The New Zealand study, published in Food Chemistry, was the first study to test the effects of activating nuts on phytate and mineral concentrations.
Nuts naturally contain phytates, which bind minerals together. Supporters of activated nuts believe soaking breaks down the phytates and improves bioavailability of minerals, making it easier for our bodies to absorb the minerals nuts contain.
Study author Professor Rachel Brown said the study found no evidence that activating nuts reduced phytates.
“Our research shows common methods used to activate nuts do not reduce phytate levels. However, important minerals in nuts, specifically iron, calcium and zinc, were leached out during soaking process, which suggests activating nuts probably does more harm than good,” said Prof. Brown, Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago.
“We also found many common activating methods used salted water turning nuts from a naturally low-sodium snack into a less desirable, high-sodium snack food.”
The New Zealand study assessed common methods for activating nuts on both whole and chopped almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and peanuts. The three methods used to activate nuts were soaking for 12 hours in water, soaking for 12 hours in salted water, and soaking for four hours in salted water. After drying, the researchers then tested phytate and mineral content.
The results showed no evidence that these common methods of activating nuts improved bioavailability of nutrients with most methods having little impact on phytates and in the case of almonds, several soaking methods significantly increased phytate levels.
The researchers also reported the range of common activating methods decreased concentrations of key minerals by up to 25 per cent, compared to the untreated (unsoaked) nuts. Specifically, the concentrations of calcium decreased by 2 to 25 percent, iron decreased by 1 to 19 percent, and zinc levels decreased by 1 to 9 percent. In most cases, results for soaking chopped nuts showed higher mineral losses.
The New Zealand researchers had previously studied the impact of activating almonds on digestion, that found soaking almonds did not reduce phytates or improve gastrointestinal symptoms (2).
Nuts for Life Dietitian Belinda Neville said the research was important to debunk the activated nut myth.
“We don’t want people to believe that they need to soak nuts, or buy more expensive activated nuts, to gain the health benefits,” said Ms Neville.
“It’s better to save time and money and eat a handful of raw or roasted nuts a day. The substantial body of research on the wide-ranging health benefits of tree nuts is based on non-activated, raw or roasted nuts.”
Decades of scientific research has linked eating a handful of nuts most days with a reduced risk heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and improved weight management. (3-7)
Source: Nuts For Life
Nuts for Life is Australia’s leading nutrition authority on tree nuts and health. The nutrition education initiative educates about the health benefits of regular nut consumption in the Australian diet. It is funded by the Australian Tree Nut Industry and Hort Innovation.
1. Kumari S., et al. Does ‘activating’ nuts affect nutrient bioavailability? Food Chemistry 2020 doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2020.126529
2. Taylor H., et al. The effects of 'activating' almonds on consumer acceptance and gastrointestinal tolerance. Eur J Nutr, 2018. 57(8): p.
3. Aune, D., et al., Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all- cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic
review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Med, 2016. 14(1): p. 207.
4. Afshin, A., et al., Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic
review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr, 2014. 100(1): p. 278-88.
5. Nikodijevic C. et al. Nut consumption in a representative survey of Australians: a secondary analysis of the 2011–2012 National
Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Public Health Nutrition. March 2020 DOI: 10.1017/S1368980019004117
6. Neale, E., et al., The effect of nut consumption on heart health: an updated systematic review of the literature. 2018. Nuts for Life,
7. Li, H., et al., Nut consumption and risk of metabolic syndrome and overweight/obesity: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies
and randomized trials. Nutr Metab (Lond), 2018. 15: p. 46.
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