REAL FOOD 101: How to Soak, Sprout, and Dehydrate Nuts, Beans, and Seeds

REAL FOOD 101

Why do I go through the trouble of soaking nuts, beans, and seeds? Answer: Personal experience with better digestion. If there is one thing that is easier now that I am on GAPS, it’s that I only have to soak and dehydrate nuts, beans, and seeds, and not grains. With grains you have to get out your grain grinder and make flour, but with nuts, beans, and seeds you can just store them whole for snacking, or food process them if you need nut or seed flour for a recipe. But, in fairness, I do miss my sprouted flour dreadfully, so I admit that it’s worth getting the grain grinder out to have some if you can digest it well. When I am done with GAPS, I am already looking forward to some sprouted grain goodies!

I have found that if I soak nuts, beans, and seeds, then dehydrate them to their crispy state again, I tend to handle them better. It turns out that there is a good reason for this. If you soak or sprout them, then you not only neutralize enzyme inhibitors, phytic acid, and lectins, you also have prepared the nut or seeds for optimal absorption for your body. This is similar to sourdoughing grains for bread to make them more digestible.

In Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (buy Nourishing Traditions here, an excellent first real food book) it says:

The method for sprouting all grains and seeds is the same–only the length of time needed to accomplish full germination varies, depending on the size and nature of the seed.

So what is the difference between sprouting and soaking? Time. If you do well with nuts and seeds that are merely soaked in saltwater overnight, then dehydrated, then this is enough. Simply start the practice of soaking nuts and seeds overnight, then putting in a dehydrator the next day (or an oven set as low as possible) until crisp again. It does take a little planning ahead, but it entails very little active work at all. Plus, then benefit of simply soaking and dehydrating will increase not only your ability to digest the nuts and seeds you eat, but will increase their nutritional content significantly. I find that soaking overnight is enough for me to be able to digest nuts and seeds well.

If you need more digestive help, consider sprouting. Also, sprouting increases the nutritional profile of your seeds and nuts even more than soaking. This still begins with an overnight soak in saltwater, but continues for 1-3 days more depending on how long that particular nut or seed takes to sprout. You will know when time is up when you can see the sprouts growing. Remember that only truly raw nuts, beans, and seeds will sprout, so check your sources well. For example, in California there is a mandatory pasteurization process for nuts, so even though they are sold “raw”, they are not truly raw and will most likely not sprout. You can buy raw nuts and seeds here.

Why should you soak seeds, beans, and nuts? There are many reasons, the most convincing of which (to me) is that it is what our ancestors did. And they had a good reason. Again, from Nourishing Traditions (buy here):

The process of germination not only produces vitamin C but also changes the composition of grains and seeds in numerous beneficial ways. Sprouting increases vitamin B content, especially B2, B5, and B6. Carotene increases dramatically–sometimes eightfold. Even more important, sprouting neutralizes phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains [and in nuts, beans, and seeds] that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc; sprouting also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds. These inhibitors can neutralize our own precious enzymes in the digestive tractFinally, numerous enzymes that help digestion are produced during the germination process.

To simplify the process of soaking and dehydrating various seeds, nuts and (sometimes) grains, I found it worth my time and money to purchase a dehydrator. Dehydrators are more than just handy for making fruit leather and beef jerky, they can also aid with dehydrating all your sprouted beans, grains, seeds, and nuts. Plus, if you remove all the trays, you can use it for proofing and raising bread dough. I also use mine to make yogurt, because I can set the dial to a specific temperature. The icing on the cake for me though, if that dehydrators use very little energy. So I prefer my dehydrator to my oven or a yogurt maker. It’s very handy to have a multi-use appliance since it simplifies my life and saves energy for our planet.

REAL FOOD 101

In the summer, I put my dehydrator on a shelf on the back porch, and in the winter I leave it on a shelf in my kitchen. I own the 9-tray Excalibur Dehydrator (you can buy a full size dehydrator here), but you can also find smaller versions if you are pressed for space, though you may not be able to fit yogurt jars and bread dough into if it’s too small (you can buy a smaller dehydrator here).

Basic Soaking Process for Nuts, Beans and Seeds
4 cups of nuts, beans, or seeds (buy truly raw nuts and seeds here)
1 tablespoon of sea salt (buy unrefined sea salt here)
filtered water
half gallon glass jar
sprouting lid (buy sprouting lids here and/or here)
.
  1. Put the water and salt into a non-reactive bowl or a half-gallon glass canning jar. Stir to dissolve salt. Add nuts and stir. Cover with a sprouting screen or kitchen towel to keep dust and bugs out, but to also let it breathe.
  2. Soak for different amounts of time, depending on the nut. Generally, just soak overnight, 12-24 hours. You can also see the chart here.
  3. When the soaking time is over, drain the jar of all it’s water, either by pouring the contents through a sieve, or by using a sprouting lid. Rinse the nuts or seeds well by running filtered water over them a few times and draining.
  4. Now lay the nuts and seeds in a single layer on either a parchment-lined cookie sheet, or a dehydrator tray. If using a dehydrator, set to 120 degrees and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or 24 hours). If using an oven, heat to the lowest possible setting (usually 170 on most ovens; but go down to 150 degrees or lower if you can), and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or so.)
  5. Dehydrate at 150 degrees or less until completely dry and crispy, 120 degrees if possible.
Basic Process for Sprouting Nuts, Beans and Seeds
.
4 cups nuts, beans, or seeds (buy raw nuts and seeds here)
1 tablespoon sea salt (buy unrefined sea salt here)
filtered water
sprouting lid (buy sprouting lids here and/or here)
.
  1. Put the water and salt into a non-reactive bowl or a half-gallon glass canning jar. Stir to dissolve salt. Add nuts and stir. Cover with a sprouting screen or kitchen towel to keep dust and bugs out, but to also let it breathe.
  2. Soak for different amounts of time, depending on the nut. Generally, just soak overnight, 12-24 hours. You can also see the chart here.
  3. When the soaking time is over, drain the jar of all it’s water, either by pouring the contents through a sieve, or by using a sprouting lid. Rinse the nuts or seeds well by running filtered water over them a few times and draining.
  4. Place the jar, sprouting lid side down, to drain into a glass pie plate. This way the air can circulate and allow the seeds and nuts to sprout. Rinse 2-3 times per day until you see the desired amount of sprouting.
  5. Use as fresh sprouts as is, or now continue with dehydrating to return to a crispy state, if desired.
  6. Lay the nuts and seeds in a single layer on either a parchment-lined cookie sheet, or a dehydrator tray. If using a dehydrator, set to 120 degrees and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or 24 hours). If using an oven, heat to the lowest possible setting (usually 170 on most ovens; but go down to 150 degrees or lower if you can), and dehydrate until crispy (usually overnight or so.)
  7. Dehydrate at 150 degrees or less until completely dry and crispy, 120 degrees if possible.

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