Let’s Talk Nuts & Grains

So, if nuts and seeds and grains and legumes are supposed to be so good for us why do they so often cause bloating and gas?

It’s a relatively easy question to answer: because they haven’t been prepared properly.

All of these foods have certain enzymes in them that our bodies can’t break down, especially one called phytic acid. And it’s these enzymes that cause us to bloat and toot and generally feel crummy.

Soaking your nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes in water is the secret to breaking down these enzymes and making these good-for-you foods easier to digest and love. Here’s the scoop on how to prepare each of these:

NUTS:

Soaking nuts is easy. First, be sure to buy raw nuts – you can now find them at virtually any grocery store, but be sure they are labeled “raw.” Put the desired amount of nuts into a glass bowl and cover with good quality water. Soak nuts overnight or for 8-12 hours.

After soaking, drain the nuts and rinse well. If you don’t intend to use the soaked nuts to make nut milk or nut butter then proceed according to the recipes that follow below.

Or, the soaked and drained nuts can be kept in your refrigerator for 1-2 days to munch on or to make into nut milk later.

If you want to keep them longer and make them crispier then you will need to dry them thoroughly. If you have a food dehydrator, follow the directions that came with it. If you don’t own a dehydrator you can use your oven instead. Set the oven to its lowest temperature, spread out the nuts onto a baking sheet into a single layer and pop into the oven. Prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon, and let the nuts dry overnight. Before you remove them from the oven  taste one to be sure they are completely dry – larger nuts will take longer to dry. Cool completely. Then store in a canning jar in your pantry for up to 2 months.

This same method can be used for seeds as well.

GRAINS & LEGUMES:

For grains like brown rice, millet, amaranth, or kasha soak them for at least 8 hrs. or, better yet, overnight. Then rinse them thoroughly and cook according to instructions. Your cooking time may be shortened due to the soaking so keep an eye on them.

For smaller grains like quinoa, split peas, or lentils you’ll only need to soak them for 2-3 hours, then rinse and cook as usual.

Legumes/Beans should be soaked for at least 12 hrs. then cooked with a piece of Kombu seaweed to continue to break down the enzymes that make legumes hard to digest., You can find dry Kombu at most stores these days, but definitely at Natural Grocer’s, Whole Foods, asian markets, etc. Use about a 3″ piece for one recipe of beans.

NUT MILK:
Makes 1 quart

Almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and sesame seeds all make great nut milks. You’ll need to soak your nuts overnight, then rinse them under cool filtered water before using.

1 cup soaked, rinsed  nuts
3 cups of filtered water
1 Tbs honey or 2 soaked dates (optional)

1. Add all ingredients into a good quality blender or Vita Mix. Process the mixture for about one minute.
2. Strain the milk through a nut bag – or, go to the hardware store and buy paint straining bags for a fraction of the price – gently squeezing the bag to extract the milk. I like to strain the milk into a large measuring cup then transfer to a quart-sized canning jar.
Nut milks will store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. They aren’t great for microwaving, and while a bit watery, they taste delicious and have no extra, unnatural ingredients.

COCONUT MILK:
Makes 1 Pint

1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups very hot water

1. Using a blender, process coconut and water on highest speed for 2-3 minutes.
2. Strain milk.
3. Put coconut pulp back into blender with 1/2 cup very hot water. Process on high for another 1-2 minutes.
4. Strain and store in refrigerator.

NUT BUTTER:
Makes 2 cups

2 cups nuts – almonds, peanuts, or cashews – soaked overnight and rinsed
3/4 cup coconut oil
2 Tbs honey
1 tsp salt – Celtic sea salts are the only salt you should use – you can easily find Redmonds brand at the grocery store these days

In a food processor or good quality blender such as a VitaMix, grind nuts and sea salt to a fine powder. Add honey and coconut oil and process until “butter” becomes smooth. It may be somewhat liquid but will harden when chilled. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (I use canning jars for storing everything. They’re glass, inexpensive, made in America, and are easily cleaned and reused).

So, there you have it. Nuts and grains that are good for you and won’t leave you feeling like a puffer fish. Now get out there and soak your nuts and grains.

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