20130117-175934.jpg

Nuts: a simple snack that almost everyone enjoys. I often get asked questions regarding nuts and if they should be part of our diet. Are they good or bad, what are the best ones, how much can we eat, how to eat them and several variations of those questions. Therefore I have wanted to put together a post on nuts and how I see their role in our diet.

For those of you that just want a list of nuts I like and how much is “safe” to eat, here you go. If you want a little more information, I’ve added a bit of detail in the rest of the post.

Here are my favorites in order. I typically will have about 1/4 to a 1/2 cup a day total, usually of a mixture of a few of my favorites (some consider a 1/2 cup a high intake but it works for me).

Macadamia
Almond
Cashew
Pistachio
Pecan
Brazil
Pumpkin/Squash (seeds)

In terms of preparation…

In this order…
Raw and soaked (a bit more time consuming) – not something that I do, but this appears to be the best way to help digestion and nutrient availability
Raw
Dry roasted
Dry roasted with sea salt

**Stay away from nuts roasted in oil (typically soybean/canola)**

I typically create my own mix of macadamias, almonds and one other from the list, with one raw nut, one roasted, and one roasted and salted. I like to vary the combinations and this seems to work well for me and gives plenty of flavor to my mixes.

The Bare 5 Rundown: Nuts

Nuts are a simple and easy snack- however it can be a little tricky to navigate which nuts offer the most health benefit. Most nuts (and seeds as well) are full of healthy fat, protein, and fiber, along with other vitamins and minerals. A tasty, filling, calorie dense food, they are one of the most simple and portable snacks available. Although many people are aware of the benefits, I feel that there is a need for people to be aware of the few potential drawbacks.

The first being the amount of energy contained in such a small easy consumed package. A few nuts can offer a great treat. A few too many (which is often the case) can add up very quickly- although the calorie model of energy needs some expanding upon, I’ll save that for another post. Moral of the story, go easy on the volume because too much of a good thing is not good.

Secondly, nuts have not been consumed in great quantity until very recently. Available sporadically and seasonally, nuts were not a year round, easy food for most of history. Housed in shells, it takes much effort to access each nut for not much reward when eaten in the natural state. Now, hundreds of nuts come already shelled allowing us to consume them much quicker (and without the effort to open them) than naturally possible. So, do not be fooled into thinking you are eating a food in its natural state when a machine has done the work for you.

Third, many nuts and seeds contain very high levels of omega 6 fatty acids. Although necessary for human function, excess omega 6 fat has many potentially detrimental health effects. Omega 6 has taken over the diet in western culture, particularly with industrial seed and vegetable oils and factory farmed meat fed grain instead of grass. If you limit your consumption of those foods- excellent. Just don’t replace it with tons of the inflammatory omega 6 in many nuts and seeds. The more we can limit omega 6 consumption the better. Below is a list of omega 6 content for a 1/4 cup serving.

Macadamias – 0.5 g
Cashews – 2.6 g
Hazelnuts – 2.7 g
Pistachio – 4.1 g
Almonds – 4.36 g
Pecans – 5.8 g
Brazil nuts – 7.2 g
Walnuts – 9.5 g
Pine nuts – 11.6 g

Fourth, nuts, similar to grains and legumes, contain anti-nutrients and potential gut irritating substances. Although less impactful than grains/legumes, it is important to remember that they can be a potential allergen to some people. Soaking nuts prior to consumption will help break down enzyme and nutrient inhibitors, therefore allowing more of the nuts to be digested and assimilated.

Lastly, from a preparation and packaging perspective, most commercial nuts are coated and cooked with numerous artificial and dangerous ingredients. The most common are canola and soybean oil for roasting along with sugar, salt and other additives for flavoring. If you stay with raw and dry roasted nuts, with the occasional added sea salt, you’ll probably be fine.

Ok, it may seem that this has turned into a anti-nut post, which is far from the truth. I believe nuts can be a great aspect to many people’s lifestyle. I use them most every day. I stay aware of the negatives, but try to smartly navigate my approach to maximize the positive aspects of nuts.

To reiterate…

Great source of fat

Good source of protein

Good source of fiber

Good source of vitamins & minerals

Easy snack

Portable

Universally enjoyed

So there you have it. Hopefully that helped a few of you understand a bit more about nuts, but feel free to let me know if you have any questions or would like me to expand on anything.

Advertisements