I have always recommended nuts and seeds as healthy snack options. They contain a good ratio of protein/carbs/fat, and these fats are primarily essential fats (EFA’s) like omega 3’s and omega 6’s. Essential fatty acids are called essential for good reason. They are necessary for many metabolic functions and our bodies cannot manufacture them, which means they must be obtained through the diet. While there are other sources of EFA’s in the diet, such as from fish oil and free range meats and eggs, nuts and seeds are a more practical choice for snacking and on-the-go situations. Here are just some of the many roles that EFA’s play in our bodies:
i.Regulating blood pressure;
ii.Reducing pain and inflammation;
iii.Mediating immune response;
iv.Directing hormones to their target cells;
v.Regulating muscle and autonomic reflexes;
vi.Regulating the flow of nutrients in and out of cells;
vii.Transporting oxygen from red blood cells to the tissues;
viii.Keeping saturated fats mobile in the bloodstream;
ix.Reducing risk of allergic reactions;
x.Regulating nerve transmission, especially in the brain; and
xi.Being the primary energy source for the heart.
The problem with snacking on nuts and seeds is that most people opt for the roasted and salted varieties. And the reason this is not a good idea is because essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated, which means they are not stable enough to withstand high temperatures. So roasting them denatures the fats and renders them ineffective for the functions listed above. Denatured fats can also wreak havoc in our bodies and promote digestive issues and inflammatory conditions. What makes matters worse is that roasted nuts are typically doused in other polyunsaturated oils before heating and these oils are used for multiple batches, rendering them severely denatured or even rancid.
Eating nuts and seeds raw is a better option, but still not the best one. Raw nuts and seeds contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that can promote digestive issues. The best way to eat nuts and seeds is by soaking or partially sprouting them in sea salt water over night and then slow-drying them at low temperature in a warm oven or food dehydrator. The soaking process activates the enzymes that neutralize enzyme inhibitors. By using sea salt as opposed to iodized salt you are infusing the nuts and seeds with a full spectrum of naturally occurring minerals. This sprouting method imitates the ancient Aztec practice of soaking pumpkin or squash seeds in brine and then letting them dry in the sun before eating them whole or grinding them into meal.
Here is a simple recipe for turning raw nuts and seeds into a nutritious and tasty snack. While most nuts and seeds taste good prepared this way, my favorites are brazils, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and pumpkin seeds (pepitas). The walnuts contain the highest amounts of omega-3’s and finish with an almost buttery flavor. The pumpkin seeds are higher in protein and are rich in zinc. You can use whatever spices you want. I prefer using cinnamon on the walnuts and curry powder on the pepitas. As I said, you can use an oven or a food dehydrator. I have an Excaliber Food Dehydrator, which contains several trays for separate batches and makes this process much more convenient. Enjoy!
Crispy Nuts and Seeds
(makes 2 cups)
2 cups raw, hulled seeds or nuts
1 Tbsp sea salt (Celtic Sea Salt recommended)
1 tsp cayenne pepper, curry powder, cinnamon, or other spice
Dissolve salt in water in a glass jar or bowl (do not use plastic) and add seeds or nuts and spice. Make sure the solution covers the nuts/seeds. Cover and leave in a warm place or at room temperature for at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and spread on a stainless steel baking pan or food dehydrator tray. Place in oven or dehydrator at 135-150 degrees for about 12-24 hours until thoroughly dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.
This recipe is from an excellent cookbook called Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon.