How to Reduce Lectins in Almonds
I’m an advocate for doing things oneself. That is to say, buying food as whole as possible and doing the processing at home. I realize this doesn’t make me “brand-friendly.” Rather, I’m Mother Nature friendly. She’s the oldest and best brand there is.
Take almonds, for example. They naturally contain anti-nutrients that protect the seeds until they germinate. Consequently, they inhibit digestion in all those who would dare eat them raw. Many people sensitive to lectins also don’t tolerate nuts. It’s no wonder when we don’t take the time to prepare them properly.
Most commercial preparers and packagers do not properly prepare nuts for digestion. Farmers grow and harvest them. Packaging plants make a quick turnover from pasteurization to shipping. And, finally, PLANTERS® adds lots of salt, sugar, and bad oil (sorry, that’s not the proper preparation method).
Anti-Nutrients in Almonds
Let’s set aside the snack aisle for now and look at the naturally-occurring compounds in nuts that protect the seed from predators (us). They are responsible for many of the reactions sensitive individuals have. A few of these compounds are lectins, phytates, and mycotoxins.
Almonds contain lectins in their raw-off-the-tree form. Lectins are a type of protein that feed the offspring of the almond seed when it sprouts. But, in this case, the lectins are in the skins. Removing the skin of the almond by blanching, for instance, is enough to safely reduce levels for sensitive individuals. (7)
–> Read more in-depth about plant lectins HERE.
Almonds contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. However, we don’t absorb many of the nutrients because they are high in something called phytic acid. These indigestible phytates bind to minerals in our GI tract. Too much phytic acid can, over time, contribute to mineral deficiencies. The method for reducing it is to soak nuts in a solution of water and salt before consuming. (1) (4)
–> There’s a really good article on phytic acid HERE.
For mold and mycotoxin-sensitive individuals, the fungal growth that occurs from improper storage of almonds can cause reactions. Scientists have recovered potentially toxigenic species from a variety of stored nuts and dried fruits. Some of these include Aspergillus, Eurotium, and Penicillium. (2)
A good way to avoid fungal contamination is to purchase nuts that haven’t been stored. Buying straight from the farmer during harvest season would be ideal. Additionally, immediately blanching the almonds will decrease potential fungal growth. Otherwise you can try adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) to the water when soaking. This may inhibit the growth of microbes and fungi. (3)
Nutrients in Almonds
Nutritionists and health gurus consistently rate almonds as one of the top superfoods. Certainly they are good for your heart, brain, and every other organ. Moreover, they are loaded with the right fats, vitamins, and minerals.
Almonds are not a low-fat option. Which is a good thing…remember, we are trying to reverse our thinking on this. Monounsaturated fat is the main fatty acid. It’s the same kind found in avocados, olives, and their respective oils. Also, it lowers bad cholesterol and lessens the risk of heart attack and stroke. (5) (6)
Sprouted, raw nuts contain enzymes that can aid in digestion and absorption. Unfortunately, heat processing, including blanching, can destroy these enzymes. US processors are required, by law, to pasteurize all nuts sold in stores (even though the label says raw).
Not all is lost, however. The reason we soak almonds is twofold–to activate enzymes and to lower enzyme inhibitors. We can achieve the latter through soaking and removing the skins. (8)
Many of the micronutrients and polyphenols in almonds are concentrated in the skin. This is why nutritionists and dietitians will advise you to eat them raw with the skins still on. Unfortunately, these nutrients come at a price. Those with lectin sensitivities have experienced a rise in inflammation markers while consuming raw almonds on The Plant Paradox diet. (9)
Not all of the benefits disappear by removing the skin, however. There are still plenty of nutrients in the blanched seed, including vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and copper.
Almonds on The Plant Paradox Diet
Why aren’t they on the Yes list?
This is because almond flour (not almond meal) is made from the blanched nuts, which you’ve read above is the key to reducing lectins. Therefore, they are compliant, as long as they are skinless. Luckily, removing the skins is very easy to do at home!
How to Make Almonds Lectin-Free
The following is a step-by-step guide for people who are the most sensitive to almonds.* It goes above and beyond what’s required for the Plant Paradox diet. This preparation ensures that all lectins, phytates, fungi, and other undesirable things are reduced, denatured or rendered mostly harmless. Some steps are adopted from the Nourishing Traditions method by Sally Fallon.
*This method does not make almonds safe for those with severe or life-threatening allergies to tree nuts.
Time needed: 2 days.
How to properly prepare raw almonds at home to reduce lectins and phytic acid:
- Start with fresh, raw, organic nuts.
Ideally, purchase direct from a farm and hull them yourself. Otherwise, purchase raw almonds with the skins still on.
To reduce the anti-nutrients, cover 4 cups of almonds with filtered water and stir in 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Soak for 7-12 hours at room temperature. Drain and rinse.
- Remove skins.
The skins will sometimes peel off easily after soaking for 12 hours. If that doesn’t work, bring a pot of water to a boil and place the nuts in to boil for one minute (no longer). Immediately strain in a colander and rinse with cool water. After that, gently squeeze the almonds to remove the skins.
Place almonds in a dehydrator or oven at 150 degrees F or below for 12-24 hours, stirring on occasion. They are done when they are dry and crispy–taste-test one to see if it pops in your mouth before turning off the oven. Nuts are best stored in the freezer until ready to use.
What do Do With Blanched Almonds
Now that you have these tasty, beautiful nuts that required so much work, what do you do with them? Three of the most versatile Plant Paradox pantry staples are almond butter, almond flour, and almond milk. The preparation is similar, with a slight variance in blending technique.
Eat it alone by the spoonful, as a dip for veggie sticks, or make a chocolate chip cookie dough bite by mixing it with equal part ghee and strategically placing some chocolate chips (yes, it’s as divine as it sounds.)
How to Make Almond Butter
Place blanched almonds in a food processor or blender and blend away until butter forms. If you’re using a blender, you may have to use the plunger to push the almonds toward the blade or a spatula to scrape down the sides occasionally.
In a food processor, the circle of flying almond pieces will start to form a ball when it’s almost done. I prefer to use a food processor, because the butter isn’t as creamy–I love some crunch. This is the brand I use and love (or see above). Nut butter will last 2-3 months in the fridge.
–> Short on time? Here’s the best store-bought brand.
I’ve tried making flour in a food processor and it turns out pretty coarse. I recommend using a decent blender, like this one, or maybe even a spice and nut grinder. The best part? Store it in the freezer, and it will last up to a year.
How to Make Almond Flour
You must be master of the pulse button to make almond flour in a blender or processor. Hit the pulse button in one second bursts until it appears you’ve made flour. It’s really as simple as that. It could take 50 pulses or it could take 100 or more. Be patient and good luck. If you don’t get it right this time, you’ll have delicious nut butter. And there’s always my favorite store-bought blanched almond flour 🙂
–> Check out the 4 Best Lectin Free Flours.
Skip Step 4 above–dehydrating your almonds–because they need to be wet to make milk. Instead, toss the peeled almonds into a bowl of hot water as you’re peeling.
How to Make Almond Milk
Use a 1:2 ratio of nuts to water when making almond milk. Start with 2 cups of peeled almonds and blend with 4 cups filtered water until they are pulverized into pulp. Then, strain the contents through a nut milk bag into a glass jar. Enjoy your almond milk without any added gums, thickeners, stabilizers, or preservatives. It lasts up to a week in the fridge.
Is it Worth it?
I’m realizing that to truly live healthy in modern society requires wealth. Not monetary wealth–wealth of time. Increasingly, I don’t know what’s in the cans, jars, bags, and containers of store-bought convenience items I purchase. The element of trust in our food manufacturing society is eroded with every recall and every new case of chronic illness.
But even if the trust were in tact, of course it’s worth it to make your own food. There’s a primal sense of satisfaction in accepting something from Mother Nature and turning it into a healthy, preservative-free butter, milk, or flour for my family.