5 Things You Should Know Before Going Nuts on Nuts

July 5, 2017

By Anna Varriano

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Once thought of as a high-calorie, high-fat food to be avoided, nuts are now getting a lot of attention as health-boosting foods. Research shows that a variety of nuts pack a nutritional and health- boosting punch, including disease preventing antioxidants such as selenium and vitamin E, bone-building minerals such as calcium, energy-giving B-vitamins, and heart-healthy fats; however, before you go nuts on nuts, here are a few things that you may want to consider.

1 – Go For Variety

varietyIt seems to me that most people get in a one-nut rut, with almonds being a popular choice. I encourage you to eat a variety of nuts, since each type contains its own unique combination of nutrients – and therefore health benefits. For example:

  • Almonds are rich in bone-building calcium and heart-healthy vitamin E
  • Brazil nuts are a rich source of the mineral selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant and has been associated with thyroid health and immunity; in fact, just 3 or 4 Brazil nuts provide a good daily dose of selenium
  • Cashews are a good source of magnesium, important in virtually every process in the body
  • Pecans are packed with plant sterols and oleic acid – both of which have been associated with cardiovascular health
  • Walnuts are a great source of healthy inflammation busting omega-3 fatty acids

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Variety is an important foundational concept to good nutrition.

2 – Buy Raw

Most of the nuts you see on the grocery store shelf are roasted and salted. If the roasting is done at high temperatures, this will oxidize (damage) the healthy fats in the nuts, and eating damaged fats is not good for our health. Also, unhealthy oils are often used in roasted nuts … and most people don’t need the extra salt. When it comes to nuts, go for raw.

3 – The Benefits of Soaking Nuts

Nuts contain a substance called phytic acid which binds to the minerals in the nuts, preventing us from absorbing them. Nuts also contain enzyme inhibitors which make nuts difficult to digest. Soaking nuts breaks down phytic acid and neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, making nuts easier to digest, and making the minerals they contain easier to absorb. There are differing views on whether or not all nuts should be soaked and how long they should be soaked for. A good general rule is that most nuts need to be soaked for approximately 7 to 8 hours.

You can soak a handful of nuts every night so they are ready to eat the next day. I prefer to soak bigger batches so I’ll have them on hand for a few weeks; however, this means that I need to dry them out once they’ve soaked (storing wet, soaked nuts = moldy nuts). I usually soak 2 cups of nuts by putting them in a large bowl, covering them generously with room temperature water (the nuts will soak up the soaking nutswater, so add enough so that the water is at least a few inches above the nuts), and stirring in a generous teaspoon of unrefined sea salt. I usually do this just before I go to bed, and in the morning, I drain and rinse the nuts, then dehydrate them/crisp them up using my dehydrator (which has a setting for nuts). If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can spread the nuts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and put them in a low oven (150-170F) for 12 to 24 hours (will depend on the nut), stirring them around a few times until they are completely dry (you’ll know by trying one – it should be crisp and dry). Once the nuts are cooled off, I store them in an airtight container and keep them in my pantry or fridge (they will keep longer in the fridge – for months).

If you can’t be bothered with soaking nuts, then consider buying ones without the ‘skin’ on them, as that’s where most of the phytic acid is located.

4 – Everything in Moderation … And A Word About Nut Flours

Most sources state that, in general, the amount of nuts to consume daily to reap health benefits is 30 grams (a small handful). As an example, 30 grams of almonds is about 20 almonds. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some people eat nuts by the fistfuls. More isn’t always better … and that brings me to my next point.

Nut and seed flours are becoming a popular alternative to grain-based flours. I am going to talk about almond flour, as this seems to be the most popular alternative. Just like any other flour, it takes a lot of the whole grain, or seed, or nut, to make a smaller amount of the almond flourflour. While almonds offer several health benefits, they are high in omega-6 fatty acids, and low in omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming excesses of omega-6 fatty acids causes inflammation in the body, and inflammation is often the root cause of many health issues. It’s important to know that almost all nuts are high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3s (one exception is walnuts). If you use a lot of nut flours, it’s important that you get enough omega-3s to address this. Some good sources of omega-3s are wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, and fish or krill oil supplements.

5 – Get Cracking

in the shellAs with most foods, the ‘ultimate’ way to buy nuts is in the form that Mother Nature provides them to us, and with nuts, that is in their shell. Shells protect the nut – including its delicate oils – and nuts that are still in their shells are generally fresher than nuts that are not As an added bonus, the extra effort it takes to crack the nuts open likely means that you will be far less likely to overindulge! Oh, and one more thing! If you are buying shelled raw nuts from a bulk bin, use your nose to detect whether or not they smell rancid or ask if you can taste one. If they smell or taste rancid, don’t buy them. A rancid smell means the oils in the nuts have gone bad.

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