Nuts have a tremendous
amount of nutrition but should be considered a treat or the occasional snack, not
a food staple. As you know, a handful quickly turns into a jar and your
eat-while-you-cook appetizer soon turns into the main course. They are a good
source of protein, carbohydrate, and I’m sure you’ve heard, they have a lot of fat.
You’ve probably also heard that there are good fats and there are bad fats.
Omega 3, good, Omega 6 not so good. Some Omega 6 is good, too much swimming
around your bloodstream can lead to the production of inflammatory things like
leukotrienes, prostaglandins, that increase Systemic Inflammation.
That said, you have to look
at the food as a whole, not just at its good and bad components, to judge what
the total package offers. There’s a ton of phosphorous, potassium, calcium,
magnesium, B vitamins, (esp. folate), and Vitamin E in nuts, which in turn, decease Systemic Inflammation. So, not to many, and choose your nuts wisely. Not all nuts are created equal.
Nutritional Profiles per
ounce (29 grams)
Almond: 6.3gm protein, 14gm
fat, 5.7 gm carb
Walnut: 4.3gm protein,
18.6gm fat, 3.9 gm carb
Macadamia: 2.6gm protein,
21gm fat, 2.3 gm carb
Omega 6 to Omega 3 Fat Ratio (fm Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet)
Pine Nuts 31.6
Brazil Nuts 377.9
*Peanuts (not a nut but a
legume) +500 (no detectable Omega 3)
Nuts in their raw form is
the gold standard. As with any food,
closer to the original source is always better. Unadulterated and pure.
Roasting nuts doesn’t change
the vitamin or mineral content or availability, but heating them too high for
too long can cause the oils to oxidize or become rancid. Also, many times nuts are
roasted with cottonseed or soybean oil. Pass on those types.
The antinutrients I spoke of
above are slightly diminished through soaking. This is especially important
tactic for those with a sensitive gut, the gluten intolerant, or celiac. Some
people actually prefer the flavor. Soaking raw nuts in with a little salt in
the water overnight and then drying immediately at a low temperature for an
hour or so is the way to go. Almonds are the most commonly soaked nut, but
others like walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and pecans work too.
Pulling the oil out of a nut
and using it for frying is a bad idea. Besides the mechanical processes used to
extract the oil, from the chart above, you can see that the Omega 6 content is
high, meaning the oil is less stable and bound for rancidity. Now the occasional
unheated oil added to a salad dressing I can go for: walnut and hemp being my
favorite. (I know…hemp is a seed, but technically so is an almond!)
Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, and even Macadamia Nut Butter are all tasty staples that belong in the kitchen or office. Convenient and easily added to shakes or baked goods.
The nut in itself is pretty
much a complete and delicious food, just don’t overdo it.
Coming up next…Seeds
Too much of a good thing can
come with side effects. Here’s a short list of the bad boys on-board with nuts
and why they are a snack, not a staple to choke down as many as you can.
Phytates and Lectins do come
aboard with nuts, some more than others. Phytic Acid is highest in Brazil and almonds.
This is a toxic
substance produced by a mold present in different levels in most nuts.
Humidity, harvesting, storage, and age all play a role in the amount, but
peanuts are by far the worst offender, which, as you know is not a nut anyway,
it’s a bean. Cashews and Brazil nuts carry a lot too. Producers have done a lot
in the way to control this in the last decade.