Somewhere in the history of food preparation and fine dining, the world of nuts and seeds got relegated, roasted and salted, to the sidelines.
Still a staple at cocktail parties, receptions of any sort, and weekend sporting events, they receive a nod as a good source of protein and fat. Some people wince at the mention of “fat.” Mostly, though, nuts and seeds remain a frequently enjoyed snack food to be popped into the mouth and crunched as an adjunct activity — not eaten with the same attention enjoyed by a meal. The reality is that nuts and seeds are valuable foods in many ways, and are more supportive of good health than you might have imagined.
All plants, nuts and seeds included, contain protein. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, parsley, collard greens, arugula, and all contain 30-50% protein. Other good-quality sources of protein include bee pollen, sea algae such as spirulina, chlorella, and blue-green algae, cacao, goji berries, and sprouts.
Nut and seeds are excellent sources of protein, as well as well as polyphenols, plant sterols, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Regular consumers of nuts and seeds are more likely to meet recommended intakes for vitamins A and C, folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and fiber.
1-2 ounces per day of a combination of any of the following nuts and seeds – almonds, cashews, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds will assist all your efforts at good health and vibrant living. About half of the daily intake should include those high in omega-3s, such as walnuts, and hemp, flax, and chia seeds.
A partial list of the benefits of nuts and seeds includes the reduction of heart risk, longevity, cancer prevention, weight loss, and brain health.
So, the nutritional benefits of nuts and seeds abound, particularly when they are eaten raw, unroasted, which raises another often asked question, “Do you soak your nuts and seeds?”
Soaking raw nuts and seeds stimulates the process of germination, which increases the vitamins C, B, and carotenes (pre-vitamin A) content. It may also neutralize phytic acid, a substance present in the bran of all grains and seeds that can inhibit some absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc.
“What?” you may ask. The idea of soaking nuts and seeds may seem too time-consuming and endeavor. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Some of the many nutrients will not be heated out of them, such as protein and fiber. Still, if you’re interested in maximizing the nutrient benefits, as I am, here are a few guidelines for soaking.
Getting Ready – Use raw, preferably organic, nuts and seeds. Make enough for three days only. Use a glass or stainless steel bowl or jar (plastics may contain toxins). Rinse what you’re going to soak in the best water you have – purified or distilled are best.
Soak Them – Place the nuts and seeds in the bowl or jar and then cover it with a towel or piece of cheesecloth – something breathable. My preference is to use a plastic mason jar cover that is designed with a grate on the top. They are available in health food stores and at amazon.com. Look for “sprouting jar lid.” Let them soak for the following approximate times at room temperature
Almonds 8-12 hours
Cashews (whole) 2 ½ hours
Sesame seeds 8 hours
Sunflower seeds 2 hours
Walnuts 4 hours
All other nuts 6-24 hours
During the soaking, drain and rinse the nuts and seeds 2 or 3 times. Make sure the water runs clear each time, especially for those that have longer soaking times.
Afterward – When the soaking is completed, you will have germinated nuts and seeds. This means that if you were to plant them, you might get a tree. You will have live food in its absolute most nutritious state, ready for you to enjoy. The leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For more longevity, you can dehydrate them, but we’ll leave that story for another day.
In any case, find ways to enjoy more nuts and seeds in your food plan. They can be added liberally to salads, blended into dressings, made into milks, or used in other recipes. Here are some of my favorites.
Boost your health with nuts and seeds!