Almond fanatics across the world will tell you that the best way to eat almonds is after soaking it, preferably overnight. Once the skin is pliable and slips off, the almonds are soft and easy to chew. From a health benefits perspective also, soaking these nuts can make a big difference. Let’s find out.
Ayurveda Suggests You Soak Almonds Before Eating
Ancient healthcare traditions like Ayurveda believe that it’s not enough to just eat a certain food to get benefits. It needs to be prepared right too.
When it comes to almonds, the standard practice in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine is soaking them overnight and having them the next morning.1 2
Ayurvedic practitioners believe that eating soaked almonds first thing in the morning can help regulate your stomach acidity. This aids protein digestion through the day, protecting you from heartburn and other gastric symptoms.
Soaking Increases Nutrient Absorption
Almonds are a powerhouse of nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and magnesium. Just 1 oz of almonds, which equals about 23 kernels, can yield:3
- 164 Calories
- 6 g protein
- 3.5 g fiber, making up about 10% of the daily fiber requirement
- 14.6 g fat, of which the bulk comes from the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
- 76 mg calcium
- 77 mg magnesium
- 136 mg phosphorus, making up about 19% of the daily requirement
- 12 mcg folate
- 7.27 mg vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
These nutrients are what give almonds their many health benefits from heart health to brain health. Almonds are also good during pregnancy, for both the mom and the baby. The nutrients, especially the minerals, however, are not absorbed effectively in the body if you eat raw almonds because of two types of inhibitory chemicals or anti-nutrients in almond skin. The anti-nutrients can also delay digestion.
- Tannin: Dry almonds contain a phenolic enzyme inhibitor in the skin, which actually protects the nut before germination. While tannin is a natural antioxidant, recent research suggests that this chemical, known as tannin, is linked with “decreased efficiency in converting the absorbed nutrients to new body substances.”4 What that means is that the absorbed nutrients in your body cannot be used properly. Tannin can also bind with proteins and make it difficult to digest them.
- Phytates: Like most nuts, almonds also contain phytic acid, yet another antioxidant, and phytates or salts of phytic acid. These have an inhibitory effect on enzymes like lipase, pepsin, and amylase, which break down fat, protein, and starch (carbohydrates), respectively. Phytic acid also binds (chelates) with essential mineral ions like calcium, iron, and zinc, forms insoluble salts, and hinders their absorption into the body.5 6 The phytate content is further increased when the almonds are fertilized with phosphate-based fertilizers.
Thankfully, both tannin and phytic acid are water soluble. So, once soaked, these chemicals leach into the water. This enables the release of nutrients. The stomach enzymes can also now work freely and the nutrients can be absorbed.7
In fact, a study found that the body can absorb 60% more magnesium and 20% more zinc when phytic acid is removed.8 Soaking also makes almonds easier to digest, even for people with a sensitive digestive system.
Not just almonds, it’s best to soak all nuts and seeds before eating them. However, remember that soaking can also drain off some of the water-soluble B vitamins.
Soak Almonds Overnight
Soak a handful of almonds in drinking water. The ratio should be 2:1, with 2 cups of water per cup of almonds. Let it stay overnight or at least 8 hours. You may or may not peel the skin the next morning. The anti-nutrients would have leached out by then. You may or may not add a dash of salt while soaking.
If you want to peel the skin, blanch the soaked almonds in warm water for easier peeling.9
If you want almond sprouts, which are considered healthier, dry the almonds and store them in the fridge for a couple of days.
Don’t Have More Than 1.5 Oz Almonds
If you are eating the almonds raw, the standard daily serving size, as per the FDA is no more than 1.5 oz, which is about 1/3 of a cup. Overindulging can give you unpleasant side effects like digestive issues and weight gain.
You can have the almonds raw, chop them and mix with your salad, or even use them as garnish for your oatmeal porridge. You could also grind them and mix with fresh milk, sugar, cardamom powder, and a few strands of saffron. This nutritious almond milk is considered an excellent coolant.
If you follow a specific carbohydrates diet, where some carbs (say those with gluten) are forbidden, you would probably opt for almond flour or any nut flour. As that means consuming a larger amount in a day, you should soak or roast your almonds to get rid of the phytate load and avoid lack of nutrition. Some experts recommend soaking the almonds for 18 hours in such scenarios. The same goes for people who have mineral deficiencies.
|↑1||Johari, Harish. Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2000.|
|↑2||Janick, J. ed., 2010. Horticultural Reviews, Volume 38 (Vol. 38). Wiley-Blackwell.|
|↑3||Basic Report: 12061, Nuts, almonds. USDA.|
|↑4||Chung, King-Thom, Tit Yee Wong, Cheng-I. Wei, Yao-Wen Huang, and Yuan Lin. “Tannins and human health: a review.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 38, no. 6 (1998): 421-464.|
|↑5||Zhou, Jin R., and John W. Erdman Jr. “Phytic acid in health and disease.” Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition 35, no. 6 (1995): 495-508.|
|↑6||Bohn, Lisbeth, Anne S. Meyer, and Søren K. Rasmussen. “Phytate: impact on environment and human nutrition. A challenge for molecular breeding.” Journal of Zhejiang University Science B 9, no. 3 (2008): 165-191.|
|↑7||Chen, Chung‐Yen, Karen Lapsley, and Jeffrey Blumberg. “A nutrition and health perspective on almonds.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 86, no. 14 (2006): 2245-2250.|
|↑8||Torre, M., A. R. Rodriguez, and F. Saura‐Calixto. “Effects of dietary fiber and phytic acid on mineral availability.” Critical Reviews in Food Science & Nutrition 30, no. 1 (1991): 1-22.|
|↑9||Loux, Renée. The Balanced Plate: The Essential Elements of Whole Foods and Good Health. Rodale, 2006.|