One thing I try to get across to people is that nutrients within a food are important - but how your body assimilates those nutrients is arguably more important. Because if your body isn't able to extract the nutrition from a food, then it's really not "nutritious", is it?
Certain factors come into play here, like:
Are all components of the GI tract working as they should? (Read here for 3 things you can do for your gut health today.)
Some nutrients can impair absorption of other nutrients, while others can enhance absorption and efficacy
(Side note: this is my biggest problem with multivitamins, supplements and powders that contain "all the things". A long ingredient list doesn't necessarily make a product superior - it might not be doing what you think, and you might not be getting what you thought you paid for. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but let's blame science on this one.)
components of food that interfere or block absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in the food
*This is what I'll be talking about today.
Lots of foods contain anti-nutrients. In my Fueled+Fit book I go into more detail on these foods and what to do about it. For the purpose of today's blog, I'm going to focus on nuts and seeds.
Nuts and seeds contain phytic acid, as well as enzyme inhibitors.
Phytic acid, or phytate, is a form of phosphorus found in plant foods. When consumed, it impairs the absorption of minerals, like iron, zinc and calcium. Enzyme inhibitors also bind to nutrients and irritate the digestive system.
So while almonds, for example, contain calcium, the anti-nutrients also present in almonds can prevent your body from accessing that calcium.
I'm not telling you this to instill food fear. You're not going to die if you eat almonds, okay? I'm telling this to inform you, so you can then make an informed food decision. Keep in mind that phytic acid isn't inherently bad...but like with anything, the poison is in the dose. So if you eat foods high in phytic acid often enough (and many of us do), it may lead to mineral deficiencies and digestion problems. This may be especially true for young children who are still developing the enzymes to break down these foods.
Here's the good news:
Soaking nuts and seeds in a mixture of warm water and salt reduces the anti-nutrient content, and makes nutrients more available to the body. Since we eat a lot of nuts in my house, I take care to do this often. My 2 year old loooves snacking on nuts, seeds, nut butters and snack bars (like these and these). Since she gets these foods kind of a lot, I do my best to be sure the majority of them have been soaked.
So, you soak the nuts overnight - up to 24 hours - and then dehydrate them to make them crunchy again. You don't have to have a dehydrator. You can do this in your oven. In my opinion, they taste way better this way, AND you get to chomp on crispy nuts without having to suck down the sketch oils that are in all roasted nuts. Ballerific.
Soaked and Dehydrated Nuts
2 cups raw nuts or seeds (my favorites are almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds - but I don't soak them all together)
4 cups warm filtered water (enough to cover the nuts in a bowl)
1 Tablespoon salt
Combine everything in a bowl. Be sure water has completely covered the nuts because they will plump up.
Allow them to soak 8 hours (overnight) up to 24 hours. The water will be murky and gross (see below). Totes normal.
Drain and rinse the nuts.
If you have a dehydrator, bomb. Use that. If you don't (I don't), you can use your oven. Turn it down to the lowest setting. 150 degrees or lower is ideal. Mine only goes down to 170, so that's the temperature I use.
Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Put in oven. Let them dehydrate for 8-12 hours. This process might actually take longer if you're using much lower heat. Mine take about 9 hours to get super crispy at 170. You'll know they are done when they are crunchy (you want them totally dried, or else there's potential for them to get moldy). Since I've got the oven going all day, I'll usually do a few batches at once, since that makes the most sense. Or do a batch of kale chips at the same time. Work smarter, not harder, amiright people? I store in a glass container with a tight fitting lid in the fridge. Store in freezer for longer keeping.
Peace, love and crunchy nuts. XO