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Increase Digestion by Soaking and Sprouting Nuts, Grains, Seeds and Legumes

Nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes are great sources of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and vitamins. However, what most of us don't know is that absorption of nutrients from these foods is often limited due to enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances that protect these seeds from early germination. (1) In other words, nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes have a "defensive armour" designed by nature to keep them intact until they find the perfect conditions to grow into a plant. This armour is what makes these foods very difficult to digest and why many people have issues with nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes.

Soaking and sprouting replicates germination, which multiplies nutrients (particularly Vitamins A, B, and C), pre-digests complex proteins, and neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, allowing better absorption and digestion of these foods. (2)

Enzyme Inhibitors

Digestive enzymes are released by the pancreas to break down our food, however, nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes contain enzyme inhibitors that halt this breakdown process. This can lead to gastrointestinal issues and other conditions, such as constipation, autoimmune disease, and pancreatic disease, to name a few.


All grains, nuts, seeds and legumes contain phytic acid. When phytic acid is untreated, it binds with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc and inhibits their absorption. It also inhibits pepsin and trypsin, which are both needed for digesting proteins and amylase, which is needed for the breakdown of starch. (3)

Complex Hard-to-digest Proteins

Nuts, grains, seeds, and legumes also contain complex, hard-to-digest proteins. Of these hard-to-digest proteins, gluten (only found in gluten-containing grains) is the most difficult to digest. In America, most breads, pastas, baked goods, and processed foods are made from high-gluten grains. To make things worse, over the last 50 years, wheat has been hybridized to make it pest-resistant and give it a longer shelf-life. This has increased the gluten content in wheat dramatically.

Soaking and Sprouting

In nature, when it rains on nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, their “defensive armour” is naturally broken down so that the seeds can germinate to produce a plant. Soaking and sprouting mimics this natural process, thereby eliminating or reducing enzyme inhibitors, phytates, and complex proteins.

While soaking removes the “defensive armour”, sprouting takes it one step further; it activates the seeds to encourage more production of enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients. These foods then transform from mineral-depleting, enzyme inhibiting foods, to “superfoods” - offering densely packed nutrients in each tiny sprout.

How to Soak:

  1. Place nuts, grains, seeds, or legumes in a large glass bowl or mason jar. Pour warm water into the container (2:1 ratio) and 1/2 tsp celtic sea salt and cover with a light cloth for the desired amount of time (see the soaking/sprouting time chart below).

  2. Rinse food thoroughly and drain.

  3. You can use or cook immediately (as you would if they were un-sprouted)or dehydrate using a food dehydrator (no higher than 115 degrees for 12-24 hours).

Note: Soaked grains only need 1:1 ratio for cooking with water/broth because they are already plump with water. Dehydrated items need to be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Make sure to dry completely. If nuts are not completely dry, they will develop mold.

How to Sprout:

  1. Get a quart-sized (or larger) mason jar. Remove the solid middle insert of the lid and cut a piece of cheesecloth or breathable mesh to fit inside.

  2. Fill 1/3 of the jar with the intended food and the rest of the jar with water and 1/2 tsp celtic sea salt. Screw the lid on with the cheesecloth or mesh still in place. Soak overnight.

  3. The next day, remove the lid, rinse, and drain.

  4. Remove the metal insert leaving only the mesh lid on the jar. Invert the jar so the air can circulate and water can drain off.

  5. During the designated period of time (see the soaking/sprouting time chart below), repeat the rinsing process twice a day until the sprouts are ready. Sprouts vary from 1/8- to 2 inches long.

  6. Once the sprouts are ready, make sure to refrigerate them and enjoy within 2-3 days. You can also dehydrate sprouted grains and grind them into sprouted flour.

Note: Many store bought raw nuts and seeds have been pasteurized and irradiated. Truly raw almonds and peanuts will sprout, but those that have been pasteurized and irradiated will “activate” with soaking, but will not physically “sprout.” However, soaking still removes anti-nutrients, increases nutrient density, and makes the nuts more digestible.


If you do not have time to sprout your own nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, you can buy products that have been sprouted such as rice, flour, bread, and more! Companies such as To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. sell many sprouted flours and grains. You can also find some sprouted grains (rice, bread, etc.) at natural food stores such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Sprouts.

Soaking/Sprouting Times:

Please note: N/A means that the nut, grain, seed, or legume cannot or does not need to be soaked or sprouted.

Nuts, Grain, Seed or Legume/Soaking Time/Sprouting Time

Adzuki / 12 Hours / 4 Days

Alfalfa / 12 Hours / 4 Days

Almonds (non-pasturized) / 4-12 Hours / 3 Days

Barley / 6-12 Hours / 3 Days

Black Beans / 12 Hours / 4 Days

Black-eyed Peas / 12 Hours / 6 Days

Brazil nuts / N/A / N/A

Buckwheat / 30 Minutes / 6 Hours

Cashews / 2-6 Hours / N/A

Clover / 12 Hours / 6 Days

Corn / 8-12 Hours / 4 Days

Fenugreek / 6-12 Hours / 6 Days

Flax / Do not soak / 4 Days

Garbanzo Beans / 24 Hours / 3 Days

Hazelnuts / 8 Hours / N/A

Hemp Seeds / N/A / N/A

Kamut / 6-12 Hours / 3 Days

Lentils / 12 Hours / 3 Days

Macadamia Nuts / 6 Hour / N/A

Millet / 6-10 Hours / 3 Days

Mung Beans / 12 Hours / 5 Days

Mustard / 12 Hours / 6 Days

Oats (hulless) / 30 Mins-1 Hour / 3 Days

Oats (groats & rolled) / 12 Hours / N/A

Peas / 12 Hours / 3 Days

Pecans / 6-7 Hours / N/A

Peanuts (Valencia) / 24 Hours / 4 Days

Pepita / 8 Hours / 2 Days

Pine Nuts / 6 Hours / N/A

Pinto Beans / 12 Hours / 4 Days

Pistachios / 6 Hours / N/A

Pumpkin Seeds / 1-4 Hours / 2 Days

Quinoa / 30 Minutes / 3 Days

Rice (Brown) / 12 Hours / 4 Days

Rice (Wild) / 4 Hours / 4 Days

Rye / 6-12 Hours / 3 Days

Seseame Seeds / 2-8 Hours / 3 Days

Spelt / 8-12 Hours / 1 Day

Sunflower Seeds (hulled) / 30 Mins-1 Hour / 2 Days

Walnuts / 6 Hours/ N/A

Wheat / 6-12 Hours / 3 Days

*1.El-Hady, Abd, and Habiba. "Influence of Soaking on the Nutritional Quality of Common Beans ( Phaseolus Vulgaris L.) Cooked with or without the Soaking Water: A Review | DeepDyve." DeepDyve. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.

*2. Masters, Tess. "How to Soak & Sprout Nuts, Seeds, Grains, & Beans."Vegetarian Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.

*3. Tannenbaum and others. Vitamins and Minerals, in Food Chemistry, 2nd edition. OR Fennema, ed. Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, 1985, p 445.

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