I am such a MeeNut Butter and fresh almond butter whore. It took me gaining weight to realize just how bad overdosing on healthy nuts can quickly turn a healthy product bad.
What you don’t know about healthy nuts
Healthy nuts are frequently referenced the best health snack ever. They’re full of protein and ridiculously easy to eat—just grab a handful and go.
But all nuts aren’t created equal. There are healthy nuts that are good for you and ones that aren’t: including peanuts, which aren’t even really nuts. The way nuts are prepared for consumption makes a big difference in terms of how good or bad for you they really are.
In nature, animals eat nuts as they find them. And they have to work at it too, shelling each nut they discover them on their daily journeys.
Just imagine how different our lives would be if we had to do the same thing!
Modern man is a far cry from our ancestors. We favor convenience and packaged goods, and healthy nuts are no exception.
Right from the start, nuts contain a hard shell that prevents excessive consumption. It takes nearly 3 minutes to de-shuck most nuts, at that rate most people would become discouraged after eating 15-20 nuts.
Food companies de-shelling the nuts for us, making it easy to eat a hundred without realizing what we just consumed. The problem with nut overindulgence is the phytic acid they contain. Phytic acid throws off the ph balance in our gut and prevents absorption of nutrients, yikes!
We could be eating really healthy, nutritious foods, yet feeling icky, and getting sick (since health starts in our gut), and it could be as simple at eating too many nuts.
Healthy nuts are raw, and dry roasted nuts are okay. Oil roasted nuts cooked at high temperatures destroy any nutrients.
Roasted nuts are tasty, but roasting has been found to damage nutrients in nuts, including decreasing the availability of beneficial fatty acids and amino acids.
The best option is to consume nuts raw, and soak them first for eight to twelve hours. Phytic acid, which is found in the coatings of nuts and seeds, is an “anti-nutrient” responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body.
Soaking nuts will help to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your own digestive and metabolic enzymes, in the nuts.
Enzyme inhibitors in nuts (and seeds) help protect the nut as it grows, helping to decrease enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting. When nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated and increasing the nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest.
One exception is with macadamia nuts (and other white nuts), which have only negligible amounts of enzyme inhibitors, so soaking is not as necessary.
It can be difficult to find truly raw nuts in the US. Pasteurized almonds sold in North America can still be labeled “raw” even though they’ve been subjected to one of the following pasteurization methods:
• Oil roasting, dry roasting, or blanching
• Steam processing
• Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment (PPO is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons)
There are very few truly “raw” almonds sold in North America. It is possible to purchase raw almonds in the US, but it’s typically buying direct from small farmers who have wavier excluding them from the pasteurization process.
Your Best Nut (and Seed) Options
Macadamia nuts have the highest fat and lowest protein and carb content of any nut. Raw macadamia nuts also contain high amounts of vitamin B1, magnesium, and manganese.
Just one serving of macadamia nuts net 58 percent of what you need in manganese, and 23 percent of the recommended daily value of thiamin.
Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and research has shown they may help lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries.
Pecans are a close second to macadamia nuts on the fat and protein scale, and they also contain anti-inflammatory magnesium, heart healthy oleic acid, phenolic antioxidants, and immune-boosting manganese.
One-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100 percent of the daily-recommended value of anti-inflammatory plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amounts of copper, manganese, molybdenum, and biotin.
They also contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers multiple vascular benefits to people with heart disease, or those who have increased risk for heart disease due to multiple cardiac risk factors.
Walnuts antioxidants are powerful and determined to help chemically induced liver damage. Research shows that two handfuls a day of walnuts may help prevent both prostate and breast cancer and may curb tumor growth.
Almonds are rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits.
They are notably beneficial for your heart health. A study in the journal Circulation found people with abnormally high level of lipids, such as cholesterol, in their blood were able to significantly reduce their risk factors for coronary heart disease by snacking on whole almonds.
Brazil nuts offer many of the same benefits of other nuts: healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, they’re most notable for being an excellent source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that may be beneficial for the prevention of cancer.
They also have a beneficial high fat and low protein content, behind only macadamias and pecans.
Pistachios are high in lutein, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol (vitamin E) compared to other nuts. Eating one or two servings of pistachios a day has been shown to increase blood levels of antioxidants and lower oxidized LDL cholesterol in people with elevated levels.
Pistachios are said to be the belly fat fighter due to their high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids. Most store sold Pistachios bleach them, so to avoid anything that isn’t labeled organic or raw.
With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein, and zinc, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped up in a very small package.
They also contain plant compounds known as phytosterols and free-radical scavenging antioxidants, which can give your health an added boost.
Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as an important natural food for men’s health. This is in part because of their high zinc content, which is important for prostate health.
They are also known to improve insulin regulation and help prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, copper, B vitamins, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Sunflower seeds also contain one of the highest levels of phytosterols of commonly consumed nuts and seeds. Phytosterols are beneficial for your heart health and immune system, and may help lower cancer risk as well.
Know Your Nuts
In order to ensure you’re eating the proper amount of nuts, it helps to know exactly what an “average” portion is:
• Almonds: 23 nuts
• Cashews: 16-18 nuts
• Pistachios: 49 nuts
• Walnuts: 14 halves
• Brazil nuts: 6 nuts
• Pecans: 18-20 halves
Try to avoid ‘snack packs’ if you’re concerned about portion control. These may look like individual portions, but there are usually two portions in one pack. If you can’t trust yourself to eat half a pack, don’t buy them.
Healthy nuts (and seeds) are loaded with good fats, are nutrient dense and taste delicious, like anything moderation is key, so cut back if your overdosing on healthy nuts. P.S. this includes nut butter and seed butter overdosing too!!
If you go to almost any grocery or convenience store, you’ll find plenty of nuts that are incredibly bad for you. These are pretty obvious—and unfortunately, very tasty.
Possibly the worst ones out there are “sweet and salty” combinations. These blends give you the worst of both worlds—high amounts of sugar and salt, plus whatever toxic oils the nuts are roasted in.
If you’ve got a craving for something sweet or salty, you can easily prepare healthy nuts at home. The best thing about this approach is you get to control how the nuts are roasted and all of the ingredients—and save money in the process!
*My favorite nut butter is called Quadruple Nut Power because it contains Almonds, Walnuts, and Macadamia Nuts. It is Whole 30 Approved and Non-GMO Project Verified. Try them yourself at Mee Eat Paleo