(NaturalNews) Nuts are one of the healthiest foods to ad to your diet. Eating nuts not only reduces the risk of heart attack by a huge 60%, but research shows that people who eat more nuts are usually thinner and they have lower levels of LDL cholesterol and reduced risk of osteoporosis. Eating nuts even lowers the risk of cancer and reduces inflammation. Although this resume is quite impressive, nuts can be made even more nutritious, delicious and healthy by sprouting or soaking them. When it comes to boosting the benefits of nuts, as well as seeds and grain, sprouting is like a mini-miracle.
Nuts are so great just the way they are, why sprout them?
Most nuts come from the seeds or dried fruits of trees and have an outer shell that protects them from rotting as they lie on the ground waiting to germinate. This shell also protects their healthy fats from spoiling. After being picked, most nuts are processed by drying, and they appear in the store as raw nuts. The term 'raw' when applied to nuts does not mean just plucked from the tree. Raw nuts are fairly nutritious and have no added fat, but they are often rather bland and tasteless.
The wisdom of Mother Nature has implanted nuts with enzyme inhibitors so they can wait until conditions are right for growth before they germinate. These inhibitors act as preservative for the nut, making sure it can stay viable for a long time. As spring rain comes and the ground becomes soaked, the nut sits in the water and slowly begins to lose its inhibitor, allowing for germination to finally take place.
If nuts are picked, dried and placed on your grocer's shelf, this enzyme inhibitor is still intact. This is why nuts have a reputation as being difficult to digest. The inhibitor actually inhibits digestion when nuts are eaten without undergoing the process nature intended. Not only that, but unsoaked nuts actually neutralize the enzymes your body uses to control inflammation and aid in digestion. Eating unsoaked nuts is extremely hard on the digestive system and calls for the pancreas to produce huge amounts of digestive enzymes to counteract the inhibitor.
When such a large amount of pancreatic enzymes are needed to digest unsoaked nuts, the enzymes are not available to perform their regular maintenance of the body. A continuous diet of unsoaked nuts is so taxing to the pancreas that it can actually swell with distress. Since a happy pancreas keeps you happy, this is not something your want to have happen. This is why most nutritionists and raw foodists suggest eating only very small amounts of nuts.
Roasting nuts will destroy the inhibitor, but there are definite disadvantages to roasting nuts. In addition to destroying many of their nutrients, roasting nuts usually involves added oil which is most likely in the form of a seed oil. When heated to a high temperature seed oils produce an abundance of free radicals. Dry roasting nuts is detrimental to their fatty acids and destroys their flavor to such an extent that seasoning or even MSG is often added to make up for the missing taste. Although roasting destroys the inhibitor, it also destroys the enzymes in the nut that the body needs to make it easily digestible. So eating dry roasted nuts also puts a strain on the pancreas.
Soaking nuts answers the problem of the inhibitor since soaking replicates the conditions nature would provide for removing it prior to germination. Soaking is the process in which all the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and enzymes that have been lying dormant in nuts are released. Soaking eliminates toxins in the nuts and solves the problem of the lack of taste in raw nuts, as the flavor of the nut is released along with the nutrients. Soaking foods before eating is not something new. It dates back thousands of years and is still in practice today in non-meat eating cultures where nuts play a central part in the diet.
This traditional process is also called sprouting, although not every nut that is soaked can be sprouted. The process begins with fresh undried nuts that are soaked in water with the addition of a pinch of sea salt for twelve to twenty-four hours depending on the nut. They should be rinsed and the water changed periodically. Taste them then too to determine what stage of soaked nut you like the best. When the soaking time is up, they are removed from the solution and slowly dried at a very low temperature with low humidity. The drying heat is less than is used in the controversial pasteurizing process, and it is never high enough to destroy any of the nut's natural enzymes so needed for ease of digestion.
Soaking and drying nuts is a time consuming process, but one with a big pay off. Soaked nuts are so easily digested that they can be eaten in large amounts. They have greater nutritional value than unsoaked nuts, and are crunchy like roasted nuts. Nuts suitable for soaking can be bought online. The website of Sprout People offers a good selection of organic fresh nuts. The flavor of soaked nuts is superb.
If soaking your own nuts sounds like a little too much work, or you have a taste for something more exotic, there are several companies that sell soaked nuts online. One of the companies, Living Nutz, recently received a glowing review and a discount code from Mike Adams of naturalnews.com for its dressed up versions of soaked nuts. The company also sells plain, unadorned sprouted nuts. The nuts and everything else used in their products are organic.
Higher Power is another online retailer of sprouted nuts, seeds and trail mix. They even sell raw nuts for sprouting at home. All their products are organic. Their quality is quite high, but their prices are down to earth. They offer the variety of nuts as well as trail mix made with sprouted nuts and seeds. While their products are not dressed for a ball, their trail mix wears delicious everyday clothing.
Their Fertile Crescent Blend is a good mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. It contains cashews, pumpkin seeds, flame raisins, pecans, apricots, peaches, apples, and figs. It is dressed in powdered allspice, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne.
The Northwest Blend is heavy on the nuts and seeds with a nice addition of fruit. It contains walnuts, almonds, filberts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, apples, pears, and figs. It is dressed in powdered cinnamon.
The Tropical Blend is heavy on the fruit and could probably use a few more nuts. It contains bananas, raisins, mangoes, date pieces, pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut. It is dressed in raw can sugar, and powdered ginger.
Order a bag of almonds, pecans or macadamia nuts to add to these mixes for a more nutty, less fruity fare. Higher Power offers a trio of their trail mixes at a slightly discounted price, so you can try them all. These trios would make great holiday gifts for everyone on your list including the pickiest raw foodists. The company also sells raw granola made from sprouted grains.
Another company to try is Go Raw. They specialize in organic sprouted seeds. If you are a salty snack addict, this is the place for you. Their sprouted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are dressed with sea salt and have just the right crunch. A bag of either of these mixed with the trail mix from Higher Power is absolutely fabulous.
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.