No – in fact a recent study published in May 2020 [1] concluded that activating nuts could do more harm than good. The study found common methods for activating nuts are ineffective at reducing phytates, and showed no evidence that it improves bioavailability of nutrients. Iron, calcium and zinc were lost in activated nuts as they ‘leached out’ during the soaking process. In addition, as it is common for nuts to be activated using salted water, the study found that the activation process also increases the sodium content – turning nuts from a naturally low-sodium food into a less desirable, high-sodium food.  

A study published in late 2018 also concluded that soaking (or activating) almonds did not reduce phytates, nor did it improve GI tolerance when compared to un-soaked nuts [2].

Proponents of activated nuts believe that activating (or soaking) nuts breaks down some of the proteins, starches, oils and other nutrients like phytates, seemingly making them more digestible.

Phytates are a plant seed compound which binds to minerals (such as iron, calcium and zinc). During soaking, the presence of water releases phytase enzymes which break down phytates releasing the minerals for the plant to use. So hypothetically, this means we should also be able to absorb these minerals better.

However, research suggests phytates can be considered a nutrient in their own right.  They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, appear to have anti-cancerous properties, may affect carbohydrate metabolism and glucose control, improve bone mineral loss and possibly even reduce kidney stones [3, 4].

The bottom line: there appears to be no benefit to activating nuts. It’s therefore 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.

References

  1. Kumari, S., et al., Does 'activating' nuts affect nutrient bioavailability? Food Chem, 2020. 319: p. 126529.
  2. Taylor, H., et al., The effects of 'activating' almonds on consumer acceptance and gastrointestinal tolerance. Eur J Nutr, 2018. 57(8): p. 2771-2783.
  3. Graf, E. and J.W. Eaton, Antioxidant functions of phytic acid. Free Radic Biol Med, 1990. 8(1): p. 61-9.
  4. Schlemmer, U., et al., Phytate in foods and significance for humans: food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food Res, 2009. 53 Suppl 2: p. S330-75.
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