This post is dedicated to all things nutty. With numerous health benefits, nuts and seeds make a great addition to a heart-healthy, whole foods diet.
Nuts are one of the best plant sources of protein, and they’re rich in fiber, phytonutrients and antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium. Nuts are also high in plant sterols and fat – but mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 – healthy fats) which have all been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. These bite-sized super foods help us control our weight, protect our hearts and improve the health of our cells!
The healthiest way to prepare and enjoy nuts:
Raw nuts contain enzyme inhibitors which help to protect the seed and keep it from germinating too early and dying off. When introduced into the body, these enzyme inhibitors actually neutralize the enzymes in our own digestive tract exhausting the pancreas. This explains why so many people say they have a hard time digesting nuts. If you’ve had tummy trouble with nuts in the past, don’t give up on them just yet!
Soaking nuts is a simple way to make them more digestible. In the soaking process, enzyme inhibitors are neutralized, phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of vital minerals, is reduced and the amount of vitamins your body can absorb increases.
Purchase raw nuts from your local health food store or farmer’s market, then soak them in room temperature water and 1 tablespoon of sea salt overnight. Next, dry them off and spread them out over a cookie sheet and roast them at 100-150F for about 8 hours (turning occasionally), or until they are nice and crunchy again (Some people use a food dehydrator instead of an oven.). You want to make sure the nuts are completely dry before storing to prevent mold.
When roasting your nuts, keep in mind that low and slow is best. Roasting nuts at a temperature higher than 170F will cause a breakdown of their fats and the production of free radicals. This is why we should avoid buying roasted nuts from the grocery store, and stick to raw. When nuts roasted at the high temperatures are consumed, the free radicals they contain can cause lipid peroxidation (the oxidizing of fats in your bloodstream that can trigger tiny injuries in artery walls), a first step in the build up of plaque and cardiovascular disease.
Besides being a bit time-consuming, the only downside to preparing nuts in this way is that they do not stay good as long once the enzyme inhibitors are destroyed. You may want to store them in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain freshness as long as possible.
Nuts are great as a stand-alone snack, in salads, smoothies, stir-fry or over yogurt. You can soak and roast almonds, walnuts and pecans all together, and then add coconut shavings, carob chips, raisins and other dried fruits to make a delicious and fresh trail mix that your family can enjoy for the next week or so.
Are nuts a staple in your family’s diet?