Nuts and seeds can be a great way to add protein, healthy fats and minerals to your diet. Because of their prebiotic fiber content, they are also beneficial to the microbiome, helping with gut health and much more. While these little powerhouses are great sources of nutrients like zinc and magnesium, much of the minerals are bound in the nut due to their phytic acid content. Phytates bind minerals, preventing them from being absorbed, so reducing the amount of phytates is key for making nuts a nutrient-rich food. Along with phytates, nuts are also high in lectins, which can be irritating to the digestive tract and cause inflammation for many. Here is a previous post I did with more information on anti-nutrients, including lectins and phytic acid. The solution to getting the most nutrition possible out of nutrient-dense nuts, while preventing inflammation and GI distress, is to prepare them properly, which removes the majority of the phytic acid content.
Soaking or sprouting nuts are the best ways to reduce the phytate content. Adding heat, such as toasting or putting into a stew, also reduces the amount of phytate present. While sprouting is a great option, soaking nuts in mildly acidic, salted water, and then toasting them, is the easiest way to make your nuts and seeds more healthful. Toasting the nuts also brings out more flavor and gives them a satisfying crunch, making them more delicious as well. After cooking, store these in the fridge for a quick and easy snack, or throw onto whole milk yogurt, on top of a salad, or add into a homemade trail mix. This will work with any nut or seed you like. My favorites are pumpkin seeds and pecans, but variety in your nut intake is the best strategy for getting as many different nutrients as possible. Once prepared, you can use these nuts to make your own nut butter or grain-free nut flour, such as almond flour, that has fewer anti-nutrients and promotes better digestion. Puree in a blender for a creamy nut butter, or pulse in a food processor to make a flour.
Soaked and Toasted Nuts
Makes 2 cups
2 cups raw nuts or seeds (organic if possible)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt
Optional seasonings: Black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, rosemary, thyme, curry powder
To Soak: In a medium bowl, cover nuts with cool water. Stir in the salt and vinegar. Cover with a lid or cloth and let soak for 12-24 hours. For cashews and smaller seeds like sesame or sunflower, I usually only soak for 12 hours, but I soak almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts or pecans for a whole day before cooking.
To Toast: Drain the soaked nuts and rinse. Preheat oven to 350 F and let the nuts dry a bit while the over preheats.
Toss with salt and other seasonings, if using. If you are going to serve them right away, or within a day or two, after toasting, you could add olive oil or coconut oil for more flavoring. If storing for eating over a few weeks, I usually omit any oil, as they have a longer shelf life and stay crisper. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.
Bake for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size and type of nut or seed you are using. Stir halfway through to cook evenly. You will bake these until they have dried out completely and have just started to brown and become crispy. Once they start to brown, remove them from the oven and let cool on the
baking sheet; they will continue cooking for a bit once you remove them, so be careful not to overcook or burn them in the oven.
Once cool, transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge or freezer. I store mine in a Mason jar in the fridge for a quick snack, but you could throw them in the freezer for longer-term storage. These will keep for several weeks under refrigeration, or a few months in the freezer.
Brine & Broth
I am a gut health-focused nutritionist and online health coach based in Southwest Wisconsin. My recipes and philosophies center around traditional, nutrient-dense foods that support robust gut health.