Veganism has skyrocketed in recent years, with more people than ever exploring the benefits of a plant-based diet.
According to a recent survey by comparethemarket.com, 7% of the population now identifies as vegan, which means millions of people might rely heavily on nuts and grains as a major source of protein.
So when the trend for ‘activating’ your nuts became a thing, it certainly piqued our interest. Is this a better way of consuming nuts, and what’s so great about them anyway?
We spoke to a nutritionist to find out more about activated nuts.
What are activated nuts?
Before you panic and wonder if you’ve been eating nuts all wrong, the term ‘activated’ actually sounds a lot fancier than it is. They’re basically regular supermarket nuts that have been soaked in water and salt for around seven-12 hours, to stimulate the early germination and sprouting process.
Once they’ve been soaked, the nuts are then dehydrated at a low temperature for about 24 hours. You can either ‘activate’ your nuts yourself at home, or let someone else do the hard work for you and buy them from a health food shop, pre-activated.
What are the benefits of activating your nuts?
Raw nuts are loaded with protein, fats, fibre and important minerals like zinc, magnesium and calcium, but many health experts believe that they also contain natural chemicals that can stop you from fully absorbing the nutrients effectively.
When nuts are placed into water, the soaking begins the germination process, which causes a compound called phytic acid to break down.
“Phytates in nuts can bind with minerals including iron, zinc and calcium and have the potential to inhibit their absorption,” says Rob Hobson, head of nutrition from Healthspan (healthspan.co.uk). “The idea is that the process of ‘activating’ your nuts reduces phytates and potentially increases the bioavailability of the nutrients in the food.”
Ever suffer from bloating and heaviness after eating a nutty salad? Well there’s good news there too: “Once sprouted, it’s thought that the nuts are a little easier to digest,” adds Hobson.
So should you be activating your nuts?
“If you’re eating a balanced diet with plenty of highly nutritious foods, the impact of phytates should be minimal, but this can still be an issue for anyone with mineral deficiencies, such as iron,” says Hobson.
“Buying activated nuts from the supermarket is more expensive than non-activated nuts, so the question is whether they are worth the price tag. Nuts are healthy regardless and are a good addition to the diet. Also, the impact of phytates is likely to be minimal if you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet. ”
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How to activate nuts
If you want to keep costs down, here’s how you can make some DIY activated nuts at home.
1. Place 250g of plain nuts in a large bowl and cover completely with water and 2tsp of salt.
2. Soak for up to 12 hours until they start to sprout.
3. Strain the nuts and remove the excess water.
4. Slowly roast the nuts on a very low heat (65°C) in an oven for six-24 hours until they’re completely dried out.