Almonds are a healthy and nutritious food, but they can be a source of phytic acid, which is a compound that binds to minerals and prevents the absorption of them. Soaking almonds increases the amount of free-form amino acids available for absorption, as well as making them much easier to chew.
Decreases phytic acid
Soaking almonds before eating them can help improve digestion and mineral absorption. Almond is a great food because it contains fiber, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium. However, not many people know that it also contains phytic acid which can prevent the absorption of those nutrients from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. The good news is soaking almonds for six hours will remove some of the phytic acid so you’ll get more nutrients from your delicious snack!
How much phytic acid is removed?
One study found that soaking almonds for 24 hours at room temperature reduced the phytic acid level by less than 5%. Another study found that soaking chopped almonds in salt water for 12 hours reduced the phytic acid level by 4%. These are small but significant amounts which supports the view that with soaked almonds we should be able to absorb slightly more nutrients.
Fats become easier to absorb
Soaking almonds in water before eating may make them easier to chew. This increases the nutrient availability to the body and aids digestion.
Research shows that breaking down almonds into smaller pieces through chewing or cutting allows more nutrients to be released and absorbed — especially fats.
In this article from 2018, researchers looked at four different types of almond meals:
- natural almonds
- roasted almonds
- roasted diced almonds
- almond butter from roasted almonds
They found that some lipid (fat) structures remained encapsulated in all of natural, roasted and roasted diced almonds. However when people consumed almond butter from roasted almonds, they identified complete digestion - all of the available fat got absorbed.
What about pathogen growth during soaking?
According to research published in Journal of Food Protection at 2020, pathogens on almonds were monitored during soaking at 15, 18, and 23°C for up to 24 h. Among these settings, at 15°C and a 1:1 almond:water ratio, pathogen populations did not increase for the 24 hour duration. The researchers recommend shorter soaking times (less than 8 hours) and cooler temperatures (less than 15°C) when soaking almonds to reduce the growth of any foodborne pathogens.
The role of tannins
Tannins give their slightly bitter taste to raw almonds. When soaked, tannin content is also decreased together with phytic acid. This makes almonds easier to consume for most people, with their bitterness reduced.
However, if you still like your almonds raw, the good news is that tannins have several benefits with its antioxidant role - reducing free radicals through the body. Tannins are also cardioprotective and exert antimicrobial, anti-cancer, anti-nutritional properties. They help with metabolical disorders and prevents the damage related to oxidative stress.
Should you soak almonds?
Unsoaked almonds remain a healthy option. Almonds, either soaked or unsoaked, present a great nutritional profile with lots of fiber, protein and healthy fats as well as vitamin E, manganese and magnesium.
Almonds skins are also rich in polyphenols which is a type of antioxidant that protect not only from heart disease and type 2 diabetes but also against cancer.
Consuming almonds help people reduce their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels, increase HDL (good cholesterol) and reach better blood sugar control.
Despite its role in reducing the absorption of some other nutrients, phytic acid is not harmful and it's not necessary to remove it either. Phytic acid is also a good antioxidant and described as a natural cancer fighter.