I use a lot of nuts in my house for eating, baking and cooking. What you might not know is that nuts have natural nutrition inhibitors called phytates, (phytic acid), which can combine with other minerals in the digestive system and block absorption of those minerals. This can put a strain on the digestive system, which can cause distress and/or irritable bowel syndrome. Many nuts and seeds also have goitrogens, which suppress the thyroid gland by interfering with thyroid hormone production.

Soaking nuts before consuming them is the safest and healthiest way to enjoy these little nuggets of goodness without digestive issues or other effects. Soaking nuts and seeds removes or reduces phytic acid and tannins, and also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and makes the proteins more readily available when consumed. Soaking also assists with digestion, helps to prevent mineral deficiencies and encourages the body’s production of beneficial enzymes.

There is a lot of information out there about soaking nuts and seeds, but the truth is that all you need is a bowl, some filtered warm water, a little salt and a dehydrator or an oven. Warm water neutralizes most of the enzyme inhibitors and increases the bioavailability of other nutrients, and the salt helps to deactivate the enzyme inhibitors in most nuts.

Be sure to use organic nuts! Use a glass or stainless steel bowl large enough to cover the nuts by a couple of inches. Put your nuts in the bowl, add 1 or 2 Tbsp of salt and cover with warm filtered water. If you don’t have filtered water, boil water and let it cool down, then cover the nuts with that. Leave the nuts uncovered, do not soak more than one kind of nut in each bowl and leave the bowl on the counter – do not put it in the fridge. I often soak several kinds of nuts at once (in separate bowls) and dry/dehydrate them all at the same time.

When the nuts are done soaking rinse them well in a colander until the water runs clear, then spread them on a baking sheet or a dehydrator sheet. If using the baking sheet and oven method, put the oven on the lowest temperature possible (170 for older ovens, 150 for newer). If you are using a dehydrator you can use the nut setting, but I like a higher temperature than that so I crank it to 135-150 degrees. Make sure to dry the nuts completely, which can take up to 24 hours or more if your dehydrator is older or really full. Leaving moisture in the nuts could cause them to mold and they also won’t be as crispy.

HERE IS A CHART FOR SOAKING A VARIETY OF NUTS

Pepitas (pumpkin seeds):

4 cups of raw, hulled pumpkin seeds + 2 Tbsp sea salt

     Soaking time: At least 7 hours or overnight.

     Drying time: 12-24 hours until dry and crisp

Pecans and Walnuts

4 cups of nuts +1 tsp sea salt

     Soaking time: 7 or more hours (Can do overnight)

     Drying time: 12-24 hours or until dry and crisp

Peanuts (sklinless), Pine Nuts or Hazelnuts (skinless)

4 cups of raw nuts + 1 Tbsp sea salt

     Soaking time: At least 7 hours or overnight

     Drying time:  12-24 hours or until completely dry and crisp

Almonds

4 cups of raw almonds (preferably skinless), 1 Tbsp sea salt

NOTE: If you can’t find or afford skinless almonds, it is really easy to skin them  after they are soaked. The skins slip right off when they’re wet, and         even though skinning them is a bit tedious, it’s worth it to have the tender white nuts with no skins to make nut butter with and to bake with.

     Soaking time: At least 7 hours or overnight

     Drying time:  12-24 hours or until completely dry and crisp

Cashews

      4 cups of nuts + 2 tsp sea salt

     Soaking time: 6 hours – NO MORE

     Drying time: 12-24 hours or until dry and crisp

Macadamia Nuts

4 cups of nuts, 1 Tbsp sea salt

     Soaking time: 7 or more hours (Can do overnight)

     Drying time: 12-24 hours or until dry and crisp

These nuts and seeds don’t need to be soaked:

Chia Seeds. These don’t need to be soaked, per se, but I store mine in a glass jar filled with water which keeps them in a kind of gel state and ready to use. Use a small jar to store chia seeds if you don’t use a lot of them, as they will get funky and smelly in 10 days or so and will need to be replaced. Eating chia seeds raw has no benefit, as they go right through you without absorbing or digesting.

Flax Seeds. These turn into gel when mixed with water, which is what you want when you’re baking with flax seeds, but normally you will want to leave them whole. Pulse them in a small (dedicated) coffee or spice grinder before ingesting them though, or they will fly right through your digestive system without any absorption.