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Cuisine Food Profiles

Acorn Benefits for Health – (You Read That Right!)

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Ever wondered what acorns taste like? No? I expected that, but today we’re going to explore some acorn benefits that might surprise you, and maybe inspire you to give them a try.

It’s October and officially the start of our journey into winter… Autumn. Many people don’t like this time of year, despite the colours and the magic of it all, we know that there’s a long Winter up ahead. Personally, I love it! The variety, and the rainy weather, and the colours, and also the harvest…

What harvest? Well I’m so glad you asked, because there is a surprising variety of things to forage for in the Autumn. One none other than the humble acorn itself!

And before you ask, no, I’m not “nuts!” (get it?)


Acorn Benefits, Intake, and Side Effects

Scientific Name: Quercus (Robur, Rubra, Velutina… all others), Lithocarpus

Family: Fagaceae

Distribution: Great Britain, Europe, The Americas, Parts of Africa and Asia.

Identification: Red stems and (sometimes slightly
reddened) palmate sets of leaves, divided in 3. Distinctive bright
pink flowers appear throughout Spring, Summer, and Winter.

Nutritional Composition*: B-Vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9), Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Copper, Zinc, Magnesium, Manganese, Omega-6, Omega-9 Carbohydrate, Fat, Protein (Limited Information Available*)


Fun Fact: The (re)rising popularity of eating acorns has its own name! Acorn eating is also called “Balanophagy”.

In the past, acorns were once an appreciated food source. They have been used in World War II by the Japanese as an alternative to rice, by the almighty Ancient Greeks (especially the Arcadians) (^), and extensively by the (super) tough Native Americans!

Now, some people enjoy them roasted, as a coffee alternative, and even ground as a useful, healthy flour substitute. In ancient times, some cultures even made bread with the stuff. Don’t underestimate their versatility, they make excellent additions to allsorts of recipes for dinner, breakfast, and more! There are many applications that I’m sure you’ll have a use for, and they’re just as easy to find!

If you’re busy or can’t find any, then you can always Grab Some Refreshing Acorn Coffee to try them out for yourself!

They’re an excellent food source with versatility and beneficial nutrients and phytochemicals (^).

Health Benefits of Acorns:

Let’s kick this list off and explore some impressive ways in which acorn benefits health. I hope that by the end of this you’ll realise that acorns should be a welcome Autumnal treat, just as they once were in the past!

As mentioned above there are a variety of ways to use acorns, some of which I’ll be covering in future posts. Here are some useful links about how to find, prepare, and enjoy the fruit of the mighty Oak:

*An easy-to-read, in-depth source of information on all things acorn – it’s a long foraging season after all!

Improve Metabolism

The first benefit that I’d like to mention is how acorns can help to improve metabolism. Being a good source of manganese, several B-vitamins, and also fibre gives acorns metabolic benefits similar to those of other nuts.

Fibre

Nuts in general contain mostly insoluble fibre, which does not dissolve in water. Lost most fibre has similar effects overall, distinguishing can be helpful sometimes. Some insoluble fibre intake with meals can help to reduce blood sugar spikes (glycemic response), and additionally helps to reduce appetite lost requiring longer to digest (^).

This can also reduce calorie intake (therefore possibly benefiting weight loss), and gives your digestive system a better chance to properly digest food and absorb nutrients.

B-Vitamins

Acorns are a good source of B-vitamins, mostly B6 and B9, but also some B1, B2, B3, and B5. These vitamins all play important roles in metabolism and energy. They’re also essential in maintaining the health of your nerves, muscles, brain, and heart!

Without Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), we would not be able to even synthesise our cells properly (^). Having adequate B6 in the diet helps us to efficiently metabolise and digest carbohydrates, proteins, and fats(^)(^). It can help to prevent inflammation, atherosclerosis and heart disease, and improve brain health (amongst many more benefits).

By improving metabolism, this vitamin helps to make sure that we are properly digesting and absorbing nutrients. In turn, this prevents abnormal disposition or uptake of fats, carbohydrates (sugars), and protein throughout the body.

Vitamin B9 (Folate) has some similar properties to B6, and helps to regulate healthy cell metabolism in organs (^). In the body, this vitamin has a significant effect on protein synthesis, therefore being vital for proper cell formation. It also benefits white blood cells (T cells) (^). Getting folate from food sources is much better for us than taking folic acid supplements.

Manganese

In dietary levels, manganese is a trace element required for several metabolic processes.

For example, our ability to efficiently metabolise carbohydrates, proteins, and fats depends on enzymes which manganese actually helps to manufacture and regulate (^)(^)! It also plays important roles in energy and bone cell metabolism (^), and proper immune function, such as by fighting free radicals.

100g of raw acorns would provide almost 50% of the proposed adequate manganese intake for adults by the EFSA (^). That is a significant amount of acorns, but does go to show its potential.

Support Digestion

Acorns could also help to support a healthy digestive system by providing beneficial fibre. Insoluble fibre benefits digestive health by increasing efficiency and helping with bowel movements. It does this by adding bulk and attracting more water. Therefore, we find that it helps prevent constipation, bloating, cramping, and even haemorrhoid formation.

Fibre is actually a type of carbohydrate, but is often largely indigestible. As mentioned above, these carbohydrates can actually reduce appetite, and they also require a bit more work to “process”.

Now consider that this could prevent the chance of overeating or eating too quickly… Your digestive health will benefit further by including fibre in your diet, giving it an easier time.

Stronger Bones (and Bone Connective Tissue)

So, bones! They’re important. But you knew that… And you probably know that calcium is good for bones (as long as you don’t have too much)! Whilst I can tell you that acorns do contain trace amounts of calcium, it isn’t a significant amount.

What then, makes acorns good for bone health? Once again we turn to manganese, which is important not only for bone mineralisation, but also in the formation of bone cartilage (^)(^). Because of this, there are several key properties at play (^).

We also need other nutrients found in acorns for proper bone health, such as copper, B-vitamins, and phosphorus (^)(^). Overall, having some acorns now and again when the time of year comes is a good idea! The nutrients they provide support stronger bones and could therefore help to prevent osteoporosis and other problems.

acorn benefits - acorn nuts and minerals support bone health

Boost Energy

We already know that acorns are good for metabolism, which can help to boost energy levels. But, they also prove to be an energy-dense food. 1 oz raw acorns can provide 110 calories alone, and although they’re not eaten raw, the macronutrient composition but not differ significantly in properly prepared whole nuts.

Overall, about half of their calories come from fats, a significant amount from carbohydrates, and a small amount from protein. The majority of the fat content comes from beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), specifically oleic acid. If you’ve read my article on ‘The Mediterranean Gold’, you might know that this healthy fat is a major constituent of Olive Oil. Acorns also provides some polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-6), and saturated fatty acids.

Gram-for-gram, acorns have more carbohydrate than fat, but some of this is fibre, and naturally carbohydrates provide less energy than fats.

Antioxidants Fight Free Radicals

Several nutrients found in acorns antioxidative properties which help to eliminate harmful free radicals in the body. In effect, reducing free radicals has many beneficial and preventative effects which help to combat ageing, cellular damage, inflammation, and illness.

Acorns are not the most potent source of antioxidants, in part due to the lack of certain phytonutrients and vitamins (e.g. A, C, D, E). However, minerals in them such as copper may provide a small boost.

An interesting meta-analysis by researchers from India and Korea on free radicals and antioxidants made point of the important roles that metal ions play in supporting the protective effects of antioxidants and flavonoids (^). Beneficial enzymes require certain minerals including copper in order to efficiently convert to Radicals into to safer compounds.

Furthermore, oleic acid has also been demonstrated to reduce inflammation and support immune function (^)(^), whilst also supporting overall health. Many studies have attributed this fat to anti-inflammatory and antioxidative health benefits, including in herbal remedies (^).

Heart Health

Believe it or not, you might just be doing your heart a favour time to enjoy acorns now and again! They contain heart-healthy fats, fibre, and minerals which explain how acorn benefits heart health in multiple ways.

Copper, The Heart, and Acorns

Additionally, copper, as an antioxidant, could benefit cardiovascular health (^).

On the other hand, one review of different studies found an interesting link between copper serum levels and and coronary artery disease (^). Their findings indicated that copper is found in high amounts in those with this condition.

The significance of this is not yet fully known. One possibility suggested by some studies is that too much copper plays a role in the formation of atherosclerosis.

Fortunately, in western diets, copper often isn’t very abundant, and higher intake could provide more health benefits than any risks. The upper limit set by the EFSA is 5mg per day (and the United States IOM even 10mg). To put that into perspective, the world Health Organisation recommends a minimum of approximately 1.3g per day (^). To get even that much from raw acorns, you’d need to eat about 209g!

Not only is that a lot, but natural antinutrients found in the nut, even when leached, reduce the amount of that which we absorb. And, if your diet is High in Zinc as well, you’ll be much better off at naturally regulating copper levels anyway.

Not to forget, copper deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (^).

To conclude: The amount of copper found in acorns is beneficial for health, particularly for western populations and those with low copper serum levels or diets.

Heart-healthy Fats

Remember those fats in acorns that provide some of its calories? Not only do they provide us with energy, but oleic acid (the main type) is comparatively better for heart health than unhealthy fats (^)(^), and also than refined carbohydrates.

As a monounsaturated fatty acid, this beneficial fat may help to improve cardiovascular health (^)(^)(^). These benefits are particularly true if this fat replaces unhealthy TRANS fats such as those found in seed / vegetable oils (^).

Removing unhealthy fat from your diet will have many similar effects anyway, and is always recommended. However, it’s important not to replace them with something else detrimental, and this MUFA is a great choice.

(Don’t be mistaken into thinking that saturated fat is bad, though!)

The FDA has made health claims about oleic acid, and although they recommend reducing saturated fat, an overwhelming amount of research now dispels the myth that it is bad for us or our hearts. The practice of replacing these fats, especially with refined carbohydrates, has highly negative impacts on cardiovascular wellbeing.

Oleic acid is thought to be one of the main reasons that olive oil is so good for us (^)(^)(^). Much as this oil (important in the Mediterranean Diet) is beneficial, oleic acid from acorns might have similar effects.

Fibre Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Remember how we mentioned insoluble fibre? Well, here it makes another appearance, too! A range of meta-analyses and studies demonstrate that the higher fibre intake is correlated with lower cardiovascular disease risk (^).

It’s not just insoluble fibre that helps, though. Both soluble and insoluble dietary fibre effectively improve cholesterol profile, especially by reducing LDL levels (^). This is important for many people who have large LDL cholesterol particles (often due to diet).

One study found that patients with cardiovascular disease, when compared to those without, had lower intake of both fibre and MUFAs (^).

acorn health benefits for heart health, oleic acid copper and fibre - improved cvd risk and cholesterol

Brain Health

Acorns contain brain-boosting fats, as in most nuts. If you read about my best foods for brain health, then this to come as no surprise. Certain foods have impressive benefits for our brains, and nuts are a whole category!

Read: What Is The Best Food for Brain Health?

Now, you’re probably expecting to hear more about oleic acid. And although I don’t want to sound like a broken record, I’ve got to go by the research!

Before I carry on, do note that anything in too high amounts is negative. You’re unlikely to get too much of this from nuts, but you shouldn’t go binging on olive oil in unnecessary amounts, for example.

Back on track: Monounsaturated fatty acids

MUFAs, including oleic acid specifically, have been demonstrated in studies to benefit brain health.

One study published in the American Academy of Neurology brought light once again to the traditional Mediterranean diet. In Southern Italy, they found that increased MUFA intake appeared to help protect the elderly population from cognitive decline (^).

Another study conducted in France, once again on behalf of the same Academy, found some impressive results. Olive oil consumption and also plasma oleic acid was measured in participants, and the correlation was found in the amount of stroke incidents that occurred (^).

According to the data, higher plasma oleic acid was associated with lower incidence.

As we can see, it’s noteworthy that oleic acid could mean that the acorn benefits brain health. One study noting the content of this MUFA in acorns mentioned the content, and commented on this nut’s health benefits (^).

Acorn Side Effects

Above we have listed some of the Acorn benefits for health. As with any food, though, especially a new one, there are potential adverse effects or reactions worth knowing of.

Allergies

First and foremost, if you have a nut allergy of any kind, you should not try to eat acorns. They are a true nut, and therefore may cause an allergic reaction and some people. If you would like to try them, always make sure that you have confirmed with your healthcare practitioner that doing so is safe.

Tannin Content – Why To Prepare Acorns Properly (It’s Easy)

Toxicity is also a possibility from raw acorns due to the high tannin content.

Tannins (i.e. tannic acid) are found in acorns and oak leaves alike, and are responsible for giving them a notably bitter taste. To get rid of the bitterness and the tannins, acorns should be leached, which makes them edible (^).

Most of the time, leaching means soaking or boiling the nuts, and is a straightforward process which is well worth the effort. You can find some great information on it from Honestfood.net: ‘The Mechanics of Eating Acorns’.

Whilst eating a few raw acorns shouldn’t have any adverse effects in those without medical conditions or allergies, it’s still not recommended and it won’t taste very nice. Tannins also bind to iron, so which prevents iron from being efficiently absorbed in the body.

Therefore, consuming too many tannins, especially with or around meals, could be a risk factor in anaemia. Doing so is associated with digestive upset such as constipation, and nausea. Forage only the ripe, brown acorns, as the younger green ones have a higher tannin content.

Also, just be aware of worms. Wild food is fun, but sometimes we’re beaten to it – that’s part of the adventure. You should be able to spot worms if there are any holes in the shell. If you find any of these acorns, leave them be (or discard them).

Recommended Intake

There is very little information on a recommended intake for acorns. For the most part, it should just come down to using your own judgement. You wouldn’t eat more than 300g of almonds (for example – and that’s still a lot), so why would you acorns?

As long as you’re leaching them properly, the tannin content shouldn’t cause a problem. If you are concerned about too much copper, remember that is unlikely you would even consume the amount necessary for the daily minimum intake. To get to the EFSA’s upper guideline for copper intake, you would have to eat over 800g of acorns on average. Yeah… No thanks!

There is very little information on a recommended intake for acorns. For the most part, it should just come down to using your own judgement. You wouldn’t eat more than 300g of almonds (for example – and that’s still a lot), so why would you acorns?

My Recommendation?

The classic saying of “moderation in all things” is a good example for certain foods, and is probably good advice here, too. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy them, now, does it?

So go out there, I encourage you, and try something new this autumn. Who knows? You might just find an interest in acorns the last you until Summer (and then again), or even better, an interest in foraging! It’s a great way to connect a nature and explore or a new world of cooking, nutrition, flavour, and good health and mindfulness.

Remember To Forage Sustainably and Responsibly

You can always simply Get Some of Your Own Acorn Coffee, if that’s what you’re after. That is a preferable process for some, and still allows you to enjoy the benefits.

In a Nutshell (I made this pun before, too!)

Acorns are today perhaps an underappreciated food source, and at least misunderstood. They have a very interesting history and have been enjoyed by many healthy cultures, including the Native Americans and the Ancient Greeks!

The humble acorn benefits health in a number of ways, just as these people knew. They provide a wealth of nutrition, including healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Remember to avoid them if you have a nut allergy, and always prepare and forage for them properly.

It’s October, and the new Autumn, so why not try something seasonal, and something new! You can porridge for acorns right up until Summer, and then you’ll have to wait. But, summer is just an open door to more things to enjoy!

Until next time, stay healthy
James

Categories
Beverages Recipes

A Healthy Avocado Smoothie Recipe – Enjoy A Healthy Summer!

Healthy Avocado Smoothie Recipe - Beneficial Avocado and Goat's Milk

Now that summer is here, sometimes there isn’t much better than relaxing with a nice, fresh drink. How blissful! And no, I don’t mean alcohol (sorry)!

Today we are going to be trying our hand at a healthy avocado smoothie recipe. A smoothie works brilliantly as a milkshake alternative, and the best part is that you get to make and customise it – it’s good fun!

And as it happens, it is National Avocado Day when this is going up! What a happy coincidence for our new favourite avocado smoothie recipe 🙂
Enjoy!

You’ll need a food processor or blender for this, which I know many of you will have somewhere! If you don’t have one yet, feel free to have a look at my review on the NutriBullet 600 Series (the blender I use myself).

Read: Is The NutriBullet Worth It? A Nutribullet 600 Review

First of all, I’ll share with you this – one of my favourite – recipes, and then we’ll get into the health benefits that this provides! It really is a guilt-free way to enjoy the Summer…

The Ingredients

It’s likely that you’ll have a few of these ingredients laying around already. You can also be creative with this and make it your own – which is something I love about smoothie recipes! This is how I like to prepare it, and it works wonderfully.

Produces: 600ml (3-4 Servings)

  • Avocado – 1 Large (or 1½ Small)
  • Black Pepper – ½ Tsp
  • Goat’s Milk (Full Fat) – To Fill

    • OR preference* – To Fill
  • Cinammon – 1 Tsp
  • Brazil Nuts – 1 Handful (About 6 or 7)
  • Sea Salt – To Taste
  • OPTIONAL: Cultured Yoghurt – 1-3 Tbsp

*(Note: Avoiding Soy Milk and those with many additives is wise)

Variants or customisations that would work well include using other (or mixed) nuts, adding in some low/zero-sugar dark chocolate or roasted cacao nibs or powder, berries, seeds (including chia), or freshly squeezed lemon juice!

This can be made in both paleo and keto friendly ways. In general, unsweetened nut and hemp milks work for either of these diets.

You can even easily make your own homemade nut milk by soaking some nuts, blending them with water and a pinch of salt, then straining to remove particles.

Read: Why To Soak Nuts (And How) – A Traditional Preparation Method

The Method (Step-by-step)

So, whilst there isn’t much hands on work when using a blender or food processor, who doesn’t love lists? This is our step-by-step list for an awesome healthy avocado smoothie recipe.

  1. Soak the Brazil nuts (3-4 Hours)
  2. Quarter the avocado, then peel or scoop away from the skin.
  3. Add all of the ingredients apart from the milk.
  4. Pour in your milk to fill up to around 600ml.
  5. Blend for 45-60 seconds.
  6. Serve in small glasses (with ice) and enjoy! 🙂

Save or share the recipe here:

Healthy Avocado Smoothie Recipe - Instructions and Method Image

The Benefits

Here at Healthy Ronin, you know we’re going to speak about the health benefits of our recipes! This is full of nutritious ingredients, so let’s have a look their combined health benefits…

Overall, this smoothie will provide around 1614 Calories per 600ml – (About 400 per serving). This is a little high so is perfect for those who moderately or actively excercise, and for those trying to gain weight. For anyone wanting to lose weight, this could be a great meal subsitute – especially if following keto!

Let’s talk about our main ingredients!

Avocadoes and Brazil Nuts

Two of the main ingredients of our healthy avocado smoothie recipe are avocadoes and brazil nuts. These provide many health benefits, making this smoothie not only delicious, but nourishing!

As we also mentioned in our post about the Best Oatmeal Recipes, avocadoes are well-known and consumed for their health benefits. They contain an abundance of nutrients, healthy fats, and fibre.

Avocado Nutrition information vitamins, minerals, and fats - Healthy Avocado Smoothie Recipe

CORRECTION: Avocado does contain small amounts of Vitamin A – About 2-4% RDI. Vitamin K in avocadoes is K1 – this converts to its other form K2 at different rates, which is what we use. The following nutrition label is per one average avocado (about 150g).

Beneficial Fibre

We mentioned above that avocadoes provide fibre. In particular, they are quite distinct in that they are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. On average, just over a third of an avocado’s fibre is soluble, but during the blending process, the insoluble fibres are greatly broken down.

The remaining soluble fibre helps to regulate digestion, promote healthy gut bacteria, and and prevent blood sugar spikes. However, no studies seem to have effectively demonstrated any correlation between soluble fibre intake and reduced type 2 diabetes risk (^).

High Amounts of Healthy Fats

Oleic acid – a type of Omega-9 fatty acid – makes up the largest proportion of the avocado’s fat content. Similarly, The Almighty Olive Oil is rich in this monounsaturated Omega-9. Here are some of its health benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory (^)
  • May support the immune system (^)
  • Reduced blood pressure (^)
  • Regulates insulin levels (type 2 diabetes preventative) (^)
  • Antibacterial (^)(^)(^)
  • Promotes brain health and prevents neurodegeneration (^)(^)(^)

Brazil Nuts are also a great source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and some saturated fat, which increase HDL-Cholesterol. HDL cholesterol protects the heart, combats atherosclerosis, boosts circulation through arteries, and helps to transport antioxidants and vitamins throughout the body.

The fats found in avocadoes also increase the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins. For example, it may increase vitamin A absorption up to four-fold!

Because of this, you should avoid eating avocadoes with particularly high sources of vitamin A such as any animal liver or king mackerel.

Selenium from Brazil Nuts

Selenium is an essential mineral abundant in brazil nuts, fish, meat, poultry, and eggs. Considerable plant sources include oats, brown rice, spinach, mushrooms, and different legumes. Some vegetarians or vegans could possibly do with more of it in their diet. It is an extremely powerful antioxidant with many well-studied benefits.

However, it can also be important not to overdo it!

Try to limit daily brazil nut consumption to at most 4-5 nuts (especially if you have them often), as they are very rich in Selenium. When enjoying this healthy avocado smoothie recipe often, you can also reduce the brazil nut content.

Selenium may help to promote heart health, reduce inflammation, significantly “boost” immune system function, prevent ageing, and support the thyroid, skin, brain, and mental health (^)(^)(^)(^)(^)(^).

Brazil nuts are also rich in other antioxidants and minerals. In particular, they provide considerable amounts of copper, zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin E, and vitamin B1 (Thiamin).

Vitamin K

Avocadoes are especially rich in vitamin K1. Per average avocado (about 150g), you will receive about 52mcg of this vitamin, of which we only use a small amount. This is because we need to convert it into vitamin K2 (which we find in animal sources), and this conversion rate seems to vary a lot but may be below 10% (^).

However, vitamin K in any form can be beneficial. Its primary role is in the production of prothrombin, which is a protein essential for proper blood clotting. Additionally, vitamin K can help with calcium absorption and regulations, making it important for bone health (^) and heart health (^), respectively. It can help bones to absorb calcium, and prevent calcium from depositing in arteries.

We mostly use Vitamin K1 in blood coagulation (clotting), so getting vitamin K2 in the diet can also be important.

Vitamin C

Avocadoes are also a good source of vitamin C. The most essential vitamins the human health, and plays hundreds of different important roles. These include benefiting nutrient absorption, the immune system, connective tissue creation and maintenance, blood sugar, blood pressure. It also helps to prevent aging and degeneration by acting as a powerful antioxidant – this is great for brain function and health, the skin, and more!

B-Vitamins

This smoothie as a whole is a fair way to boost your B-vitamin intake. Whilst it provides no vitamin B12, you will be provided with a considerable amount of B1, B6, and B9. These wonderful vitamins are important in keeping your nerves, brain, heart, muscles, and metabolism functioning healthy.

Gut-friendly Goat’s Milk

Healthy Avocado Smoothie Recipe - Pasture raised grass fed healthy Goat for beneficial milk

If you decide to use goat’s milk for this
healthy avocado smoothie recipe, here are some of the benefits this delicious ingredient provides.

Arguably, it may be better for you than the standard cow’s milk many people consume today, so we’ll discuss that briefly.

Also, note that pasture-raised (not the same as pasteurised) and grass-fed goat milk – even more so if organic – is best.

Mild lactose-intolerance

For those of you with mild lactose intolerance, goat’s milk may be a good alternative.

This is because it contains slightly lower levels (about 3 quarters that of cow’s) of lactose – the dairy sugar that some people struggle to digest. These lower levels have helped some people still consume dairy, despite having some discomfort with cow’s milk. To try it, you should start with only a small amount and see how you feel.

Prebiotics

Goat’s milk also contains oligosaccharides – a type of carbohydrate also found in human milk. What’s more, the type and amount found in goat’s milk is much closer to human milk than other land animals’ (such as cows).

These act as prebiotics (^), meaning that they help to feed the important beneficial bacteria found in our gut. Throughout digestive system – particularly the stomach and intestines – we have what is called the gut microbiome, gut flora, or gut microbiota. This is the collective term that refers to these trillions of bacteria

What these do is quite complex, and vital to a healthy body and mind. Some of their main roles include the following:

  • Aiding in digestion 
  • Preventing allergy formation in infants
  • Improving metabolism and nutrient absorption
  • Signalling to other organs and the brain
  • Combating invasive microorganisms
  • Stimulating immune responses (^)
  • Preventing gastrointestinal inflammation 
  • Ameliorating bowel ailments
  • And much more (^)(^)

Beneficial Nutrients

Additionally, we find many happy occurrences of nutrients in goat’s milk. It contains more calcium and beneficial fats than cow’s milk does, and also so a good amount of vitamin D. This makes it better at strengthening bones, and also makes it more beneficial for your skin and your heart!

Goat’s milk also provides other minerals. For example, phosphorus acts alongside calcium and vitamin D in strengthening bone health! At the same time, it’s beneficial for the brain, kidneys, cell creation, and metabolism.

It also provides a small amount of selenium, which we spoke about above. Other important minerals and elements that goat’s milk provides include zinc, copper, potassium, and magnesium – meaning of great dose of antioxidants, too. This is useful for brain and heart health/function, the nervous system, skin health, immune system function, reproductive health, and cancer prevention.

A Healty Smoothie for a Healthy Summer!

This healthy avocado smoothie recipe is a great way to enjoy the Summer and relax with a healthy and refreshing beverage.

I hope you find the recipe useful, and remember to experiment with it! Avocadoes with any kind of nut work brilliantly in a smoothie, and allow for some creativity when adding extra ingredients and seasonings. The recipe that I gave you today is one that definitely works well in case you’d like to stick to something simple and promising!

Throughout the summer I’ll be sure to add some more smoothie recipes and and teach you all about what they can do for your health. Let me know if you have any recipes you enjoy or would like me to try alright about in the comments below! 🙂

Don’t forget to share this with your friends and family on social media, and save it to your healthy food Pinterest boards.

Until the next time, stay healthy
James

Categories
Ingredients / Other Recipes Snacks and sides

Why to Soak Nuts (and How) – A Traditional Preparation Method

Picture of Walnuts - Why To Soak Nuts

We have consumed nuts for thousands of years, right back to the earliest days of mankind. Not only do they provide an abundance of nutrients, but their high amounts of protein and healthy fats make them great dietary staples and go-to energy sources.

However, nuts are hardy fruits designed by nature to protect seeds, after all. For this very reason, they did not evolve to be eaten and have developed their own defences against such a threat. In this article, I will explain to you why to soak nuts just as our ancestors did, and how doing so is beneficial (and easy)!

(Side note: For our vegetarian and vegan friends out there, this is essential. Because you’ll probably use nuts as an alternative protein source, proper preparation methods are required to prevent any deficiencies in certain minerals).

The Ancient Art

As I mentioned above, humans have used nuts as food for a very long time! And just as with any other food, we had to try them before we knew they were safe. It was undoubtedly our very curiosity that led to many of the discoveries of mankind, and many foods are no exception.

Nowadays a lot of things are different from how they used to be, and once again foods are no exception. There was a time when every family and member of society would try to eat in the best way that they could in order to preserve their genetic wealth for generations to come. This obviously wasn’t always easy and may have required a lot of work both on the move and farming, hunting and foraging, and also preparing. It’s the latter point that I want to expand on here.

When you dig into your daily (hopefully fermented) oats or open a tin of pre-soaked beans or what have you, it’s evident that your food didn’t come straight from the farm as it is, and thus would have gone through its own form of preparation already before being ready to eat.

Unfortunately, in the modern world, much of the preparation of food is processed in unnatural ways and often uses multiple inorganic chemicals. Our ancestors knew better. And although they were at risk from multiple threats to their well-being that many of us are not today, they were fortunate enough to have a much better diet.

This is in part thanks to their advanced knowledge of proper food preparation. The Aztecs were known to soak and dry seeds, the ancient Chinese would ferment soy to create the first tofu, and the ancient Egyptians would often ferment their bread dough for days.

Phytic Acid and Nuts

Cracking on… See what I did there? 😉

Nuts contain a well-known chemical compound called “phytic acid”. I also speak about this in my post on How To Ferment Oats (you definitely should, it’s amazing)!

Its role within plants is to provide a source of energy as well as phosphorus and organic chemicals for cell function during the seedling phase.

Not only this, but phytic acid is designed to protect the stored fats, proteins, and minerals of seeds. It does so with chemical binders which cannot be broken down by the digestive enzymes of most animals, and these bind to iron, zinc, and calcium mostly, but also to magnesium. These nutrients in turn toughen the seed and its husk. This process led to phytic acid being classified as something called an anti-nutrient.

Because of this, consuming nuts in large amounts – and in fact grains too (but more on that in another post) – may lead to a deficiency in these minerals and has done to people. Because of this it is important to follow a balanced diet. Also, when eating nuts with other foods it will prevent the absorption of these nutrients from those foods. However, this is only the case when the nuts are not prepared well. When you buy pasteurised (the most common type) or raw nuts sold in the supermarket, they are often still very high in phytic acid.

So, how do we reduce those levels? By soaking.

What Soaking Really Does

The process of soaking nuts activates the enzyme phytase. This is what is used by the nuts to break phytic acid down into its stored energy and nutrients so that they become “bio-available” (i.e. available for use).

Because we rely on enzymes (a type of protein), it is important that we do not use nuts that have previously been roasted or heat-prepared, as the high temperatures denature the enzymes. This basically means that they won’t be able to do their job.

Phytase activity deconstructs the “phytates” (phytic acid), making the nutrients in the nuts more absorbable. The more phytic acid levels are reduced, the more nutrients become available and the less minerals will be bound to. This is great news for us and makes the digestive process much easier.

Another benefit of soaking is the reduction of “enzyme inhibitors” found in nuts. They are used so that the seed will not sprout too early. The enzymes we release during digestion in order to process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are prevented from working efficiently by these enzyme inhibitors. This makes digestion slower – and for some people more uncomfortable. Furthermore, antinutrients such as tannins and lectins are also reduced, but make sure to peel the skin off (this is very easy after soaking)! (This is where tannins are found).

This is really our explanation of why to soak nuts.

The Soaking Process

So, now that we know in detail why to soak nuts, let’s explore how.

The way that nuts are soaked should be in optimum conditions for phytase activity. Using a 1:2 ratio of nuts to water, these are achieved by adding 1-2 tsp sea salt per cup of water to decrease the pH and keeping the nuts in a warm place above room temperature. It is vital at this stage that filtered or dechlorinated (/boiled) water is used. Most often, they are left for anywhere between 3-24 hours, depending on the nut. By this time much of the phytic acid should have been reduced. For convenience, the time can be reduced (probably to 3 quarters of the time) by adding a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar or whey, or of a phytase-rich grain such as rye, wheat, or barley flour to the solution. After soaking, remove any that float as these may be rancid.

Soaking Times

These are the soaking times for some common types of nuts (and a few seeds):

12-24 hours (often done in the afternoon for the next morning):

  • Almonds

7-8 hours (often done overnight):

  • Hazelnuts
  • Macademia Nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts

3-4 hours (often done throughout the day):

  • Brazil Nuts*
  • Cashews* (Beware of over-soaking as they can take on an oily texture*)
  • Sesame Seeds

Like others, I personally believe that soaking also allows for the development of more complex flavours, but it may also change the texture. For a start, they will swell. In general the nuts and seeds will become crisper, and yet slightly softer.

Also, do note that in order to prevent soaked nuts from spoiling quickly, you should dehydrate them, which can be done using a dehydrator, or an oven at ~170°F for 12-24 hours. Otherwise they may be drained and dried (with a paper towel) before refrigarating and using within 24 hours.

We cannot fully eliminate phytic acid from nuts, and trying to do so would be impractical. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as in small amounts it may actually have some benefits (anti-cancer, antioxidant), but I’ll cover that and more about other anti-nutrients in separate posts.

A Little Extra – Sprouting and Fermenting

So, we’ve covered most of what there is to about soaking nuts, but there are multiple ways to decrease anti-nutrients, and although they take a little more work and time they’re certainly worth it.

As I said, activating phytase is the same action that a seed will take when it is starting to sprout. This provides them with energy and phosphorus. Some of you may have realised that by soaking we are effectively replicating the early processes of plant growth, and you’d be right!

This is where things get a little more interesting… By sprouting and fermenting we can actually amplify the same effects of soaking. These processes have added benefits such as being probiotic, and increasing nutrient levels.

Both the sprouting and fermenting of nuts (and seeds alike) require soaking, so with what we’ve just learned they should be quite a bit easier! Also, sprouting cannot be done with pasteurised nuts: you must get raw. Why not pick up some raw almonds here!

These will certainly be covered in their own posts! There’s simply too much detail to write about all of these without making one post too long. Keep an eye out if you’d like to learn more with me. 🙂

In a Nutshell…

Eating nuts is a highly nutritious way to get your protein and healthy plant fats, and especially if you eat them often or in large amounts it is important to prepare them properly.

Soaking is a traditional and effective way of making nuts healthier and more digestible that has been used for thousands of years. The purpose is to reduce anti-nutrients and increase the bio-availability of minerals like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. But we know why to soak nuts now anyway!

Sprouting and fermenting can also be done, and will often have a more vigorous effect and add multiple extra benefits.

Even though soaking takes time, your efforts and patience are very rewarding, and after a few times you’ll find this easy and – if you’re like me – you’ll probably look forward to the process.

I really hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did! Once again, keep an eye out for the posts about sprouting and fermenting if you found this interesting.

Leave a comment below with any suggestions, questions, or just to chat! Have a nice day 🙂

Until the next one, stay healthy

James