We all know nuts alone provide a natural source of goodness such as protein, fibre and vitamin E. But have you heard of activated nuts? If you're wondering what on earth activated nuts are, don't worry, it’s quite simple!
WHAT IS ACTIVATION?
“Activation” is a traditional method of food preparation and preservation developed by many indigenous cultures around the globe, notably the Incan and Mayan cultures. It is commonly used to prepare nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and beans. The process is simple; the food in question is first soaked in water (often salted) and then dehydrated – historically in the sun, but in more recent times in purpose-built dehydrators that maintain specific temperatures to preserve nutrients.
The soaking process is used to induce germination; water is absorbed resulting in the rehydration and expansion of cells, which leads to the resumption of metabolic processes such as cell respiration, along with other structural changes in the plant embryo. Essentially, we are “activating” the life in the dormant nut. This sprouting process breaks down phytic acid, which is present in the outer coating of many of these foods and impairs the absorption of some minerals.
The dehydration process is then used to capture the enlivening transformation and preserve the just-activated state and all the nutrients that have become available.
Whilst there is little in the way of solid scientific evidence (yet) that activated nuts, seeds, and other foods are healthier or more nutritious than their raw form, there is no doubt that activation greatly enhances the flavours and textures of the food, and the gratification and comfort provided in the eating!
HOW DO WE ACTIVATE OUR ALMONDS?
Activation is what occurs when raw nuts have been soaked in a salt water solution for a period of time – usually a minimum of 7 hours and up to 24 hours. This soaking stimulates the early germination and sprouting process within the nut (or seed, legume or grain).
Once soaked, the almonds are dried out in low heat to ensure the natural enzymes are not destroyed.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ACTIVATED ALMONDS?
Nuts are delicious little bundles of goodness just as they are, with almonds standing out as a super-nut. So why do we need to activate them?
Nuts are full of enzyme inhibitors that prevent them from naturally sprouting in dry conditions. After eating large amounts of raw nuts, these enzyme inhibitors can put extra pressure on your digestive system and may cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating, heaviness and nausea. Activation of almonds can help to break down these inhibitors, which releases the enzymes and makes nuts easier to digest and gentler on the stomach.
Nuts also contain Phytates, also known as Phytic Acid, which is a natural compound found in plant seeds (nuts, seeds, legumes etc.). Phytates bind to and impair the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc. During soaking the presence of water releases phytase enzymes, which break down phytates and release the minerals for the plant to use. So in theory, this means we should also be able to absorb these minerals better.
However, it is important to note that Phytates are a good example of a nutrient that is both good and bad, acting as an antioxidant in the body - so don't be afraid to keep some raw nuts in your diet!
HOW TO USE ACTIVATED NUTS?
Aside from the health benefits, activated nuts are so much crunchier and lighter than their raw counterparts. This makes them a fantastic snack on their own, or as an addition to antipasto platters, trail mixes, mueslis and salads. Or have a go at a bit of kitchen DIY, and create homemade activated nut butters and milks!
Try this Quinoa Summer Salad recipe with activated almonds!