One frequent question I receive is whether or not we should soak almond flour when using it for baked goods. I know that many of my readers like to use not only gluten free flours, but also flours that are grain free as well. Almond flour is a popular choice.
I am not completely clear on everything in regard to this topic. But here’s my current understanding.
Nuts may contain phytic acid, but it’s the enzyme inhibitors that are the big problem
As you may have noticed, we leave the salt out of any grain product that we are soaking because it prevents the phytic acid from being neutralized. But when we soak nuts we use a lot of salt. The reason, according to Sally Fallon, (besides the fact that this is a traditional method like the Aztec practice with pumpkin seeds) is that the salt helps activate the enzymes that neutralize enzyme inhibitors.
The reason that enzyme inhibitors is a problem is because they will use up your enzymes in your body and it seems like unsoaked nuts cause a lot of digestive discomfort for people too. I know that I am not the only one who has found that raw, unsoaked nuts can cause stomach aches! I am assuming it’s caused by the enzyme inhibitors.
Two ways to Neutralize Enzyme Inhibitors
There are two ways to neutralize enzyme inhibitors. One is to soak them in salt water and then to dehydrate them. The other is to roast or toast them. *The soaking method is effective, traditional, and keeps the important enzymes intact and certain vitamins as well if you are going to eat them raw. This means that when buying nut butter, soaked and dehydrated nut butter is the best, roasted is second place, and raw is worst.
However, if you are going to cook the nuts anyways, do you have to presoak them? I don’t know of any studies showing how quickly the enzyme inhibitors break down under heat, so I can’t really say for sure. When cooking with almond flour, it may break down adequate amounts of enzyme inhibitors simply by being heated, though some people still complain of digestive issues with almond flour baked goods. This could be caused by either an intolerance to the nuts themselves, or because the enzyme inhibitors are bothering their digestive tracts.
If you are one of those people, I suggest you test yourself. Are you bothered by soaked and dehydrated whole almonds? If so, then soaking the flour won’t help. but if you can tolerate soaked and dehydrated and can’t tolerate almond flour muffins well, then you may want to rethink using it.
If you did want to soak almond flour leave the salt in the recipe in it since it will help the soaking process. You will also most likely adjust recipes to contain more liquid for soaking. I personally haven’t baked with almond flour before, nor have I tried soaking it.
The other option is to presoak and dehydrate nuts and then grind them into flour yourself. This has worked really well for me and I have several recipes on this site that use this method. I have sometimes also just used raw nuts (because I was behind in my soaking/drying) and hoped that the baking heat was enough to neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. An even better method for unsoaked nuts would be to pretoast or roast the nuts and then grind and use in the recipes.
So that it about as much as I know. But I would love to hear from you! What’s been your personal experience?
*As mentioned, Sally Fallon recommends the nuts be soaked and dehydrated. In How We Heal by Douglas Morrison and The Garden of Eating roasting or toasting nuts is also used or suggested to reduce enzyme inhibitors
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