Activating nuts & seeds. The what, the why and the how.
Anyone who follows a food related instagram feed, Facebook page or blog will undoubtedly by now have come across people mentioning their activated seeds or nuts. In fact it became a bit of a hot topic in Australia recently when Pete Evans admitted to being an ‘activator’ – this of course invited all sorts of commentary (negative and positive) from every camp. Now let me preface this post by saying that whilst I am an experienced activator of nuts and seeds my way is not necessarily the perfect way. I have simply formed my own habits based on lots of research and feedback from others. If you google this topic you will find conflicting commentary for example on how long (or whether in fact you would) soak a macadamia or a cashew.
No one will dispute the fact that nuts and seeds are a really valuable addition to our diet. There are however mixed opinions regarding how we should eat them. Many would say roasting nuts and seeds removes their nutritional value, others would prefer theirs raw. Increasingly though there is a lot of valuable information suggesting that activating is the best way to consume them. I know from experience (and particularly given I have a compromised digestive and immune system) that it is very important that I activate. If I sat down to a bowl of unactivated nut/seed granola I would suffer awful tummy pain. For me, there isn’t another option, it’s just what I do.
So what is activating? Activated nuts and seeds have been made bio-active by a very simple process of soaking in salted water for a pre-determined period of time, draining them and then dehydrating them at a very low temperature in the oven or dehydrator. Nuts and seeds contain what is called phytic acid which prevents them from sprouting prematurely and stores lots of important nutrients. According to research when we consume phytic acid it reduces our body’s ability to absorb these nutrients. They also contain enzyme inhibitors which force the body to work over time to produce the enzymes necessary for digestion. I understand that this process alone ages us because our bodies have to work so hard to digest (I’m activating!).
Soaking nuts and seeds begins the process of germination thus breaking down the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. This in turn make the nutrients a lot more readily available. There is also research to suggest that soaking your nuts and seeds for long periods of time actually increases their nutritional value.
Ok. So I am going to outline my soaking and dehydrating process with a few different nuts and seeds. As I said you will read varying opinions on soaking times so my word is not gospel! I do however hope that this summary helps you on you way. You will need salt, bowls, (ideally) filtered or spring water, an oven or a dehydrator. When soaking simply make sure that your nuts or seeds are covered by the water and leave them on a bench for the determined period of time. If using an oven it must be on the lowest temperature possible, ideally on the pilot light. If using a dehydrator I believe around 50 is good. You do not want to cook them, you simply want to dry them out. Its always best to do a heap at once because I appreciate this is a lengthy process. I fill my dehydrator to the brim. So look at dehydrating a good 2-4 cups of each food type.
Walnuts, Pecans, Peanuts, Pine nuts, Hazlenuts
Soak: Salted water (1-2 teaspoons), overnight (or approximately 8 hours)
Dehydrate: 12-24 hours or until noticeably dry and crunchy
Soak: Salted water, overnight
Dehydrate: 12-24 hours. In my experience almonds take longer than the other nuts, for me around 15 hours. You really need to make sure they are very dry otherwise you will notice them going mouldy very quickly.
Soak: Salted water, 3-6 hours. Be careful with cashews – they can go slimy if left too long so keep an eye on them
Dehydrate: 12-15 hours
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Soak: Salted water, overnight
Dehydrate: 12 -24 hours, typically i find 12 hours to be enough.
As with pumpkin seeds though typically I find they are well and truly ready within 12 hours.