Are you nuts about nuts or can you take or leave them? Do you wonder whether they’ll help you lose weight or make you fat? Are you confused whether they’re good for you or cause you health problems? My aim here is to answer these questions!
- Nuts have been in the human diet for over 780,000 years and have always been a prized food thanks to their high fat content; an outstanding source of energy and important nutrients.
- Botanically speaking, most of the nuts we refer to as nuts are not true nuts but actually seeds. These include almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios and peanuts (the latter of which is also a legume). The most well known nut, botanically speaking, is the hazelnut.
- Nuts are famous for containing heart-healthy fats, mostly omega 6, and have been shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol). This healthy fat in nuts can lower your risk of blood clots and clogged up arteries, too.
- The best nut for the essential fatty acid, omega 3, the powerful anti-inflammatory and brain-boosting nutrient that most of us are lacking in, is the walnut.
- Due to the delicate nature of the fatty acids in nuts, they can go rancid easily. The best way to store nuts is in an air tight container in a cool, dark place, such as the fridge. It’s best not to heat nuts for this reason.
- Chestnuts have very low levels of polyunsaturated fat and are mostly starch, so are safe to cook.
- Nuts are a great source of fibre which helps to lower cholesterol and to prevent weight gain and diabetes.
- The only nuts that are alkalising are almonds and chestnuts. All other nuts are acid forming. Most of your diet should be alkalising for optimal health.
- To improve the digestibility of all nuts with skins, soak them in salt water (only use good quality salt and filtered/purified water) over night, rinse them well and then dry them in a dehydrator or very low set oven until crisp. This can also improve the taste of bitter nuts such as walnuts.
- As nuts have fairly high levels of anti-nutrients and phytic acid, which may not always be sufficiently reduced with soaking and rinsing, those with acute digestive symptoms and autoimmune issues should avoid eating nuts.
- The most digestible nut is the chestnut.
- About 1 in 100 people has a severe nut allergy in the UK and the number is growing. Children of parents with nut allergies are more likely to be allergic themselves.
- The nut with the highest number of allergens is the peanut.
- To make a dairy-like cream or cheese, soak cashews in salt water for about 2 hours, rinse them well and then blend them with a little water. Add fresh lemon juice to make more of a tangy or cheesy flavour. Add vanilla and soaked dates, maple syrup or honey to make a sweet cream. This can be used in virtually all recipes that require cream or cream cheese.
- To make a nut-milk resembling cow’s milk, blend (in a high speed blender) a handful of soaked and rinsed nuts of your choice with 2-3 glasses of pure water. Pour through several layers of cheese cloth or a nut milk bag to make the milk smooth. I personally love almond milk and don’t filter it. This is a great base for a smoothie, too!
- Brazil nuts are high in the antioxidant selenium which is an important nutrient for boosting the immune system, preventing premature aging and assisting in the healing of Crohn’s disease some cancers. Most people are not deficient in selenium and too much is toxic can cause side-effects. For most people 2-3 brazil nuts a day is sufficient.
- Cashews, brazil nuts, pine nuts, walnuts and almonds are a great source of magnesium which is needed for over 300 bodily processes and essential for having good energy.
- For those who suffer from arthritis, the copper found in the following nuts may be useful: almonds, macadamia, pistachios, walnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and brazil nuts.
- Nuts are also a good source of protein. Protein is needed for cell growth and renewal. Typically 30 grams or 1oz of nuts provides between 2.5 and 4 grams of protein.
- The best nuts for protein (per 30 grams) are almonds and peanuts with over 6 grams, then cashews with over 5 grams.
The advice you will find about how healthy nuts are will always be conflicting. The best way to find out whether nuts agree with you and which work best for you is to experiment with them and notice how they make you feel. Have fun!
What's your experience of nuts? What's your favourite way to use nuts? I love your comments, so please share below!