Feature

Soak and sprout it

Green Lifestyle Magazine

Activated nuts and sprouted greens may seem like recent additions to the foodie lexicon, but the ancient processes offer a wealth of modern health benefits.

Soak and sprout it

Easy to digest and nutrient rich, a bowl of sprouts is great for your health.

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At what point does the modern diet cross the line from fresh and wholesome to over-processed and, well, a little bit uppity? If television’s regular menu of cooking programs is anything to go by, simple ingredients and short cooking times are much more palatable than vegetables you’ve never heard of and spending hours over a hot stove.

So it’s no wonder the Twittersphere went into overdrive after celebrity chef Pete Evans’ recent admission that he enjoys a diet littered with super foods, including the much maligned activated almonds.

But the soaking processes required to activate an almond – or any other nut or sprout, for that matter – are in fact centuries old. And the health benefits are nothing to be tweeted at.

Activate your almonds
Most nuts, seeds, grains and legumes contain an enzyme inhibitor that keeps them from sprouting into a plant. When the conditions are suited to growth – that is, there’s ample soil and water – the enzyme inhibitor is destroyed and the seed can begin to sprout.

Activated nuts and seeds are fast-tracked to this post-germination state. They are soaked in water for 12-24 hours, which triggers the breakdown of stored carbohydrates and protein, and helps a seed to grow. Think back to petri dishes in high school science class and you’re on the right track.

“Activating essentially means sprouting,” says naturopath Hayden Keys from Happy and Healthy Wellbeing Centres. “But it should really be termed de-activating because that is the purpose of it. Grains, nuts, seeds and legumes need to be soaked or sprouted to de-activate enzyme inhibitors naturally found in these foods.”

Activated nuts are often dried again so they appear crisp – but not noticeably different to raw nuts – while grains, seeds and legumes will sprout into miniature plants. Alfalfa sprouts are one of the oldest and most common varieties, but sprouts can be grown from lentils, wheat, sunflower seeds and corn just to name a few.

A gutful of help
Many people have trouble digesting grains, nuts, seeds and legumes – for which there are a range of theories – but because sprouts and activated nuts no longer contain enzyme inhibitors, they’re easier to digest and nutrient-rich.

“By doing this to the food it makes it easier to digest because it’s already breaking itself down,” says Keys. “Less metabolic energy is needed for digestion, freeing up more energy for healing, detoxifying and other beneficial processes.”

While the evidence for sprouted grains, seeds and legumes is mounting, the benefits of activated nuts over raw nuts aren’t as clear. However, all nuts are a great source of protein, fibre and healthy fats.

“There is little research on activated nuts – most of what we know about sprouting comes from research into grains and legumes,” says advanced accredited practising dietitian Lisa Yates from Nuts for Life. “So long as everyone eats a handful of nuts a day, activated or not, they will be getting a range of health benefits.”

Do it yourself
Activated nuts and sprouts are available in health food shops and some supermarkets, but making your own is easy, cost effective and will help reduce your carbon footprint.

“Wash the nuts, grains, legumes or seeds, then drain them and put them in a bowl,” says naturopath Lisa Costa Bir. “Next, fill the bowl with three times as much water as seeds and soak them overnight, preferably somewhere dark like a cupboard. Try to eat them quickly as they don’t keep well.”