Thursday, November 1, 2012

Activated Nuts and Coco-nutty Granola

Activated Nuts and Coco-nutty Granola
Home Cooking

There's a lot of nutritional mumbo jumbo in this post about the theory of cutting sugar from one's diet and my opinions on it. If you're interested, read on. If you just want to know how to make delicious sugar-free nuts to eat at breakfast time or as a snack, skip to the recipe at the bottom.

Mochi, my friend and past regular on this blog has turned into a health fanatic. She's my idol! I'm totally inspired by her and wish I had her willpower. She told me a while back about how she was trying to cut out sugar from her diet. This seemed pretty intuitive until she mentioned that fruit was also out. I often eat fruit as an alternative to dessert to cut sugar cravings so for me, this was terrible news. I also found it non-sensical that fruit would ever be considered our enemy. I wrote it off as a quack theory and continued along my normal diet.

Just last week, I was roaming the internet when I stumbled across Sarah Wilson's blog and her plight against sugar. I started reading... and read enough to download her eBook 'I Quit Sugar'. What grabbed me the most was that she described herself as a past sugar addict who didn't appear to be a sugar addict. She had a seemingly 'healthy' diet, substituting honey instead of sugar, avoiding most processed foods and so on. It was reflective of my own diet and intrigued, I read more.

Disclaimer: I'm not on a mission to convert anyone to a sugar-free diet. I've since read all of Sarah Wilson's eBook, as well as David Gillespie's (the guy who pioneered the notion that sugar, specifically fructose, is making us fat and unhealthy) book 'The Sweet Poison'. To be honest, I'm not sold on his main points that cutting fructose alone can result in weight loss or that fructose alone is contributing to risk of heart disease. I have a medical background and sufficient personal experience with dieting and eating to find holes in his arguments as I was reading. Further research showed many others who could pick flaws in his theories.

Sarah isn't as much of an advocate of cutting sugar purely for weight loss as for the other potential benefits of increased energy and better mood. She has a great figure for sure but reading her blog, I can see that her diet is low in carbohydrates in general, not just fructose, and she exercises regularly.

My current view is that cutting sugar can only do good, but cutting fructose alone (and still eating complex carbohydrates and fats and protein in abundance) won't do anything for weight loss. The theory is that without fructose, we'll all be able to stop eating when we don't need to eat because appetite regulation systems will kick in. As someone who's problem is overeating when bored, emotional or simply because I like the taste of food, I doubt that will work... but I'm keeping an open mind. I am of the opinion that low carb diets work but carbs are difficult to cut because a) they're everywhere b) they make us full and c) they're delicious.

I am trying Sarah's 8 week 'I Quit Sugar' plan because I'm interested to see if it has any effect on my mood or energy levels. So far, I'm halfway through week 1 and not struggling at all. Mind you I'm someone who never touches soft drink or fruit juice and barely eats processed snacks.

I've been living off coconut products like a madwoman because they taste naturally sweet without much sugar (and most importantly to the plan, minimal fructose). I went on a rampage last week and bought coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut water and shredded coconut.

Engorged nuts (sounds naughty!) after being soaked overnight

As an alternative to my after dinner fruit and yoghurt, I've switched to toasted nuts and yoghurt. Sarah has a great suggestion in her book for making what she calls 'activated nuts'. By soaking them in water before slow roasting, the theory is that you activate the enzymes in the nuts, making them easier to digest and better for the metabolism.

Activated Nuts

  • Bag of nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pepitas etc; avoid oily nuts like macadamias; I used 500g)
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • water

1. Soak the nuts overnight in a big pot of water with the salt.
2. In the morning, drain the nuts and lay out on a baking tray (no oil required).
3. 'Heat' on the lowest heat as possible in the oven (less than 65 degrees) for 12-24 hours.
4. Cool before eating or store in an airtight jar or freezer.

The activated nuts on their own are tasty enough. They have a slightly different texture to normal roast nuts... toastier and more brittle. Activated nuts can then be eaten as is or used in a variety of other ways to make them great snacks. I used them to make 'coco-nutty granola' (see below), a recipe in her 'I Quit Sugar Cookbook'. I modified the recipe slightly because I didn't have chia seeds or coconut flakes. I used shredded coconut instead. These taste sweet but contain no sugar. I eat them with natural organic Greek yoghurt and it's great.

Coco-nutty Granola

  • 500g activated nuts (see above)
  • 3tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 120 degrees.
2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and spread evenly on baking paper on a tray.
3. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden, turning halfway.
4. Cool completely and store in an air-tight jar.

Sarah recommends leaving these in the oven until they go fairly dark before use because the darker they are, the chunchier. Variations include adding a couple tablespoons of rice malt syrup to the mix to make it taste sweeter (without fructose) or a cup of rolled oats (add more coconut oil too accordingly).

Great with Greek yoghurt

I think these are a delicious snack on their own. As I mentioned, they hint at sweetness, which makes them slightly more indulgent than plain activated nuts, but they don't make you feel sickly like actual sugar-coated nuts. The coconut oil provides a great flavor.


  1. Very cool, I am interested to see how you go. Ive had a look at Sarahs website as well just out of interest. I am trying to eat healthier at the moment, but really don't think I could ever cut out fruit, I love it too much.

  2. Great recipe! Where did you find coconut butter in Brisbane?? I NEED some... Jolene

  3. Hi Jolene....

    I bought mine from Wray Organics :)

  4. Great post Cora. I think I'm with you about cutting fruit as well. I think fruit has a lot of good nutrients and benefits and really helps with sugar cravings. Asians have eaten fruits as dessert for ages and I dont see any major problems in their health in comparison to other cultures, if anything it is better than most wuld you agree? And also an apple or some berries in the morning won't hurt.

    I'm going to do a post on Coyo tonight which you would be interested in. Yoghurt made from coconut! Words to describe it - fluffy, pavlova-like, moreish!!!! Im keen to try coconut oil too. Is it in solid form when you buy it?

  5. Hi Nina...

    I agree 2 pieces of fruit a day should definitely be more good than bad. I guess the message is not to go overboard but that should apply to everything.

    I'm intrigued about Coyo! You make it sound like an amazing dessert.

    Coconut oil has LOADS of health benefits. It's really good fat and can be used to cook with. It is solid in a jar when you buy it, which is a bit annoying but just use a spoon to scoop it out and it melts fairly quickly :)