic acid as much as possible, without getting TOO rigid about it. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a society where the majority of people are eating the most nutrient dense food that they can. So I believe we should do whatever we can to up the nutrition we absorb, and reducing phytic acid is one of those things. Furthermore, if you eat a diet that is rich in organic vegetables and some fruit, you will be consuming enough antioxidants that you don’t need them from phytates.
Ok, I’m convinced. So HOW do I go about reducing the phytic acid in my food?
The best way to reduce the phytic acid content of your nuts/seeds/grains/legumes is to soak them overnight at room temperature with either a little bit of yoghurt or apple cider vinegar.
For grains and legumes – after this, you want to rinse them well and the cook as usual. You may in fact be able to reduce the cooking time slightly.
For nuts and seeds – you now want to rinse them well and then dehydrate – eith in the oven at the lowest temperature, or in a dehydrator. Alternatively, if you want to use them straight away, you can just eat them soaked, however the texture will be slightly different.
There is always an option that you can fit into your lifestyle. Please see table below for ideas:
Are you concerned that you have nutrient deficiencies? It is always important to have these assessed professionally, so click HERE to get in touch.
P.S I also found this soaking and sprouting diagram that I thought you might find helpful 🙂