Activated almonds, anyone? A balanced view

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Monday, 05 November 2012.
Tagged: #activatedalmonds, balanced diet, healthy eating, nutrition, nuts, super foods

Activated almonds, anyone? A balanced view
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On Sunday night (4th November 2012), the Twittersphere went ballistic with hundreds of Tweeters critiquing and poking fun at celebrity chef Pete Evans’ daily diet which had appeared in Sunday Life, a supplement of The Sunday Age and The Sun-Herald. The item that came in for most derision from the My Day on a Plate feature was activated almonds. In fact it was so popular it had its own hashtag #activatedalmonds. So what are activated almonds and do they have any health benefits over and above ordinary almonds?

As I’ve written in my article Super foods, the ultimate health foods – Almonds

“All nuts are packed with nutrition, but almonds stand out as a super nut! Eat a handful regularly and you’ll make a good investment in your heart’s health. ”

Almonds provide 28 essential nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, fibre and protein. Top of the list is the natural antioxidant, Vitamin E, and there are also good amounts of fibre and protein as well as smaller quantities of B vitamins and minerals. Surprisingly they are also a good source of calcium.

What are activated almonds and are they superior?

To “activate” an almond you need to soak it for 24 hours in water then dry it out again over a low heat either in a dehydrator or on the lowest setting of an oven.

Proponents of activated almonds claim that raw almonds contain certain phytochemicals that prevent you from getting the full benefit of the nutrients almonds contain. They contend that by soaking the almonds for 24 hours and starting the germination process you are activating the almonds’ growth cycle which denatures these phytochemicals.

This claim, as far as I have been able to ascertain, is unproven. I contacted the Nuts for Life organisation which represents the Australian tree nut industry and they say that there's almost no research on almonds or any other nut that indicates whether “activation” actually improves the digestibility and nutrition of the nut.

According to Nuts for Life, “activation is like sprouting of grains (wheat or barley grass) or sprouting of seeds (mung bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts).  It converts some of the starch to simpler sugars, converts some of the protein to simpler amino acids as the emerging seed is breaking these down for fuel for its new growth.”

Soaking nuts, grains and legumes isn't new

Many cultures, including our own, soak and/or sprout seeds. Think alfalfa, mung bean and pea sprouts that we use in salads. The Essenes used to make bread from sprouted grains and many cultures soak brown and white rice before cooking and we all know that you have to soak legumes like chickpeas to reduce the cooking time. Almonds are also often soaked to make it easier to remove the skins before using them in cooking e.g. Biryani. In a marginal diet like that in rural India where soaking of almonds overnight is traditional, these small nutrient differences gained from soaking the almonds may be important. In the average balanced Aussie diet where we eat fish, meat, vegetables, whole grains, it probably doesn't matter.

My take on activated almonds

Almonds, whether raw or activated, are a nutritious food and worth including in your daily diet. I have them listed as one of my Top 20 Super Foods. If you choose to go to the added expense of buying “activated” almonds or choose to take the time and trouble to activate your own that’s your choice. Either way they’re delicious and nutritious.

Catherine Saxelby About the author

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Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her award-winning book My Nutritionary will help you cut through the jargon. Do you know your MCTs from your LCTs? How about sterols from stanols? What’s the difference between glucose and dextrose? Or probiotics and prebiotics? What additive is number 330? How safe is acesulfame K? If you find yourself confused by food labels, grab your copy of Catherine Saxelby’s comprehensive guide My Nutritionary NOW!