Nuts combine healthy fats, protein, fibre, minerals and vitamins in a convenient package, and some claim they're even healthier when 'activated' by soaking. But is there any truth to it?
While it's a good idea to soak legumes and grains, leave your nuts alone, says Rachel Brown from Otago University's Nut Research Group.
Brown, who has been researching nuts for a decade, says it's only in the last year she started getting asked about the benefits of activation.
The idea is that nuts store phosphorus in the form of phytates (phytic acid) which can make other minerals they contain (such as iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium) less available for us to absorb.
Some believe that through the process of 'activation' (overnight soaking) phytates will seep out into the water, enzymes in the nuts that break down the phytate will be activated or enzyme inhibitors present in nuts will be deactivated.
Yet The Nut Research Group found very little phytate came out when nuts were soaked.
When chopped nuts were soaked some phytates came out, but also some of the nuts' essential minerals.
"Overall we saw no benefit," Brown says.
Some people believe that soaked nuts are easier to digest, but in a blind test, The Nut Research Group found no difference in peoples' gastrointestinal systems when they ate soaked nuts as compared to unsoaked nuts.
The only discernible difference was that the soaked nuts resulted in slightly more flatulence, Brown says.
She recommends people buy and eat the freshest raw nuts possible – from a farmers market if you can.