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Why You Should Prepare Your Nuts and Seeds
Make the most of nuts and seeds and their optimum nutritional benefits by activating them. Confused? CNM natural chef Cheryl Thomson explains...
If you have ever attempted a raw vegan dessert or other healthy baking treats, you will most likely have come across the instruction to soak the nuts and seeds prior to using them in the recipe. This can seem like a bit of a hassle, especially when you want to make the dessert now, not in eight to 12 hours time. I was often tempted to forego the soaking time, but I’ve learnt there is good reason not to. Throughout the CNM Natural Chef course at the College of Naturopathic Medicine, emphasis is placed on the importance of proper preparation of our food, and how essential some of the traditional processes such as soaking and sprouting are to ensure optimal digestion.
Nuts and seeds are extremely nutrient-dense and provide good sources of protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre and essential fats, as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Hazelnuts and almonds are particularly good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which acts as a nerve protector and immune enhancing antioxidant. Nuts do have a high fat content, and as a consequence a high calorie content. However, they are made up primarily of monounsaturated as well as some polyunsaturated fatty acids, both of which are essential fats required for good health.
Get maximum nutritional benefit
In order to benefit from the nutrition that nuts provide it is important for us to know how to prepare them properly. This is because plants contain their own protective mechanisms, which include numerous enzyme inhibitors as well as toxic substances such as phytic acid, which binds with the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, thereby blocking their absorption. In nature these mechanisms would keep the plant safe until conditions are right for germination. Unfortunately, in a human being they place a huge amount of strain on the digestive system unless suitably prepared.
How to soak nuts
The best way to eat nuts and seeds is soaked and (if appropriate) sprouted. After soaking they can also be dried in a warm oven or dehydrated and eaten raw, or gently roasted. The process of soaking in salted filtered water overnight activates enzymes that neutralise the inhibitors, making the nuts easier to digest and their nutrients to become more available. An internet search on the topic will reveal various tables with soaking times for each particular type of nut or seed. However, a general rule of thumb is to soak all hard nuts and seeds overnight, while nuts like cashews require no more than about 6 hours of soaking time. Place the nuts or seeds in a glass bowl or jar and cover well with filtered water. For each cup of nuts or seeds add a teaspoon of sea salt. Soak them overnight and in the morning drain and rinse very well. The nuts and seeds are then ready to be used in any number of ways.
Make your own nut milk
Try making your own nut or seed milks, which are super-nutritious and a great alternative to dairy-based milks. One cup of almonds (soaked overnight in salted water and then well drained as above), blended with three to four cups of filtered water (depending on how thick you like the milk), and a pinch of Himalayan salt, then strained through a nut milk bag, will make a delicious creamy milk perfect for making porridge, smoothies, or in your favourite hot drink.
CNM Natural Chef Students learn how food can promote and support health, how to prepare delicious gourmet meals that focus on nutritional value, and how to build a successful culinary career.
CNM is the College of Naturopathic Medicine, training students in a wide range of natural therapies naturopathy-uk.com
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