Sally Fallon from WAPF suggests eating nuts and seeds only after they have been de-skinned, sprouted and dried, because of enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. If they, as she suggests, place such a great strain on the digestive system, then why do paleo eaters include them on their list of acceptable foods?
When I prepare pecans, almonds, etc. the WP way (soak in brine for 7 hours, then dry in a food dehydrator) I find that they are less gassy and easier to digest.
I don't think it's the phytic acid (IP6) though. Everybody's afraid that IP6 prevents minerals from being absorbed. Graf and Eaton fed radioactive minerals combined with IP6 to mice, and found that the IP6 did not affect absorption (Effects of Phytate on Mineral Bioavailability in Mice). IP6 is actually in most foods, even animal foods, to varying degrees and seems to be an essential metabolite used to handle iron and other minerals.
So it must be something else in the nuts that makes them hard to digest. I've never seen a good explanation of what that is. I suspect it is the indigestible carbs a.k.a. dietary fiber, and that soaking removes or alters some of those.
My take is that nuts and seeds have less toxins and antinutrients than grains and legumes, enough to make a case for them in moderation when properly prepared. Some paleo eaters judge them on that basis, others simply by how long we've been consuming them -- by that standard, nuts and seeds have been around longer, which puts them higher on the list of acceptability.
I think that the less you muck with what you eat, the better it is. I can't see myself soaking nuts in brine or whatever before eating them. If you are going to eat nuts, just eat them and if they scare you, leave them alone.
As a kid I remember eating grape pips and throwing the grape away. Have no idea what brought that on. I have also always liked picking the white part out of apple seeds and eating it. It's probably poisonous or something, but it hasn't killed me yet.
I don't think we should be concerned about it. I have seen on numerious places benefits of IP6. Here is my response on Chris Kresser's site: http://goo.gl/2f1pE
The quotes are from the "Phytate: impact on environment and human nutrition".
Anti cancer properties are also known. Bill Sardi wrote about it in the article "The Overlooked Cancer Cure From Japan"
This has to be a personal decision based upon
a) how sensitive you are to nuts, and
b) how often you eat them.
I don't feel any reaction when I eat nuts, and eat them in small quantities now and then, so I don't soak. My friend has a gassy reaction when she eats nuts, and she likes them a lot, so she soaks them, dries them in the sun on her patio, then roasts them. For her, it's worth the effort.
P.S. That same friend and I collected some wild almonds and wanted to shell and treat them. Bad idea. Luckily we only ate 6 or 7 before finding out that their bitterness is none other than cyanide.
I don't think any prep is necessary at all if you can digest them. People have been cracking open tree nuts and enjoying them for ages. I don't buy the phytic acid/anti-nutrient arguments. Can anyone produce a single human who has gotten a proven mineral deficiencies from eating too many raw nuts? Cracking open fresh nuts is part of the whole experience...I'll take mine raw and fresh with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Downsides to nuts? Sure -- some people like my husband get itchy throat from raw almonds/hazelnut and especially walnuts. Dry roasted are easier for him to tolerate. He also has trouble digesting raw nuts. I can eat a pound in a sitting with no issues -- he'd be doubled over in pain. Nuts are typically very high in arginine which can provoke a herpes/cold sore outbreak in susceptible people. Ditto for chocolate. Solution? Balance with higher lysine foods or supplement with lysine or limit portions or even abstain until outbreak is over.
Dr. William Davis( heart scan blog doc) eats raw almonds and hazelnuts and scans himself -- so if there were issues with the phytic acid pulling calcium from bones and depositing in arteries, I'd think he'd know. He is against heating the delicate oils in nuts -- I tend to agree. He also posted a response on his blog about how raw nuts are not as fattening as roasted or nut butters -- much is carried out in your poop. Raw nuts help keep me regular -- but binging on too many can have the opposite effect. Because I have a hypothyroid condition, I would not eat lots of raw walnuts -- I'll indulge a little, but not the way I would with other nuts. Too bad because I love walnuts.
For those looking for a great online source - I've been very happy with the service from nutsonline. We've purchased the shelled organic hazelnuts; inshell non-organic (wish they were organic but dig cracking the shell too much to worry about it; truly raw organic almonds from spain -- amazing -- organic whole raw macadamia nuts; raw organic shelled walnuts (they threw these in as a free sample -- would've preferred in-shell) plus assorted dried fruits and some baked treats for hubby. Excellent customer service; excellent product -- and they always include a generous free sample with your order.
I have been doing some research and although I have been avoiding nuts because of the very fact that I have no desire to soak and then dry them, I think it is actually worth it, the nutrients (vitamin B's and C) increase, so some sources say ten-fold, and the 'anti-nutrients' whether phytic acid or cyanide :) decrease markedly.
I think it is actually also very important to source the freshest nuts possible by cracking your own nuts from the shell. I read that the fats in nuts go rancid very quickly, so the fresher the better.
I think that paleo man would have utilized every food source he could find, and I am sure that he would have eaten nuts in the autumn, (a damp time of year - perfect for soaking them?) after all, they are delicious aren't they?
I think I will start to eat them, but only when I can find them fresh and whole in the shell from local markets or even directly from the walnut tree at the end of our village and I will then soak them for at least 12 hours and then dry them by the fire (no roasting in sunflower oil).
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