Nuts and seeds: activated!
Ever wondered what it means when nuts or seeds are activated? We find out what it’s all about and how to do it at home from a raw food expert.
Activating nuts and seeds prior to eating them has become popular in health and wellness circles as well as a topic of interest for foodies and culinary experts. It’s no surprise why, because it can be a super tasty way to maximise the nutrition you get from these valuable, nutrient-dense foods.
If you don’t know what it means to activate your nuts and seeds, you’re not alone. It simply means to soak them in water to the point that they’re almost germinating. Then you dehydrate them until they are completely dry, often using a dehydrator. However, if you don’t have a dehydrator or you want to bring out even more flavour from the nuts or seeds, you may instead decide to lightly roast them.
Nuts and seeds contain many different nutrients: they’re packed with essential fatty acids, magnesium, riboflavin, niacin, selenium, folate, and vitamin E. Their natural oils are in their whole form, giving your body a healthy resource to improve longevity.
Nuts and seeds also contain phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. These compounds are essential for the nuts and seeds, because it prevents them from germinating too soon and wasting the seed (which can go on to grow a new plant). However, it is believed that phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors can make it difficult for our body to assimilate many of the beneficial nutrients. There’s a great deal of controversy around this idea, but it’s safe to say that you’ll unlock a greater number of benefits by activating your seeds and nuts first because this helps to break down phytic acid and reduce the enzyme inhibitors.
The taste test
If you’re a dedicated foodie, the experience and enjoyment of your food will be the priority. Appearance, flavour, texture, and smell must each play their part for a tantalising result. Activated nuts and seeds offer their own unique flavour. If you taste them fresh out of the soaking water, they’re surprisingly succulent and almost sweet, retaining their nuttiness beautifully. However, the moisture-retaining nut or seed is not a joy for everyone.
Freshly soaked nuts and seeds lose their richness because the oil content is greatly diminished by the fullness of the moisture. Fortunately, this aspect of the taste only lasts until you dehydrate them. Once the water is fully evaporated, you can season and serve nuts and seeds as you normally would. They’ll taste the same as if they were not activated, although you’ll notice the shape is slightly more elongated and perhaps see the start of a white sprout pushing through at the tip.
Give it a try! Here’s how
It’s easy! You simply soak your nuts or seeds in salt water (a teaspoon or two of salt or bicarb soda will do), then dry them out. The times just vary a bit depending on the nut or seed.
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, pine nuts, and hazelnuts can be soaked from eight hours to overnight. Cashews only require a very brief soak, no more than three hours, as they will turn slimy if you leave them too long.
For the same crispy crunch you enjoyed prior to soaking, dehydrate most nuts for 12 to 15 hours; however, almonds need about 24 hours to ensure they don’t go mouldy. If you are using an oven, set the temperature to the lowest it can go and, using the fan, leave them for about the same time, or until they are completely dry and crunchy.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are quite straightforward. Simply soak them overnight in salt water (sunflower seeds won’t need more than 12 hours) and then dehydrate for 12 to 24 hours (or similar on the lowest temperature in the oven). They’re usually deliciously crunchy after 12 hours, sometimes even less.
Cover image: Anton Maksimov on Unsplash