Active and delicious – why activated nuts are good for you

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Arabella Forge is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist with a Masters Degree in Dietetics. She is also the author of the cookbook, Frugavore: how to grow your own, buy local, waste nothing and eat well. Arabella is a food writer and regular contributor to The Melbourne Review, and Fairfax Media and a regular host for channel 10’s It’s a Lifestyle TV and A Taste of Travel.

I love activated nuts! They are crunchy, crisp and delicious. They also add a unique dimension to any meal – be it your breakfast muesli, salad mix or store in your-office-drawer-snack.
Nuts are an extremely nutritious snack – they contain a variety of important nutrients such as calcium (found in almonds), magnesium, vitamin E and fibre. They are also an excellent source of protein and healthy fats – such as mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fatty acids.

The process of ‘activating’ nuts imitates a natural sprouting process – the nut is pre-soaked for usually 7-12 hours then left to dehydrate. This process decreases levels of anti-nutrients such as phytic acid. Phytic acid is a compound that is found in the hulls of all nuts, seeds, and grains, which can bind to important minerals, such as calcium, iron, and zinc, and can limit their absorption in the body.

If you purchase raw nuts, it’s easy to activate them at home (see recipe below). The soaking and dehydration time can take up to a day, however the actual preparation time and labour is less than a few minutes.

Activation is a cooking method practiced by several hunter-gatherer groups. Nuts, seeds and grains were often pre-soaked or fermented for a period of time – in the case of nuts they were usually soaked in a salty medium such as seawater, and then left to dry or dehydrate out in the sun to become crispy and hard.

Modern-day activation imitates this practice by pre-soaking with salt water in the home kitchen and dehydrating in an oven or dehydrator. Once activated, the nuts can be eaten just like raw nuts – added to muesli, salads, or kept in a jar as a tasty snack.

If you are gluten-intolerant, another handy trick is to make your own activated nut flour. This is easy to do with a basic food processor – you only need to grind the nuts into a smooth, flour-like consistency. The nut flour can then be stored in a zip lock bag in the fridge or freezer (where it should keep for up to several months).

Raw or activated – nuts still remain one of the most convenient and nutritious snacks. Nuts can be stored in jars in your cupboard, packed up into lunchboxes for work, or even fumbled into your handbag as a quick pick-me-up-nibble.

Quick & Easy Nut Activation Recipe:
2 cups raw nuts*
2-teaspoons sea salt
filtered water

Place the nuts in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with water. Add the salt and stir until dissolved. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to rest on your kitchen bench for 12 hours or overnight.

Drain the nuts from the water and rinse well. Spread the nuts out on a baking tray or in a food dehydrator and place in the oven or dehydrator at 40-50 degrees. Leave to cook for 12-24 hours or until they become crispy without any moisture.

Activated nuts can be stored in the cupboard for several weeks. If you grind them into a nut flour it is worth storing them in the fridge or freezer.

*This recipe works well for all nuts excluding cashews. Cashews need only be soaked for 5-6 hours (they go slimy if soaked for longer). It is also difficult to source raw cashews.