Activated nuts, seeds and legumes

Digestion | May 19, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Digestion

Activated nuts, seeds and legumes

Nuts are a popular snack and rich source of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. Daily consumption of nuts is associated with lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes, and reduced cholesterol and blood pressure. Studies have also shown that nut consumption might even help lose weight.

Phytic acid and nuts

activated nuts phytic acid Nuts contain phytic acid, also known as phytate. It is a storage form of phosphorous in plants, including nuts, seeds, grains and legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils), and in lesser amounts in vegetables. Phytic acid has a wide range of health-promoting activities such as anticancer and antioxidant properties, as well as prevention of kidney stones and possible lowering of blood cholesterol and blood glucose.

The problem with phytic acid

Phytic acid has been called a food inhibitor and an antinutrient, because of its ability to bind to minerals, especially iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, resulting in poor mineral absorption in the body and possible mineral deficiencies.

If your diet is well balanced, the inhibitory effects of phytic acid on mineral absorption are probably very low, and consuming food with phytic acid does not seem to cause nutrient deficiencies.

There are, however, several methods of food preparation and cooking that reduce the inhibitory effect of phytic acid on mineral absorption and increase food digestibility:

  • Soaking

activating nuts beansOvernight soaking of legumes and grains activates enzymes in food that break down phytic acid and reduce its content considerably.

As phytic acid may leach into the soaking water, discarding the soak water and rinsing your beans is imperative.

Beans and other legumes also contain poorly absorbed sugars, called oligosaccharides, which are fermented by gut bacteria in the intestines, resulting in gas.

Soaking and rinsing dry beans before cooking, as well as rinsing of canned beans, can release these indigestible sugars and reduce excessive intestinal gas or flatulence. Soaking also shortens cooking time of beans and grains.

  • Germination

Germination is the start of growth in the seed, and is said to reduce phytic acid content by up to 40%.

Sprouting grains, nuts, beans and seeds is essentially germination, and can be done at home.

The sprouting process breaks down the seed, making it easier for the body to digest and absorb nutrients.

  • Activating

Soaking nuts begins the process of germination.Activating is the process of soaking and drying nuts before eating them for up to 24 hours in salted water at room temperature, then rinsing, draining, and drying them at a very low temperature in the oven (the lowest possible temperature) or dehydrator. Advocates of activated nuts claim that the process increases mineral absorption and digestibility.

  • Fermentation

Fermentation is one of the oldest forms of food preservation technology in the world, dating back to the beginning of human civilisation, long before technologies such as canning food or refrigeration were available.

It is primarily a biochemical process in which microorganisms (such as bacteria, yeasts and moulds) or enzymes convert sugar and starch to alcohol or lactic acid, which help preserve the foods.

You have probably heard of the term ‘probiotics’ – the type of good bacteria defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’.  Naturally fermented foods and beverages contain probiotic microorganisms that have been associated with many health benefits, including enhanced digestibility and increased nutritional value of a food.

Fermentation reduces the amount of phytic acid and increases bioavailability of minerals. One example is Sourdough fermentation. The higher acidity, together with the microbial activity, have been shown to break down phytic acid more effectively than yeast-fermented bread,

activated peanutsDid you know?

  • Peanuts aren't nuts at all. Like peas, lentils, soybeans and other beans, peanuts are legumes
    .
  • Some traditional cultures add a strip of the seaweed Kombu to soaked beans, as it contains the enzyme needed for digesting oligosaccharides, and enhanced their breakdown.

 

Do I need to activate my nuts?

Nuts – soaked or not - are very good for you. A handful of raw nuts each day should not be a problem for most people. However, if eating raw nuts upsets your stomach or you simply prefer the taste of activated nuts, then by all means enjoy eating them activated. Some people notice a huge difference in how they digest them activated.
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Hummus recipe

activated nuts hummusThis is a popular Middle Eastern dish, recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Ingredients

1 ¼ cups dried chickpeas (250 grams)

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons light tahini paste (270 grams)
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  •  Salt
  • 6 ½ tablespoons ice-cold water (100 milliliters)

Preparation

  1. Put chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
  2. The next day, drain chickpeas. In a medium saucepan, combine drained chickpeas and baking soda over high heat. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 6 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook at a simmer, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface, from 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
  3. Drain chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 cups (600 grams) now. Place chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Slowly drizzle in ice water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
  4. Transfer hummus to a bowl, cover surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using immediately, refrigerate until needed, up to two days. Remove from fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.

References

Battcock, M., Azam-Ali, S., & Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (1998). Fermented fruits and vegetables : a global perspective. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/x0560e/x0560e00.htm

Gupta, R. K., Gangoliya, S. S., & Singh, N. K. (2015). Reduction of phytic acid and enhancement of bioavailable micronutrients in food grains. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52(2), 676–84.

Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food Including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria. Available online: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/009/a0512e/a0512e00.pdf (accessed on 15 May 2017).

Marco, M. L., Heeney, D., Binda, S., et al. (2017). Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 44, 94–102. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2016.11.010

Ros, E. (2010). Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients, 2(7), 652–82.

Schlemmer, U., Frølich, W., Prieto, R. M., & Grases, F. (2009). Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 53(S2), S330–S375.

 

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