By now, most people are aware of the many health benefits of nuts — but activated nuts? Now, that's a foreign concept to many of us. Of course, once you hear about the benefits of activated nuts, you'll think twice about those raw pecans.
What are activated nuts?
We don't blame you if you first question was "What are activated nuts?" But don't worry, the name implies the process is a lot trickier and complicated than it actually is. In fact, you can make activated nuts in your kitchen by leaving them in salt water for seven to 12 hours. Doing so stimulates the germination process, dietician Robbie Clark told HuffPost Australia.
The next step is dehydrating the nuts at a low temperature, roughly 150 degrees Fahrenheit, for 12 to 24 hours before eating. You can enjoy your activated nuts once they're completely dry. However, this process makes the nuts more susceptible to mold, so you want to consume them pretty quickly. If you accidentally eat moldy nuts, don't panic — just keep an eye out for symptoms.
What are the benefits of activated nuts versus raw nuts?
If that sounds like a lot of work just to eat a snack that was already edible to begin with, we hear you! However, the point of activating your nuts is to reap all their health benefits — something you won't necessarily be able to do with raw nuts.
"Soaking the nuts, grains or legumes increases the nutrient value of the food, along with breaking down the problematic compounds that help enhance their digestibility," Clark explained. "Eating large amounts of raw nuts may place extra strain on your digestive system and may cause things like bloating, cramping and nausea. By activating your food, you can not only enhance absorption of nutrients but improve digestion."
That all sounds lovely, but what are these "problematic compounds" in nuts that Clark is talking about? Well, dry nuts contain a substance called phytic acid. The concern with phytic acid and phytates is that these compounds bind to minerals like iron and zinc and slow their absorption into the body.
Of course, this isn't enough of a reason to throw away all your raw nuts. After all, a handful of pecans can still reduce your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease — phytates and all. Besides, phytates are in so many fruits and veggies that you're probably already consuming them without noticing any ill effects.
"It's really not as simple as 'phytates are bad,'" dietitian Chloe McLeod said. "Phytates can also have some really positive health benefits. They do have some anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and may help with reducing blood glucose levels and kidney stones." McLeod adds that while phytates can slow absorption, vitamins and minerals in other foods you eat can help your body soak up a raw nut's nutrients without having to soak it first.
Is it worth it to activate your nuts?
Ultimately, it's not necessary to activate your nuts in order to harness the nutrients in raw nuts. After all, you've probably been eating raw nuts your entire life without noticing any issues. And most experts will tell you that raw nuts are better than no nuts.
However, if you have time to activate your own nuts or can afford to buy them at the store, why not give them a try? You may find you prefer the taste of activated nuts, as the soaking often removes the nuts' inherent bitterness. Plus, you can still substitute activated nuts for raw nuts in any of your recipes.
Whether you end up soaking your almonds or you stick with the raw version, one thing's for sure: We're totally nuts about nuts.