I’ve often been asked whether it’s necessary to soak nuts before eating them. Is soaking a waste of time or does the process offer nutritional benefits? I thought it would be helpful to provide both views and let people decide what works best for them.
Frequently raw fooders soak nuts in preparation for assembling a recipe like nut milk, nut butter, or nut cheese. Soaking makes nuts softer and creamier and enhances the texture of many raw dishes. I’ve provided a section in my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, that covers soaking nuts, but this fun and informative blog gives me the opportunity to share the simple process with anyone searching for this information on the internet.
Soaking nuts offers several health benefits. The simple process of soaking nuts for several hours works like magic to increase their antioxidant and phytochemical capacity because soaking releases some enzyme inhibitors.
Some people have difficulty digesting nuts and eliminate them from their diet. They needn’t miss out on the healthful benefits nuts offer because a few hours of soaking does wonders—Soaking is the prelude to the sprouting process and releases enzymes that inhibit the digestibility of nuts. Soaking nuts also helps to break down their macronutrients. Protein, fats, and carbohydrates are broken down into digestible components, turning protein into free flowing amino acids, fats into fatty acids, and carbohydrates into simple sugars, essentially predigesting them.
After soaking for several hours, nuts become very soft and lose their crunchiness. To return them to their natural crispness, dry them with paper towels or a kitchen towel and dehydrate them for several hours at a temperature between 110 and 115 degrees F. Alternatively, you can roast them in the oven. To preserve their valuable vitamin E and antioxidant flavonoid and polyphenol contents, place the nuts on a baking sheet and dry roast them at 150 to 170 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool, and taste their exceptional flavor and pleasantly crisp texture.
Not everyone has problems digesting nuts. For those who do, soaking is definitely helpful. However, soaking adds to extra steps before one can actually eat the nuts. In today’s busy world, few of us are looking for extra processes in order to prepare our foods. I’m a from-scratch cook, but I, too, shun extra steps when they’re not needed.
For most of us with the ability to digest nuts without difficulty, we can reap the multitude of health benefits of eating nuts raw or roasted without soaking. Mother Nature has made a perfect ready-to-eat food that’s packaged in protective shells. Within those protective shells are a storehouse of minerals, heart healthy vitamin E, fiber, protein, and a mountain of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Nuts are a healthy, nutrient dense food that studies have shown to reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten in small quantities like one to two ounces daily. Fortunately for us busy folks, nut processors have also saved us the labor by shelling the nuts and putting them into convenient packages.
Nuts are freshly harvested in the fall and are so much tastier and moist than they are by the end of summer. For the holidays, I like to buy a variety of fresh nuts in the shell and put them in a bowl with several nutcrackers. Guests who visit my home during fall and winter have one nut-cracking good time and enjoy a heart-healthy, highly nutritious treat in the process.