Do I Really Have to Soak Almonds? Pros and Cons
Why Should I Soak Almonds
Almonds are seeds of an almond tree, before they are food for humans.
As seeds, they lie dormant until the right conditions trigger the nuts to sprout into tiny almond trees. By nature’s ingenious design, the skin of an almond seed contains protective elements (phytates) that preserve the seed and store its nutrients until favourable conditions allow it to germinate.
To humans, these protective elements are enzyme inhibitors, which is a fancy way of saying that unsoaked nuts are harder to digest.
Soaking almonds for 12 hours deactivates the enzyme inhibitors by tricking the nut into thinking that it’s time to sprout.
It also makes the nut taste sweeter and more creamy. Personally, I prefer to soak the almonds before turning them into almond milk, if I am organised enough to remember :).
Why Should I Eat Almonds Unsoaked
It is still way better to have some nutritious homemade almond milk for a snack, than some cookies. If I forget to soak the nuts, I just grab a couple of handfuls, toss them into a blender with some water and dates, and make the milk anyway. Slight difference in taste, but still a very healthy beverage.
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Is it ok to eat almonds unsoaked? According to my research — yes. The reason unsoaked almonds have a bad reputation is because phytates can bind with iron, zinc and other minerals, and can thus cause mineral deficiencies in the body. On the other hand, unsoaked almonds are still very nutritious and high in healthy fats, vitamins, protein and fibre. In fact, the indigestible fibre in unsoaked almonds gets all the way to the large intestine and helps carry out wastes. It’s like a good scrub for the walls of the colon.
Lisa Yates, a dietician who writes for the The Medical Observer, says that phytates are an important part of a balanced diet. I agree.
How Does Food Contribute to Health
If we look back to the history of mankind, we often survived on dried nuts and seeds (and grains!). Did we always pre-soak them?! Hm… 🙂 Our bodies know how to break down the skins of seeds, and even extract extra nutrients from them. A person who eats a diverse diet, with lot’s of different vegetables, roots, nuts and seeds is not likely to be mineral deficient.
When it comes to “healthy” eating, I personally do not subscribe to a particular label. I lean towards eating whole foods, mostly plant-based, with minimal processing, and as close as possible to the way our ancestors did it. I don’t just mean cave people. I mean, the way people stored, prepared and ate food over thousands of years, including hunter-gatherers and farmers.