Soaking raw nuts, seeds, legumes and grains before processing or cooking significantly improves nutrient profiles. Why? Because they are biologically designed to germinate and grow into a plant. Many of the healthy enzymes are locked until ideal conditions activate their release. Also, as they absorb water, they become softer, and easier to digest, which maximizes nutrient absorption in your body.

I purchase in bulk, soak in salt water for 24 hours, and store in large bags in my freezer. Then, everything is ready when I am ready to cook. Plus, buying in bulk is cheaper, which makes a huge difference if you like cashew cream! If you don’t have a local source, check online. Be sure to search for “raw” and “organic,” as roasted, boiled and irradiated products won’t sprout, though soaking can still neutralize the anti-nutrients.

If you want to take it a step further, allow nuts, seeds, legumes and grains to sprout. Soak in salt water for 24 hours, rinse and drain. Keep them in a large bowl or jar with lots of surface area to avoid pools of excess moisture.Cover with a screen or towel. Shake them regularly and rinse at least twice a day. Sprouts will form in 1-4 days, depending on size and nature of the seed. Sprouting releases a fat-burning enzyme called lipase which means sprouted nuts and seeds are even sweeter…no added sugar required! The germination process also produces vitamin C, and increases vitamin B and carotene content. Phytic acid is neutralized and aflatoxins (potent carcinogens) are inactivated. (Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that inhibits absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.) Finally, complex carbohydrates and proteins are pre-digested, and numerous enzymes are produced that aid in digestion.

Not everything can be soaked or sprouted easily, and I am not religious about this practice. Nuts and beans are a no-brainer in my house. Sometimes I let them sprout, but I always at least soak for 24 hours. Storing them in the freezer keeps life simple.

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