No one disputes the nutritional value of nuts, but there is some controversy over the best way to eat them. Some say they are best eaten raw while others find raw nuts hard to digest and prefer roasted nuts. On the other hand, critics say that roasting nuts removes much of their nutritional value. What's the solution? Many researchers say they have found the solution in activated nuts. They are attracting increasing attention and you may have even seen them on the shelves of your local health foods shop. What are activated nuts and why might they be better for you than raw or roasted nuts?
What Are Activated Nuts?
In a "nutshell", activated nuts are nuts that have been made bio-active through a process of soaking and partial fermentation. The process of activating nuts is very simple:
- Dissolve salt in water.
- Pour the salt water over the raw nuts and allow them to soak in a warm place for a predetermined period of time.
- Drain the water and spread the nuts over a stainless steel baking tray.
- Roast in the oven at a low temperature (66C or 150F) until dry.
While the process of activating nuts is simple enough, the science is a little more complex. Basically, the reason why raw nuts are believed to be of limited nutritional value is because they naturally contain phytic acid, which prevents them from sprouting prematurely and stores important nutrients. According to researchers, when consumed by humans, phytic acid reduces the body's ability to absorb many of those nutrients.
Another, potentially more serious problem with raw nuts is that they contain enzyme inhibitors called protease or trypsin inhibitors that make the body have to work overtime to produce the enzymes needed for digestion. This, according to some researchers, puts strain on the pancreas and can potentially lead to pancreatic cancer.
The Benefits of Activated Nuts
Soaking nuts in salted water begins the germination process in nuts. When this happens, phytic acid and the enzyme inhibitors are broken down. This makes the nutrients available for absorption by the body. In addition, research has shown that if nuts are soaked for longer periods of time, the level of nutrients actually increases.
The dehydration process partially ferments the nuts and aids in their digestibility, breaking down complex carbohydrates. This is one of the reasons why roasted nuts became so popular, but roasting nuts at a high temperature is said to also destroy most of their nutritional value.
With a little training, you can activate raw nuts at home. Each variety has specific ideal soaking and roasting times and it is recommended that you use only filtered water for soaking the nuts, since tap water can contain pollutants and chemicals. It may also be best to use organic nuts, since some nuts may contain residues from chemical fertilisers and/or insecticides. If in doubt, try some of the commercially available brands first and see how you like them. They may be just what you've been looking for, especially if you're on a vegan or vegetarian diet.