I recently made some amazingly good lemon bars for a friends event. All I have to say is Fabulous…except, the crust is nut based! I do not have an allergy to nuts, but as someone who has dealt with a lot of digestive issues over the years, nuts are one of those foods that can be highly irritating (I will not completely divulge the reason why I could not eat pecans for a year, suffice it to say it involved nut cereal and a toilet). Eating nuts occasionally for most of us will not cause any issues. The problem is that with a large number of people moving toward a paleo or vegetarian diets, nuts and nut based snacks/desserts begin making up a large part of the diet. Now don’t get me wrong, nuts are a great source of fat and protein including Omega 3’s which help reduce inflammation and important minerals such as calcium, selenium, potassium & magnesium to name a few. The problem with nuts is that they have built in protection with phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid binds with minerals in the digestive tract and essentially makes them unavailable for our use which can lead to mineral deficiencies. Enzyme inhibitors are a bit more self explanatory. They inhibit enzymes necessary for us to break down foods and utilize the nutrients available in those foods. Again, if you eat nuts on occasion this is not as worrisome for you, but if you are eating them daily there are some things you can do to help reduce these issues and get the most out of your foods.
#1 Soak the nuts!
By soaking the nuts overnight or a minimum 7 hours in salt water it activates the enzymes that break down the enzyme inhibitors and reduce phytic acid. A basic recipe is 4 cups of nuts with 1 tblsp salt. Submerge the nuts under filtered water and stir in the salt. Cover and leave to soak at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain and spread on either a baking pan or a dehydrator shelf. Place in the dehydrator or oven at no more than 150 F. If your oven is higher than this, place it on the lowest setting and leave the door ajar. Dry for 12-24 hours. Store in an air tight container up to 4 months (store walnuts in the fridge) **Cashews are the exception! Soak no more than 6 hours as they can become slimy 🙁 You can dry them at 200 F for 12-24 hours.
#2 Buy them dry roasted instead of raw.
The soak and dry yourself method is best, but if this is not for you right now, buying them roasted will at least offer some reduction in the enzyme inhibitors. Make sure they are dry roasted and not roasted with oils as the oils will become rancid during the roasting process. Rancid oils increase free radical production in the body leading to inflammation.
#3 Buy crispy nuts! Make sure to look for no added ingredients.
So now I am focused on some nut free alternatives for those heavily using nuts in the diet and for others who are still healing from digestive inflammation. My first recipe is for Ginger lemon bar bites. They have a nice zing to them and a tartness that offsets the sweet dates perfectly.
- 1 cup dates, softened
- 1 cup unsweet coconut flakes
- 1 cup coconut butter, softened but not melted
- 1 inch fresh ginger rough chopped
- 1 tblsp ground ginger
- zest of 1 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tblsp coconut oil
- Combine softened dates, coconut flakes, lemon zest and both ginger in a food processor. Pulse until broken down into crumbs or small chunks. Add coconut butter, coconut oil and lemon juice and pulse until fully combined and beginning to stick together. Roll into balls and place on a dish in the fridge and let set for 35-40 minutes. If it is not sticking together enough to roll up add a few more dates and a bit more lemon juice.
- These will last in the fridge for up to 1 week and in the freezer for a month.
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morrell