Once you start to accustom yourself with a raw food diet, you will quickly find that a lot of recipes call for nuts and seeds. These are used to substitute common dairy ingredients such as cheese, sour cream or yogurt. Nuts and seeds are also used as a base for dips and spreads, to add texture to salads and other dishes, and to make delicious raw desserts.
When you think about your main ingredients being raw vegetables and fruit, you can imagine that you are not eating a whole lot of calories to keep you full for long. Nuts and seeds provide exactly that: lots of fiber to aid digestion and keep you full, protein (for all of you obsessed with where the protein is coming from when you are not eating meat), and healthy fats for a sharp mind and super smooth skin, hair, and nails. While for the longest time we all thought that nuts would make us fat, they actually contain the good fat we need in order to function properly. So don’t be scared with the amounts of raw nuts you may be eating when eating raw foods!
Here are some of the most commonly used nuts and seeds in raw foods:
Super high in calcium, so a perfect substitute to dairy when looking for strong bones. To make your own additive free almond milk, just blend 1 Tbsp almond butter with 1 cup water for 2 minutes, and done! Very easy and you can make it in smaller portions, so you don’t waste any of that expensive, packaged almond milk.
The curved shape of cashews reminds of our kidneys. And that is exactly what cashew nuts are great for! Kidneys are the center of our innate chi in Chinese medicine - our life energy. Cashews nurture this life energy, so you don’t run out of steam so quickly. Cashews are perfect when you want to add a bit of raw creaminess - like in this delicious raw berry cake.
The queen of nuts for a reason! Palmitoleic acid, usually only found in fish oil, has the ability to speed up your metabolism naturally and actually prevents your body from storing fat. Macadamias are perfect when you want to make desserts more fancy and not use cashew nuts. Nothing beats macadamia nuts in creaminess, sweetness, and dessert flavor.
A tiny nut with huge health impacts! Vitamin A and lutein are major parts of the little structure, and they are responsible for great eye sight. Pine nuts are most commonly known as the main ingredient in pesto, but you can also use them for other kinds of dips and spreads, even for sweet dishes! In raw foods they are also often used to give a fake kind of cheese flavor to dishes.
Extremely rich in zinc, a mineral so important for great skin and a thriving immune system. Most people will know pumpkin seeds from seedy bread rolls, but you can use pumpkin seeds pretty much in any dish. Just sprinkle them raw on top of salads, soups, and stir fries.
Filled with Vitamin E, sunflower seeds help to keep the balance good cholesterol in your blood. When good cholesterol is attacked by radicals, it starts to nibble at your arteries, causing build up and eventually leading to strokes and heart attacks. Vitamin E helps to stop this deteriorating process. Check out the recipe below for a sunflower seed pate unlike anything you have ever tasted before!
What do walnuts remind you of? They look just like our brain - perfect brain food! I love their very distinct, nutty taste and add them often to salads and oatmeal. Next time you make pesto, try using walnuts instead of pine nuts for a different taste sensation!
When using nuts and seeds in raw foods, make sure your nuts are actually raw, not roasted or flavored. The taste of raw nuts may be something you need to get used to at first, but you will soon fall in love with the natural flavor.
Depending on which country you live in, the “raw” nuts you buy may not actually be truly raw, but pasteurized to kill off germs and bacteria. Shop around a little to make sure you are buying real raw nuts.
Next step is to start thinking about soaking your raw nuts. This helps to deactivate enzyme inhibitors. What are these, you may ask? Naturally, nuts have these compounds which keep the nuts from sprouting too quickly in nature. We can’t have all nuts sprouting all the time, because sometimes the weather conditions are not perfect for a new nut tree to grow. If they were sprouting all the time, nature would be wasting a lot of nuts. Instead, enzyme inhibitors help to keep nuts “fresh” until proper growing conditions are achieved. Only if it rains and the nuts soak up the water at the right temperature, do they start to sprout. This helps them to release all the nutrients from inside the nuts, which then leads to them growing into a new tree. The same principles apply in your kitchen. If you soak the nuts, they will open up and the nutrients are much more accessible for your body to use. The enzyme inhibitors would otherwise keep important minerals and vitamins from giving you the optimal health benefits. Plus, soaked nuts are much easier to digest! You don't need to soak seeds, they are already ready to be digested by your body.
Soaking nuts overnight will make sure enzyme inhibitors are deactivated. Simply place your nuts in a bowl, add at least double amount of water, and place them in the fridge to soak overnight. In the winter you can also soak them outside of the fridge. You can then drain them, rinse, and keep the nuts in the fridge to snack on and add to your dishes for the next few days. If you want to keep the soaked nuts for longer or use them to grind into a flour, you need to dry the nuts after the soaking stage. This can easily be achieved in a dehydrator (I will get to what this is in another part of the raw foods series) or in the oven at the lowest temperature for about 24 hours.
Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of work to go through… and I totally agree! But once you start to soak and dry and eat the nuts, you will feel a difference in the vibrancy of your food. Honestly, I don’t always soak my nuts, but when I am organized enough I will.
Veggie wraps with sunflower seed pâté
After this long lesson, let’s move on to the fun part of this post: the actual recipe! Some raw foods recipes are bit more elaborate and require a little bit of organizing because of the nut soaking. This recipe uses seeds, so is quick to make. This recipe will make more pâté than you need so you can snack on it for the next few days to come!
Preparation time: 20 minutes
For 2 servings:
For the wraps:
4 silver beet leaves (also called Swiss chard or any other big green leaf)
1 yellow pepper
8 mint leaves
For the sunflower seed pâté:
2 cups sunflowers seeds
⅓ cup nama shoyu (raw soy sauce, alternatively try soy sauce, liquid aminos, coconut aminos, or tamari)
⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (not raw, optional)
freshly ground black pepper
Start by making the sunflower seed pâté. Grind the sunflower seeds in your food processor until all seeds are broken down into a flour like texture.
Add all the other ingredients and process until creamy. You may have to stop in between and scrape down the mixture from the sides of the food processor. This can take up to 3 minutes to get super creamy.
Take the big silver beet leaves and cut the over hanging stem off. Make sure the leaves stay intact while you wash them, then put them to the side.
Very finely chop your carrot, mango, cucumber, and pepper into thin strips.
Roughly chop the mint leaves.
To assemble the wrap, take a silver beet leave and spread 2 Tbsp sunflower seed pâté on it. Then top with strips of carrot, mango, cucumber, peppers and two of the mint leaves.
If the leaves are big enough, they will just fold over to serve. If the leaves are a bit uncooperative, use a string to tie them together and hold them in place until they reach your mouth.
I promise, the effort is so worth it!
Also check out these posts of the raw food series: