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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Nuts and Seeds - Nature's Powerhouses

Considered some of nature's "booster foods", nuts and seeds come power packed with essential fats, proteins and minerals to help keep the body warm and supple throughout the cold, dry winter months. Just like a squirrel gathering his loot before the snows hit, bringing nuts and seeds back into our diets now helps prepare our bodies for the season ahead.

Nuts and seeds of all kinds have within them the power and energy to turn them into living plants. That's a lot of energy inside such a small area. Because they have such a concentrated amount of nutrients in such a tiny space, only a small amount needs to be consumed for a large amount of nutrition. An appropriate serving is the size of the inside circle of your palm, about two tablespoons.

To bring them to their full potential, soaking raw nuts and seeds in water several hours before eating will activate the enzymes within them and bring their nutritional capabilities to life. Without the proper environmental conditions, such as water, the enzymes naturally lay dormant within the seeds, waiting for the most efficient time to trigger the seeds to come forth and sprout into full living plants. When these enzymes are activated by water, the seeds are literally bursting with energy and life force, and are much easier to digest. (For soaking procedures, see below.)

Unfortunately, many of the nuts and seeds we find on the shelf are not living up to their full nutritional capacity. The good essential fats and enzymes within them need to be kept at cooler temperatures to stay alive without becoming dull or damaged. Most commercial nuts and seeds (even raw ones at the natural foods markets) have been stored and transported in temperatures above ideal, or have spent too long in transit time from the farm to the consumer's table. Truly raw nuts, seeds and nut butters should always be kept in the refrigerator to ensure that the fats, vitamins and enzymes are functioning at full value.

This doesn't mean that we have to turn our noses away from the nuts and seeds we find at the store, or even from nuts that have been toasted or cooked. Many nutrients cannot be heated out of foods - protein, minerals vitamin E and fiber, for example, stay in tact when cooked and are found in ample quantities inside nuts and seeds of all kinds. Just be mindful to get them into the refrigerator as soon as possible and try to incorporate a larger ratio of raw versus toasted nuts into your seasonal diet.

The popularity of raw foods has brought many natural foods markets to add raw, vacuum-packed nuts and seeds to their inventories. Vacuum packing ensures that they are not exposed to air, which can eventually damage some of the vital nutrients within them. These specially packaged nuts are generally more expensive, as the companies who produce them have taken the extra care to keep these raw nuts really raw. Special equipment and cooler packaging procedures ensure that the nuts are still alive by the time they reach your table. They can be found on the shelf at some natural foods markets and can also be ordered directly online. Raw Guru has a handful of raw vacuum-packed nuts and seeds, as well as many other raw products:

Nuts and seeds are the perfect food for the holidays. They contain the good, essential fats that actually help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and have high-quality proteins, minerals and fiber. They have a high concentration of B vitamins to stabilize the nervous system during the stressful holiday season and vitamin E to keep immunity at its peak. Along with a variety of animal and vegetable proteins, whole grains and root vegetables, nuts and seeds of all kinds provide us with the steady grounded energy needed to keep us strong and thriving through the long cold months of winter.

Soaking Nuts and Seeds

It usually takes about 8-12 hours of soaking to activate the enzymes to aid digestibility. The easiest way to soak them is to put the nuts in a bowl and cover them completely with room-temperature water at the end of the evening. In the morning when you get up, rinse them off and pat them dry and they're ready. They can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. If you have a dehydrator, the activated nuts can be dehydrated to give them a crunchier texture without the high heat. Dehydrated soaked nuts can be stored in an airtight container on the shelf for several days to several weeks, depending upon their moisture content.


At 6:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good tips, thanks ;)


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