Nuts

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)

Walnuts                4.2

Macadamia         6.3

Pecans                20.9

Pine Nuts             31.6

Cashews              47.6

Pistachio              51.9

Hazelnuts             90.0

Pumpkin              114.4

Brazil Nuts          377.9

Sunflower            472.9

Almonds              +500

*Peanuts (not a nut but a legume) +500 (no detectable Omega 3)

 

Raw

Nuts in their raw form is the gold standard.  As with any food, closer to the original source is always better. Unadulterated and pure.

 

Roasted

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.

 

Soaking

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.

 

The Oils

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!)


The Butters

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

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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.

 

Antinutrients

Phytates and Lectins do come aboard with nuts, some more than others. Phytic Acid  is highest in Brazil and almonds.

 

Aflatoxin

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.

 

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