Posted on by Michelle Busch

All nuts, and seeds contain a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and protein. They each have their own distinct mix that makes each one unique in its benefits.

For instance, walnuts contain more antioxidants than all other tree and ground nuts, according to data published in the February 2012 issue of Food & Function. Those healthful antioxidants help the body fight the free radicals (from other foods and the environment) that cause cell damage and can lead to premature aging, metabolic disease, and cancer. Plus, walnuts are also the richest in omega-3 fatty acids, which fights inflammation that leads to many other chronic conditions.

Almonds have one of the highest fiber counts of all nuts, which can help lower cholesterol and make you feel full. Adequate fiber also lowers the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Plus almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant thought to help protect the body against free radical damage that can contribute to several chronic diseases, and which also helps with immune function and other metabolic processes.

Pecans with their sweet delicate flavor could possibly be the most nutritious of all nuts. In fact, after looking at 277 different nuts and foods, USDA researchers say pecans are the most antioxidant-rich nut around. On top of this, pecans deliver more oleic acid than olive oil, contain 90% unsaturated (heart-healthy) fats, are low sodium, cholesterol free, contain essential vitamins and minerals, and have important alpha and gamma-tocopherol forms of vitamin E.

All nuts have various amounts of fats that are good for us. Most of the fat is monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. Although they each contain various amounts of each kind of fat, it’s important that we get a balanced ratio of each of these fats in our diet. That’s why a diet containing a combination of nuts provides the broadest nutritional profile of heart healthy oils and antioxidants.

Seeds are also amazing powerhouses of nutrition that should be incorporated into every diet plan. Seeds such as pumpkin and flax are rich in nutrients and have many health benefits.

Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds are a tasty source of iron, zinc, B vitamins, magnesium and protein, and have a high concentration of the amino acid tryptophan, which helps lower anxiety levels.

Like pumpkin, flax is a great source of magnesium and fiber. Flaxseed is also a great source of alpha-linoleic acid, a kind of omega-3 fatty acid that can help reduce chronic inflammation.

So, what’s the problem then of just adding all these nutrient dense nuts and seeds into our diet?

The problem is with a chemical compound found in all plant foods called Phytic acid, or phytate. Phytates are antioxidant compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The chief concern about phytates is that they can bind to certain dietary minerals including iron, zinc, manganese and calcium and slow or prevent their absorption. Therefore, it is often referred to as an anti-nutrient.

On top of reducing mineral absorption, phytic acid also reduces the production of digestive enzymes. This can make foods containing phytic acid harder to digest, especially for people who have trouble producing enough digestive enzymes in the first place.

Just as with grains and legumes, soaking nuts is essential for breaking down the phytic acids for proper digestion. When eating nuts that haven’t been soaked, the phytic acid binds to minerals in the gastrointestinal tract and can’t be absorbed in the intestine. Too many bound minerals can lead to mineral deficiencies. By soaking, you are breaking down the phytic acid so it can be absorbed properly. In addition soaking nuts can neutralize the enzymes allowing for proper digestion.

So how do you know if the nuts and seeds you eat aren’t being properly digested? You may have noticed the next day that the nuts are in your stool. This is a sign that the nuts were not properly digested.

One last thing I want to note. Soaking then dehydrating the nuts not only helps with digestion but it enhances the flavor tremendously! They are so crunchy, have a nice light texture, and taste amazing!