If you tolerate nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and grains and want to keep them in your diet, you might still benefit from properly processing them. These protocols will make your foods more digestible, the nutrients more bioavailable, and reduce the anti-nutrient load.
As you may already know, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and grains contain bioactive plant compounds like anti-nutrients, hormone disrupters, oxalic acid, toxins, endogenous insecticides, and much more! These bioactive compounds can:
1. Reduce nutrient bioavailability - if you're eating nuts or any of these food groups because they are supposedly nutrient-dense, well, it's more complicated than that. Many of the anti-nutrients can steal or bind to minerals. This either steals them from you to benefit from or it can even create toxic compounds, like oxalate, inside of you. No thanks.
2. Inhibit digestibility - many of these foods contain bioactive compounds that actually inhibit your digestive enzymes. Phytic acid is in all of these foods and it inhibits the activity of phytase, which is a digestive enzyme. Also, no thanks.
Luckily, if you enjoy nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and grains, you can use the following protocols to process them before eating. Where did these protocols come from? The Weston A. Price Foundation has created many of the guidelines based on the work of Dr. Price who spent decades of his life observing and learning from different indigenous groups around the world. He discovered that human diets varied widely based on what was available in a given place and in a given season. The groups who ate nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and grains always PROCESSED them before eating. Now, modern science has revealed that these practices have a quantitative benefit. Magic.
PRO - Because these processing protocols wage war on the anti-nutrients in the foods, they can improve the nutrient bioavailability and the digestibility of the foods for your benefit. Yay!
CON - They are time-consuming. Some of the protocols are easy, some are more labor-intensive. Boo! I'll leave it up to you to decide which ones are worth the effort.
The primary concerns with anti-nutrients in nuts and seeds are oxalate and phytic acid.
What is phytic acid? Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient shaped like a hexagon with “little arms” extending from each of the six points. Once ingested, phytic acid uses its six little arms like magnets to grab onto minerals and protein which it carries out of the body, preventing absorption during digestion. It also inhibits phytase, a key digestive enzyme thereby reducing the digestibility of starches, proteins, and fats.
What is oxalate? Technically it is crystalline calcium salts of oxalate. They are found in plants and formed from binding with minerals. It binds to nutrients in your food, like calcium and magnesium, thereby interfering with absorption. It’s outright toxic - although unlikely, very high doses can kill a person. It can bio-accumulate in tissues and is suspect in regards to joint pain. It’s also implicated in kidney stones, which are on the rise in society.
Most nuts and seeds should be soaked to decrease the phytic acid and oxalate. Some nuts and seeds, like almonds, can be spouted IF they are truly raw. (PSA - Raw almonds usually aren't actually raw. They are pasteurized and unroasted. It turns out that the legal definition of "raw" for food labeling is kinda meaningless. Sigh.)
Soaking nuts and seeds in a saltwater brine (chlorine-free water with salt added) can leach some of the oxalates out into the soaking liquid. The soaking process also allows the phytase (natural enzyme found in nuts) to wage war on the phytic acid. This will deactivate a lot of the phytic acid. Yay!
Here are the protocols for nuts:
Almonds - sproutable if you get truly raw almonds
Cashews and macadamia nuts - they don't soak well. I recommend moderation of intake for cashews instead. For mac nuts, eat up! They don't have very many anti-nutrients anyway and are an EXCELLENT source of thiamin. Also, store these nuts in the freezer, they can go rancid easily. Roasting them can break down some of the phytic acid. So, lightly roasting either or buying roasted nuts are both great options.
Pecans, peanuts, and pistachios - 4-8 hours soaking in saltwater brine.
Hazelnuts - 6-12 hours soaking in saltwater brine.
Walnuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, etc.) - 8-16 hours soaking in saltwater brine. If you don't have sproutable almonds, they would need an 8-16 hour soaking time as well.
But wait! Now you have soggy nuts and seeds! So, you have to rinse them and redehydrate them or store them wet in the freezer.
Personally, I rinse redehydrate my nuts and seeds using a dehydrator. Roasting them in the oven at a low temp didn't work well (the nuts were still soggy AND kinda overcooked) and I ended up with a HUGE electric bill one month. Not worth it! So, the dehydrator will pay for itself in no time on electricity savings.
Notably, commerically-made nut butters are made with nuts (and sometimes seeds) that have not been soaked or properly processed. The same is true for nut flours (like almond flour), and also nut milk dairy-alternatives such as almond milk. These can be anti-nutrient bombs!
The key anti-nutrient in grains is phytic acid.
The best way to get rid of phytic acid in grains is to ferment them. That means sourdough bread. If you've ever had injera at an Ethiopian restaurant, you might already know that it's made from teff flour and it's traditionally fermented for a week. Again, ancestral practices involved PROCESSING grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc. The key here is making sure its properly fermented. Most commercial sourdoughs aren't even actually fermented. They simply add sour flavoring agents to the bread because the term "sourdough" isn't tightly regulated. So, see if you can find a bakery that actually sours their bread. The longer the fermentation time (24 hours or more) the more the fermentation process can degrade the phytic acid and unlock the nutrients for better bioavailability.
Notably, most of the phytic acid is in the germ and the bran of the grain. So, if you eat refined (white) flour, it will have a negligible amount of phytic acid remaining in it. It'll also have a negligible amount of nutrition left in it.
Brown Rice Protocol:
1. Soak brown rice in dechlorinated water for 24 hours at room temperature without changing the water. Reserve 10% of the soaking liquid (should keep for a long time in the fridge). Discard the rest of the soaking liquid; rinse the rice thoroughly and cook it in fresh water.
2. The next time you make brown rice, use the same procedure as above, but add the soaking liquid you reserved from the last batch to the rest of the soaking water.
3. Repeat the cycle. The process will gradually improve until 96% or more of the phytic acid is degraded at 24 hours.
There are THREE big issues with beans and legumes.
2. Phytic Acid
If you've been reading from the top, you already know about oxalate and phytic acid. So, what are lectins?
Lectins are found in green beans, peas, beans, legumes, and lentils. Once ingested, some lectins can bind to intestinal mucosal cells, inhibit nutrient transport across the cell membrane, and can cause epithelial lesions. Lectins are implicated in intestinal permeability issues. I like to think about them as Trojan Horses. They can signal to the tight junctions of the gut (these are like the fortress wall) to open the drawbridge (pass the gut barrier to enter the bloodstream) to be let in to wreck havoc inside the castle (in your bloodstream!) Sneaky little guys!
Soaking beans and legumes can help with the oxalate and phytic acid. And cooking beans and lectins until WELL-DONE is vital to help destroy lectins.
Beans and legumes have different soaking protocols as follows:
Black beans: 18-24-hour soaking time in 5.5 pH water
Lentils: 10-hour soaking time in 5.0 pH water
Fava/Broad beans: 10-hour soaking time in 5.0 pH water
Dried and split peas: 10-hour soaking time in 7-7.5 pH water
Brown, white and kidney beans: 18-24 hour soaking time in 7.0 pH (neutral) water
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