The Importance of Soaking Nuts & Seeds

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How and why to soak nuts and seeds- a guide
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Nuts and seeds can be a terrific nutrient-dense snack or addition to a meal, but like grains and legumes, they can also contain substances that interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Just as the process of soaking, sprouting or fermenting grains reduces the anti-nutrient content and makes them more beneficial to the body, the simple process of soaking nuts improves their nutrition.

Enzyme Inhibitors in Nuts and Seeds

Like grains, raw nuts (and especially raw seeds), contain moderate levels of phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid is biologically necessary for the plant, as it helps safeguard the nut or seed until proper growing conditions are present and germination can occur.

These enzyme inhibitors prevent the seed from sprouting prematurely, but can cause potential problems in humans by binding to nutrients in the body and contributing to nutrient deficiencies and digestive system irritation.

Seeds and nuts store phosphorus as phytic acid and it becomes a phytate when it binds to a mineral. In the body, this process can stop nutrients from being absorbed in the digestive system and reduce the digestibility of these foods.

In other words, just because nuts and seeds are considered good sources of protein and nutrients, doesn’t mean your body can absorb these nutrients. All plants contain phytic acid in some levels, but grains, legumes, nuts and seeds typically contain the highest levels.

It is also important to note that phytic acid may not be entirely bad, but the dose makes the poison. Modern diets high in processed grains and low in nutrient dense fats and minerals may increase the likelihood of nutrient absorption problems and make it even more important to reduce phytic acid levels in food.

Research is finding that phyic acid in certain levels may have a protective effect in the body and a secondary messenger role in cells. It seems that in order to provide this beneficial effect, it must be balanced by certain fat soluble vitamins and other nutrients and the person must be able to absorb these.

This is why it can be helpful to reduce the phytic acid content of seeds and nuts and make the nutrients more available and this step is especially important for young children who are still developing the enzymes to break down these plant foods (ever seen undigested nuts, grains or seeds in a toddler’s stool? This is partially due to their inability to digest certain proteins and nutrients in these foods).

The Importance of Soaking Nuts and Seeds

Some phytic acid is naturally neutralized during the digestive process, but foods that are especially high in phytic acid benefit from the process of soaking (and sometimes sprouting) and dehydrating to further reduce the anti-nutrient content.

Soaking in a simple mineral solution (like salt) and low-temperature dehydrating helps to break down much of the phytic acid and make the nutrients in nuts more available to the body.

While many traditional cultures naturally soaked or sprouted seeds, this step is hardly ever taken with large scale production since it is time consuming. It is, however, simple and inexpensive to do at home and can greatly increase the nutrient content of the seeds and nuts you consume.

How to Soak Seeds and Nuts

There are two parts to soaking nuts and seeds: warm water and salt.

The warm water will neutralize many of the enzyme inhibitors and increase the bioavailability of many nutrients, especially b-vitamins. The salt helps activate enzymes that deactivate the enzyme inhibitors present in nuts.

When soaking grains or beans, a more acidic substance is often used, but since nuts and seeds contain less phytic acid than grains/legumes but more enzyme inhibitors, the salt is more beneficial.

Within 7-24 hours (depending on the seed or nut), many of the enzyme inhibitors are broken down. At this point, a dehydrating process beings to return the nuts to a crisp texture. I’ve found that nuts that have been pre-soaked taste much better and don’t end up undigested in little ones diapers.

What You Need:

  • 2 cups of raw, organic nuts or seeds (it is better to soak one kind at a time)
  • 3-4 cups of warm filtered water (to cover nuts)
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

What to Do:

  1. Place the warm water in a medium bowl or jar (half gallon or larger). Add the salt and let dissolve.
  2. Add the nuts or seeds, making sure they are completely submerged in the water.
  3. Leave uncovered on the counter or other warm place (not the refrigerator) for at least 7 hours, preferably overnight.
  4. Rinse in a colander and spread on a baking sheet or dehydrator sheet. Bake in the oven at the lowest temperature (150 F is optimal) or dehydrate until completely dry. This step is important, as any remaining moisture in the nuts or seeds can cause them to mold. Dehydrating time can often be up to 24 hours, so a dehydrator simplifies the process but isn’t necessary.
  5. NOTE: If you plan to use nuts or seeds to make homemade almond milk or any other variety, this is the optimal time, as they are already softened. This is an important step in the homemade nut milk process as the enzyme inhibitors are mostly removed and the nuts are already softened to make a more creamy milk.

A Step Further: Sprouting

Sprouting goes a step further from soaking and reduces the levels of enzyme inhibitors even more. Often, products sold as sprouted nuts and seeds are merely “activated” by the process of soaking, but certain seeds can sprout after several cycles of soaking, rinsing, and giving exposure to air to allow germination.

Raw pumpkin and sunflower seeds are the best candidates for sprouting, and some nuts like pecans and walnuts will not sprout. If you want to add this additional step, soak the seeds with the process above. Then rinse and follow the normal sprouting process until sprouts occur. This will only work with non-irradiated seeds and only certain varieties. This step does further reduce enzyme inhibitors, but except for those with digestive problems or severe nutrient deficiencies, this step is not often necessary and soaking alone is sufficient.

To Soak or Not to Soak?

Not all nuts and seeds can be easily soaked. Flax and chia seeds gel when soaked and are very difficult to work with. For any nuts or seeds that can be soaked, you’ll have to weigh the benefits and see if the process is worth the time investment for you.

Personally, I like this step simply because the seeds and nuts taste so much better once they are soaked and it makes the nutrients more available. If you consume a lot of nuts or seeds, this process may be especially helpful to you, as the higher levels of enzyme inhibitors may be more problematic. Soaking and dehydrating organic raw nuts and seeds also creates an end result similar to roasted nuts, but without the added vegetable oils or high temperature roasting that can damage the nutrients and enzymes in these foods.

High quality pre-soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds are now available (I personally like this brand), but you can accomplish the same end result by soaking your own at home. It takes a little time investment, but is well worth the taste and nutrient benefits in my opinion.

Do you have any experience with soaking nuts and seeds? What method do you use?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


141 responses to “The Importance of Soaking Nuts & Seeds”

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Since sesame seeds have high levels of phytic acid and lignans in the hull the best option is to buy already hulled sesame seeds, which do not need soaked.

  1. Mary Seeck Avatar
    Mary Seeck

    Mary I do not have an oven nor dehydrater, only a microwave and air fryer. How do I dry off walnuts after soaking them using what I have?

  2. Susan Avatar

    As in researching about walnuts and walnut butter, I’m learning about this process. It seems like I need to soak walnuts overnight and then slow roast. Then I would need to put them in the food processor. I don’t want to sound lazy, but I don’t have energy for all this.

  3. Sam K Avatar

    Is there any way to get rid of at least 90% (preferably closer to 100%) of the salt after soaking with the salt?

  4. Silvia Avatar

    Hello, Can I soak seeds, that is: chia seeds, black sesame seeds, hemp and flax in coconut yogurt overnight and then eat the seeds in the same yogurt the next day? If yes, can mixture of seeds + coconut yogurt be soaked in fridge overnight? Or does this result in phytic acids being kept in yogurt mixture, thus defeat purpose?

    Or, for seeds is it best to soak seeds in water + salt, remove excess fluid after soaking, bake/dehydrate in oven or dehydrator prior to eating? Thank you!

  5. MC Schlosser Avatar
    MC Schlosser

    I’d like to soak walnuts, but my oven’s lowest temp setting is 170*. Do I have to buy a dehydrator or can I put the nuts in the oven at 170* for a shorter period of time?

    1. Pam Avatar

      The correct temperature for dehydrating soaked foods is 115 degrees or LESS. Higher than that, and the living enzymes are killed off.
      Once the nuts/seeds are soaked, they become a live food.
      If you choose to put them in the oven at 170 degrees, you will lose the increased nutrient profile that you tried to gain by soaking.

    1. Pam Avatar

      Only if you prefer the texture of soaked nuts. Or if you are making a sauce with them, as they will blend easier when soaked.

  6. Megan Dawson Avatar
    Megan Dawson

    Hello! I just purchased a bunch of bulk ingredients to make granola, including raw sliced almonds, chopped pecans and pepitas. I have now read a few articles about soaking and would love to try. Do you think it will work with the chopped and sliced nuts?? Or should they be whole?
    Thank you!

  7. Kevin Munro Avatar
    Kevin Munro

    Hi Wellness Mama

    I am curious as to how much water cashews absorb when soaked for 1 hour? Can you please guide me here? Thanks in anticipation.


  8. Katie Avatar

    The Importance of Soaking Nuts & Seeds: It would be great if we could get additional information on this. didn’t show anything on a search and I’d really like to know more. Daily I use a number of seeds in my morning protein shake. I portion the various seeds for the shake and soak them overnight. >>>>>I haven’t been draining the liquid from the seeds, does the enzyme inhibitor remain in the liquid?>>>>> Or have the enzyme inhibitors been sufficiently released so drinking the liquid the seeds were soaked in (as a small part of a large drink) doesn’t matter? I typically grind the seeds, then soak them overnight in the fridge and then add the eggs, protein powder, additional liquid, etc when ready to consume. I could try to drain the whole seeds after soaking, but certainly not the ground-seeds.
    >>>>>>>>>But if I don’t need to drain the liquid, I’d prefer to just leave it. Where can we go to learn more details, or to get specific questions answered?

    I truly appreciate the information you’ve provided and the many comments over the past four years, but I’d like to learn more! Thnx 😉

    1. Pam Avatar

      Yes, you DO need to drain the soaking water. It holds the phytic acids that you were trying to remove from the nut/seed. If you are drinking the soaking water, you may be defeating the purpose of soaking, depending on your system and how your body absorbs nutrients, because although it is has been removed from the nut/seed, you are still consuming the phytic avid expelled in the water.

  9. Kaydee Avatar

    Ok, so I’m totally new to this soaking/sprouting business. After buying a copy of Nourishing Traditions I have turned my kitchen into a fermentation station and my husband jokes about all my little “science projects”.
    My question is, can I still get some benefits out of soaking roasted nuts?
    Or do I need to just get over it and order the dang raw nuts online? ??????

    1. Pam Avatar

      Once nuts are soaked, they become a live food. When exposed to temperatures above 115 degrees, the enzymes activated from soaking will be killed off. Therefore, roasted nuts will have already been exposed to high heat, and the (additional) nutrients and enzymes killed off. The only benefit you will gain from soaking roasted nuts would be a change in texture.

  10. Ruth Avatar

    Hello, how long should I soak sunflower seeds? And should they be billed or unhulled? And if I dry it in the oven for 24 hours will it raise my electricity bill significantly? I also do not have a dehydrator.

  11. Dee Dee Avatar
    Dee Dee

    I received a container of a raw nut and seed mix that contains sunflower seeds, cashew pieces, walnut halves, and pieces and pecan halves. Can I still soak and dehydrate these? If so, how long should I soak for?

    1. Pam Avatar

      Yes you can soak and dehydrate. Be sure to check that your container does not contain extra oils or salt. If the only ingredients listed are the nuts/seeds (and not listed as ‘roasted’) then soaking will be beneficial.

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