Are Almonds Healthier If You Soak Them?
People soak almonds to DIY almond milk or vegan recipes like cheese or desserts, but is that just to yield a softer consistency, or are there health benefits to soaking nuts? Stephanie Clarke and Willow Jarosh of C&J Nutrition, registered dietitians and authors of Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook, say that soaking almonds for 12 to 24 hours before eating them helps your body absorb more of the minerals that naturally occur in the almonds.
They explain that almonds as well as other nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes contain phytic acid (also called phytate), which is found in the bran and germ. Because our bodies lack the enzyme to break down phytic acid, it binds to minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, and magnesium, so our bodies don't absorb them. They go on to say that "phytate can also inhibit digestive enzymes such as trypsin, pepsin, α-amylase and ß-glucosidase, which could lead to decreased protein and starch digestibility." If you remove the skin of nuts, seeds, and grains, that helps remove a lot of the phytic acid, but that also removes a lot of the nutrition such as the fiber. While soaking breaks down the phytic acid, sprouting nuts, beans, and seeds also reduces phytic acid content.
That's not to say you should never eat a regular nut again! If you're eating a balanced diet, you'll have no problem getting those minerals from other sources. If you're vegan or vegetarian, then getting into the habit of soaking whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds before using them isn't a bad idea.