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Soak your nuts and seeds

Nuts are by and large good for us, and we use them in so many dishes, particularly if we’re vegetarian. So it might come as a bit of a surprise to learn we mightn’t be getting the most out of them. In fact, we might not be digesting them very well at all and not because we’re not chewing them enough either.

It turns out nuts and seeds have enzyme inhibitors that can put a strain on our digestive systems. You’ll know it when you feel stomach pain, and/or bloated and have gas!


The reason these enzyme inhibitors are there in the first place is to ensure the nuts and seeds don’t sprout prematurely. It makes sense: they benefit optimally from being in the right environment and time of the year to germinate and grow. These protective inhibitors are removed naturally when there’s enough water to sustain a new plant after the seed germinates. When we soak our nuts and seeds we release these enzyme inhibitors and make digestion easier by reducing phytic acid, which inhibits vitamin and mineral absorption. 


In short, when we soak, we mimic nature. The native peoples in Central America have long soaked their nuts and seeds, for example, the Aztecs would soak pumpkin or squash seeds in seawater and then dry them in the sun.


The how-to

  • Place the quantity of nuts/seeds you want for the particular meal in a glass jar or bowl with double the amount of either spring or filtered water, e.g., 2 cups of water for a cup of nuts/seeds. Optional: Add a little high-quality salt (sea, Himalayan), say 1/4 tsp per 1/2 cup of nuts. Leave on the bench for the appropriate soak time (see Specific Requirements) 

  • Drain and rinse very well. Discard the soak water.

  • Either refrigerate and eat within 3 days or use straight away either as is, in nut milks, vegetable blends, salads or whatever dish you’re preparing. If refrigerating, rinse with a little organic apple cider vinegar, which will clean them of any bacteria without being absorbed.

  • (optional) Soaked nuts/seeds can be blended or dried slowly (on a tray covered with cheesecloth in the sun or in a dehydrator or a very low-heat oven) and then ground into a meal.

  • STORAGE Buy seeds and nuts in small quantities because if kept too long they can turn rancid. Store them in a cool, dry place in airtight containers away from the light. In summer, it’s best to refrigerate them. Nuts in their shells usually store better and for longer.


Specific requirements




ALMONDS Soak at least 8-12 hours, or overnight.

Note: To make a nut milk, blend and strain pre-soaked almonds through cheesecloth.


BRAZIL NUTS Brazils have minimal amounts of enzyme inhibitors compared to other nuts so do not need to be soaked, however, they do have a rich, creamy flavour, so make good nut milks. For the best flavour, soak brazils overnight, strain the water, and then use, eg, in cacao smoothies.


CASHEWS If you can get the truly raw cashews, all the better. While they don't need to be soaked, if soaked 3-4 hours or overnight (no more than 6 hours) they will make an excellent cashew cream or milk when blended. And because they are one of the most addictive nuts, it might be best to limit them and only eat them when soaked and/or then blended into a cream and added to a green salad could be a real winner if they are hard to resist.


HAZELNUTS These nuts have lesser amounts of enzyme inhibitors and so don't need to be soaked, however, their flavour is greatly improved by soaking. So soak them 8 hours or overnight for a richer, creamier flavour that works well in nut milks and creams and smoothies.


MACADAMIAS These nuts are quite firm and remain unchanged when soaked so, therefore, do not need to be soaked but can be to soften them and to enhance their flavour. If soaking, 7 hours or overnight should do it.


PECANS Soak 8 hours or overnight


PINE NUTS Soak at least 7 hours or overnight


WALNUTS Soak 8 hours or overnight. Shelled walnuts are more susceptible to rancidity and so should always be stored in the fridge.




CHIA Ideally, soak chia seeds at least 8 hours or overnight (one tablespoon of seed to two cups of water). Soaked chia, which is gelatinous, can be eaten as is or added to smoothies and blends. Chia can also be sprouted as you would alfalfa and added to salads and sandwiches.


LINSEEDS Aka flaxseeds, linseeds come in two varieties: brown and golden. They have a very tough casing and if eaten whole will pass straight through you whole, along with all their nutritional value. They are best ground and added soaked (30 minutes) to smoothies or your breakfast mix, e.g., The Goop. Never cook linseeds or their oil (flaxseed oil) as the heat will render them unstable. Store in a cool and dry place. If ground, refrigerate.


PEPITAS (pumpkin seeds). Soak these at least 8 hours or overnight; allow them to just begin to sprout, rinsing every 4 hours.


SESAME SEEDS Soak at least 8 hours for hulled (white) and black; 4-6 hours for the unhulled (brown). At minimum, sesame seeds should be ground into a meal or eaten in the form of tahini in preference to eating them whole to improve absorption.


SUNFLOWER SEEDS Soak 6-8 hours for hulled sunflower seeds (light grey in colour)



chia seeds​​

Information on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional health care and medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without first consulting a qualified health care provider. Each person’s body is different and will react differently to various foods and herbs as well as vitamins and minerals. Use the information found on this website as precisely that: Information only.

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