Did you know there is more than one way to eat a nut? I know what you’re thinking, a nut is a nut is a nut. Who cares if it’s raw or roasted? And what the heck is an activated nut?
Well, in this post we’ll dive a little deeper into the world of preparing nuts and why it’s so important to understand the difference, but first…
Tree nuts are a great source of both macro and micronutrients, essential for a healthy lifestyle. However, raw tree nuts also contain enzyme inhibitors, to prevent them from sprouting prematurely, namely phytic acids or phytates.
Once digested, the phytate in raw nuts, which cannot be digested by humans as we do not have the phytase enzyme, binds to minerals, particularly calcium, iron, and zinc, but also magnesium and manganese, preventing us from absorbing them in the gastrointestinal tract. Phytate has been described as an anti-nutrient for this reason. (If you want to read more about phytate read here and here). Diets high in phytate are thought to cause iron deficiency (see here).
As well as binding to minerals, phytate is also thought to inhibit digestive enzymes such as pepsin (here), trypsin (here) and amylase (here). This is why large quantities of raw nuts can be hard to digest.
These are nuts that have been de-shelled and packaged. Other than cashews (which are heated to remove toxins in the shell), there is nothing else done to them.
Any food that is heated above 46ºC, it no longer considered raw.
The second most common form which nuts are sold in is roasted. But why roast a perfectly good nut? Because nut producers can hide the freshness and add salt to create a more addictive product (here). It’s also thought that roasting releases some of the phytates making it easier to digest, but not enough research has been done on this topic.
Also, roasting nuts destroys the living enzymes (here).
If you prefer roasted nuts it’s important to note that when you buy roasted nuts it says, dry roasted. Certain “roasted nuts” are deep fried in saturated oils to lower the costs of roasting. But this actually turns it into an unhealthy snack! You have been warned, always check the ingredients label.
Is simply soaking the nut in water for a period of time and then drying them to remove the water so they won’t form mold. This is the best way to release the phytates and thus making it easier to digest and absorb more of the nutrients. Although not commonly known this has been done for centuries, with seeds, beans, and grains.
An oven, dehydrator or even leaving it in the sun are methods used to dry soaked nuts.
This is obviously more expensive, due to the extra time and energy required, but may have more health benefits especially if you consume a lot of nuts each month.
If you consume a handful of nuts a day then raw is the way to go. If you are a vegetarian and consume more than the recommended serving size each day, dry-roasted or activated is the way to go, the latter being the healthier but more expensive option.