Browsing around the supermarket shelves, I came across a packet of nuts that said “Activated”. While that terminology did kind of ring a bell, I have to confess that I had no idea what it meant or whether it was a good thing or not. Research was in order and here is what I found!
What are activated nuts?
Activated nuts are nuts that have been soaked in water for around 12-24 hours. This begins the germination process which changes the nuts (which are plant seeds). The nuts are then oftentimes slowly dried again so that they maintain their crispiness.
A germinating seed (now activated through soaking after being dormant) begins to break down some of the stored proteins, starches (carbohydrates) and oils into forms of energy for the young sprout to grow roots and shoots. Other plant chemicals in the seed also begin to change such as phytates (AKA phytic acid or inositol hexaphosphate) which affect, among other things, the digestibility of the nuts and the absorption of its nutrients into our bodies.
It has been said that soaking nuts increase the nutrient value of the nuts, along with breaking down the problematic compounds that help enhance their digestibility.
Eating large amounts of raw nuts may place extra strain on your digestive system and may cause things like bloating, cramping and nausea. By activating your food, you can apparently not only enhance the absorption of nutrients but improve digestion.
The idea is that activating the nuts helps to break down the naturally occurring anti-nutrients, such as phytates in the nuts. As nuts contain an array of beneficial nutrients, we ideally want to be absorbing as much of these as possible. For people with impaired gastrointestinal function, increasing the bioavailability of minerals can make a profound difference, as well as helping out their digestion. Additionally, for those who eat lots of nuts, soaking and ‘activating’ ensures you are getting the most out of all your meals.
Phytates are plant storage compounds that bind minerals: iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and phosphate, making them less available for absorption by the body. Phytates inhibit (but do not entirely block) the bioavailability of these nutrients, affecting how much of the other nutrients in that food that we can absorb. It is important to know that these phytates will not have a lasting effect once that food has been eaten.
Buying good quality nuts are already costly. Buying activated nuts makes this even more so!
If cost is an issue, you can easily perform the process of activation at home, saving you some money.
- Place nuts (about two cups) into a large bowl;
- Cover the nuts with filtered water mixed with sea salt (approximately two teaspoons of salt);
- The nuts should be completely submerged in the saltwater. The ingredients will absorb water as they soak and may grow mould if not kept underwater.
- Depending on the food, soak for 12 -24 hours;
- After soaking, strain away the excess water.
- Slowly roast the nuts at very low heat (65°C) in an oven or dehydrator for 6-24 hours (roasting time will vary);
- The nuts ready when they are completely dried out.
The nuts need to be eaten within 24–48 hours after soaking and drying. The activating process can make the nuts more prone to grow harmful moulds so eat them soon after activating to avoid mould developing.
Nuts and seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense. Whether they are activated or not, they are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, and healthy fats. However, for those with gastrointestinal issues such as IBS, or anyone on a diet that is high in foods that contain phytic acid, activating nuts may help to improve digestion and nutrient absorption, especially when consuming large amounts.
And, always, consult a health professional when in doubt.