One would assume that if we are eating a mostly raw diet then nuts and seeds would be a common snack and that grains would be eliminated. Neither is completely true. Nuts and seeds certainly can be consumed, and they are often a core ingredient in raw food recipes. And grains too are often used to make raw granola and breads. The primary considerations with using nuts, seeds, and grains should be how should they be prepared and how much we consume.
Often, as we first embark on diet changes for health benefits, we struggle with detox symptoms, cravings, and emotional eating. In my journey, I did a great job of immediately eliminating meat, dairy, cooked foods, sugar, coffee, and processed foods, but I struggled with snacking on too much almond butter. In truth, almond butter and dried fruit addictions tend to be a common stage when transitioning to a raw food diet. Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself in this stage, but do seek out why you feel these cravings. Sometimes we need to eat more foods that provide high levels of nutrition, and sometimes we need to recognize our need to heal emotions before tackling emotional eating.
What about the issue of lectins in nuts, seeds, and grains? Considering the current healthy-eating dialogues and books like Gundry’s The Plant Parodox, the fear of lectins is rampant. But we may be unnecessarily concerned. Eliminating highly nutritious foods is more dangerous than the risk of the lectins. The Food and Drug Administration claims that lectins are only dangerous in high amounts. And studies on lectins since the 1970s show inconsistent results.
Certainly some people should avoid or limit lectins. Some food allergies are actually allergies to lectins in particular foods. In addition, people with lowered immune systems from bacterial infections, inflammatory bowl disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders, etc. could have legitimate problems with eating lectins due to a damaged gut lining.
Furthermore, one particular lectin in beans (particularly red kidney beans) can temporarily damage our guts and even make us sick. So cook your beans or prepare them properly before consuming them raw (note: only some beans can safely be consumed raw and should be sprouted).
The good aspects of lectins seem to be ignored. Dr Fuhrman, claims lectins do not disrupt digestion. In fact, they bind to carbohydrates and lower the glycemic index of foods. In this case beans are excellent for improving metabolism and loosing weight. And beans are rich in anti-cancer phytonutrients!
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about other enzyme inhibitors (protects seeds until time to germinate) and phytates (natural insecticide). Throughout history, people have prepared nuts, seeds, grains, and beans in ways that increase nutrition and decrease pytates and enzyme inhibitors, making these foods healthier more digestible.
Germinating and sprouting do wonders for nuts, seeds, grains, and beans. Germinating is as simple as soaking to bring the food to life. As the seed, nut, grain, or bean soaks, it is activated and prepares to grow. This process removes metabolic inhibitors and increases nutritional value. You will need to soak grains, nuts, and seeds before using them in raw food recipes. I regularly soak sunflower and pumpkin seeds and then dehydrate them on a low temperature. I store them in jars so they are ready to use as snacks or in recipes.
To get the most nutritional value, add one more step and sprout your nuts, seeds, grains, and beans. Start the sprouting process by soaking. Then rinse and drain. Place in a well-draining container (I often use a colander or strainer inside a bowl to collect draining water). Cover with something that will keep contaminates off but allows airflow (I use a clean dish towel). Place out of direct sunlight and rinse and drain often, at least 2-3 times a day (more often if the temperatures are warm.) After a few hours you will see little sprouts start to grow; they look like little tails. The tails should be at least as long as the length of what you are sprouting. It’s okay if sprout tails are long. Just keep rinsing and draining often and be cautious that your sprouts don’t rot.
Use your germinated or sprouted nuts, seeds, or grains immediately or dry them to consume later. After sprouting beans, cook them on a very low temperature (120 degrees Fahrenheit) to maintain the nutrients (not raw) or consume raw. Sprouted garbanzo beans, lentils, adzuki beans, and mung beans are safe to eat raw. Sprouting turns the legume into a vegetable.
When making food choices, aim for the highest nutritional value, not just what is raw. Eating cooked beans is better than eating too many nuts and seeds (even if they are raw and soaked or sprouted). Nuts and seeds are high in fats and omega 6. While good fats and omega 6 are needed in moderation, human nature tends to over eat fats and omega 6! We need the primary focus of our diets to be greens, sprouts (lentils, broccoli, sunflower, pea, mung, clover, radish, etc.), and fresh vegetables. But adding some raw granola, crackers, or bread can make the raw food diet more enjoyable.
Soaking times for common grains and seeds:
Amaranth 3 hrs
Buckwheat 6 hrs
Millet 3 hrs
Pumpkin Seeds 4 hrs
Quinoa 3 hrs
Sesame Seeds 4 hrs
Sunflower Seeds 6 hrs
Teff 3 hrs
After soaking, sprout for 24 hrs (except sesame and millet sprout for 12 hrs).
Notes: Peanuts are not recommended due to the potential of mold and anflatoxins. Also, cashews are not raw. They are heated to high temperatures to break apart the tough outer shell. They are, therefore, considered carcinogenic. Many raw foodist still consume cashews on occasion, but limit their use.
Please comment if you have questions about germinating or sprouting, if you already do this, or if you are planing to try it. 😊