Digestion | May 19, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
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.
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.
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 several methods of food preparation and cooking that reduce the inhibitory effect of phytic acid on mineral absorption and increase food digestibility:
Overnight 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 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.
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 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,
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.
This is a popular Middle Eastern dish, recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi.
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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).
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