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.


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

  1. Steve K Avatar

    I usually soak almonds and then either make milk out of them or store in fridge for snaking but I was wondering if the pasteurized almonds sold as “raw” have less phytic acid because of the pasteurization than truly raw almonds.

  2. Stephanie Avatar

    Hi Katie – I’ve tried searching for answer to this question and the internet doesn’t seem to have one so I’m soliciting your opinion 🙂 Nut prices have gone up so dramatically and I’ve noticed that Wegman’s carries three “healthy” varieties of nuts (like walnuts and almonds): 1) raw, unroasted 2), organic, and 3) raw and organic. The pricing for #3) is getting ridiculous so I was wondering what the second best option is…. going with raw, or organic?

  3. Dee Avatar

    If I’m going to use cashews in a recipe where they will be ground/blended into a sauce, do I need to soak them and dehydrate them or will just soaking them do the job?

  4. Mike Harmon Avatar
    Mike Harmon

    Recently in a group on fermentation it was brought up to do a honey and nut ferment and one reader questioned why to soak the nuts. I refered to them this article and was wondering how you feel about doing a nut ferment? WOuld it do the same as soaking? More?
    Many thanks,

  5. Victoria Avatar

    I eat a lot of nuts and seeds so I will try the soak method. I want to replace coconut for some of the nuts and was wondering if that is good, equal or not a good substitute for protein. I want to add more protein but I have a sensitive digestion.

  6. Pinta K Avatar
    Pinta K

    Is dehydration process part of storing the nuts for better self life after soaking or deactivating enzymes itself? I do not have access to oven or dehydrator, can I eat right after soaking nuts for respective times and rinsing. For example, soak them daily for daily intake. Is it enough for better absorption of nutrients?

    Besides, Is adding salt important? How do you soak ground flex with salt? Currently, I soak ground flex in water overnight and eat it after workout. Should I add salt in it? What is the quantity ratio per one tsp of ground flex to salt?

  7. Jan Cook Avatar
    Jan Cook

    I recently learned that I need to cut back on foods that are high in oxalates and that includes many nuts, legumes and other seeds. Has anyone researched whether soaking would reduce the oxalate content? It seems like it might.

  8. Charlotte Avatar

    Should I do this with sprouted quinoa too? If not what is the best way to get rid of the saponin coating and cook it?

  9. Cindy Avatar

    While it’s best to rinse all grains before cooking, pre-washing is especially advisable for quinoa in order to remove the bitter saponin coating on its outer hull that sometimes remains after processing. To do so, simply run cold water over quinoa in fine-meshed strainer, rubbing the seeds with your fingers. (Avoid soaking quinoa, however, as saponins can leach into the seeds.) After rinsing, place quinoa and water in a covered pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the grains become translucent and the germ appears as a thin white ring around each grain. Fluff with a fork.

  10. nicola Avatar

    Hi. This might be a silly question. But if you sproated pumpkin or sunflower seeds would you then still dehydrate them afterwards?

  11. Diane Avatar

    I have read that there are no truly raw Almonds sold commericially in the United States. They have been pasteurized (required by law)and you should not soak them because they will get soggy. Yet I still see people are soaking raw almonds. I would appreciate some information on this.

    1. Betty Avatar

      Look on website. She has a group buy once or twice a yr. & you can get TRULY raw almonds.

  12. Doreen Avatar

    Hi–love your site Katie! thanks so much.
    I do not feel comfortable leaving my gas oven on overnight. Would the oven light being on be warm enough to dry out the nuts? How long would that take?

  13. Carol Avatar

    I don’t have a dehydrator, and my oven only goes as low as 180. Should I just spread them out on a cookie sheet & put that on my seedling mat? That is where I ferment my Keifer & Kombucha. I have it in the living room that has a wood stove. If not, how should I dehydrate after soaking?

  14. kathy Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    Do you remove the skins of the almonds after they are soaked? I see in your photo that there are no skins on the almonds. Thanks for all your healthy advice!

  15. Sandra Avatar

    Hi Katie, Would you soak macadamias? I read macadamias and hazelnuts are low on phytic acid, so I am wondering if they are an exception. Thanks Sandra

  16. Emily Avatar

    Do you know if soaking and then dehydrating flax seeds gives the same benefits as eating immediately after soaking?

    I like to use ground flax as a topping on oatmeal and yogurt, in smoothies, etc. I’ve heard that dehydrating after soaking negates the benefits of soaking. Can you weigh in on this?

  17. Cori Avatar

    My husband and I were just talking about how soaked almonds taste so much better! Yum:) Crunchier and even a better flavor! I’ve been soaking souring grains for almost two years now but have just started to religiously soak our nuts too! It really helps to buy in bulk and soak and dehydrate them all (usually a 3 lb. bag) and put extra in the freezer to keep fresh. It works awesome!

  18. shrav Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    Would like to that’ll a million for giving us such an awesome healthy natural ways of living. Could you please tell me what salt should we use sea salt or normal salt. And I do not have oven or dehydrator how should I store the nuts after soaking and rinsing. Thanks Katie

  19. Theresa Castillo Avatar
    Theresa Castillo

    I have heard not all need to be soaked. I do soak pinto beans and the like. Almonds also, but do you soak split peas? I heard that those did not matter. I have never soaked cashews or pumpkin. These are already shelled. Is that how you soak them? So many questions.

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