By Jane Barthelemy.
I love almonds, pecans, and walnuts. Nuts are a true Paleo food, gluten-free, rich in proteins, healthy fats, and enzymes. However many people have difficulty digesting nuts. And tree-nut allergies are becoming more common.
How can we enjoy nuts without digestive problems?
Like all seeds and grains, nuts often contain natural coatings that are digestive inhibitors (lectins, saponins, protease inhibitors, and phytates) that make the nuts slightly bitter and more difficult to digest. However, soaking nuts in salt water neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors.
We can learn from native peoples in Central America, who soaked their nuts and seeds in seawater and then dried them. Even squirrels know how to soften nuts by burying them in the ground! Commercially sold nuts can be hard on the digestion, due to these anti-nutrients present in all nuts and seeds. However when you taste the difference after soaking and drying them, you’ll notice they’re mild, crisp, and even more delicious. The natural flavor of the nut comes out, and the bitterness disappears! Just try the instructions below and notice the difference. Maybe the coatings are Mother Nature’s way of sending seeds straight through tie digestion into the earth for planting. I’m not sure.
Find a Healthy Source for Nuts
Nuts are delicate. It is important to find a reliable source for fresh nuts that are cultivated with care. Since nuts are high in natural oils they can easily become rancid. Many groceries stock nuts for years without rotating or refrigerating. Some producers add sweeteners or cheap vegetable oil coatings to make nuts more flavorful. However if your nuts are truly fresh and from a reliable source, the natural flavor is simply delicious. Always look for nuts in a store with a rapid turnover. I buy them from a very special local food coop where they are rotated and refrigerated, or from a reliable source online, such as sunorganicfarm.com.
How to Soak Nuts for Digestibility
Soaking nuts dissolves anti-nutrients and makes them easier to digest. For Almonds, Pecans, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame, Sunflower seeds or Walnuts: Soak 4 cups nuts in warm filtered water with 2 teaspoons sea salt for 7 hours or longer (up to 24 hours). For Cashews, soak no more than 6 hours as they have been partially soaked and heated, so that more than 6 hours soaking may make them bitter. There’s no need to soak these nuts: Brazil nuts, Hemp Seeds, Pine Nuts, or Pistachios. Store soaked nuts in the refrigerator for 2 to 5 days.
How to Toast Crispy Nuts
Crispy nuts will store for months in an airtight container. For all nuts: soak, rinse well, drain and spread them on a stainless steel or glass baking pan. Heat them in a low oven no more than 150° F. with the door cracked open, turning them from time to time. If you have a dehydrator, dehydrate for 12 hours or until dry and crispy. I find it easiest to buy nuts, soak them all immediately and then crisp them, so they’re always ready for snacking and using in recipes. The drying time will vary from 10 to 24 hours depending on the size of your nuts, their moisture content, and the temperature of your oven or dehydrator. Check them every few hours. I use a glass baking pan covered with parchment paper for easy cleaning. I stir the nuts every 45 minutes or so with my fingers or a heat-proof spatula.
How to Toast Nuts
Toasted nuts are super-delicious! Just a bit of heating brings out depth and richness to the flavors. If you’re toasting wet nuts that have just been soaked, use a low temperature like 200° F, which allows the heat to penetrate the nuts completely and dry them all the way through for a nice CRUNCH! If you’re toasting dry nuts, you can toast them at 350° F. 9 – 12 minutes, depending on the size of the nut, stirring occasionally. Set a timer and take care not to overbake them.
I learned this method from Sally Fallon in her ground-breaking book: Nourishing Traditions. Thanks Sally!