They are difficult to digest because all nuts are edible seeds. Given the right conditions every seed has the potential to create a new plant. So they contain chemicals called enzyme inhibitors. These can bind to enzymes and reduce their activity. Protecting the nut so that it can survive, sprout and produce a new plant. These enzyme inhibitors make it more difficult for the body to digest the nuts.
What’s more nuts also contain phytates. These are compounds also found in other seeds such as grains and legumes. Not only do phytates bind to minerals such as zinc and iron reducing their absorption. They also reduce absorption of the macronutrients, proteins, starches and fats.
A diet high in these anti-nutrients can create nutrient deficiencies. Which explains why many traditional cultures found ways to treat these foods. Improving their digestibility and for better digestion overall.
One easy way to improve the digestibility of your nuts is to soak them in water. Soaking nuts neutralises their enzyme inhibitors and phytates. And makes their nutrients more bioavailable.
How to soak nuts
Soak nuts such as almonds in filtered water for four to eight hours. Then drain and dry them in a dehydrator or oven at low temperature, for several hours.
Or, use your soaked almonds to make your own delicious almond milk. Add to fresh filtered water and use a high powered blender. Just strain and drink, or store in the fridge for later.
So, nuts contain compounds that can create digestion problems. But we can overcome these problems with a little home processing.
However, other research and here suggests phytates may have health benefits of their own. These studies and others show that sometimes it may be beneficial to include high-phytate containing foods in your diet. The minerals that phytates bind to can act as oxidants in the gut and the rest of the body. When phytates bind to these minerals they are excreted. Reducing the oxidative burden on the body.
People eating an omnivorous diet may have a high intake of easily absorbed minerals. Also, there are some health conditions of increased accumulation of certain minerals. Such as haemochromatosis, a common inherited condition in which iron accumulates in the body. In these circumstances a high phytate diet may be beneficial. Helping to eliminate excess minerals.
However, people eating a mainly plant-based diet, may be better soaking their nuts for better digestion and absorption.