Nuts (About)

Trader Joe's mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, filberts, Brazil nuts, and pecans)

Trader Joe’s mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, filberts, Brazil nuts, and pecans)

By Cat, Jan 2015 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons, originally by Sage Ross)

True nuts (in the botanical sense) are the fruit of certain trees or shrubs; however, many seeds are commonly called ‘nuts’ in culinary/dietary use. Common nuts in this sense include (1): acorn, almonds, brazil nut, cashew, chestnut, coconut, hazelnut, macadamia, pecan, pine nut (pignoli), pistachio, and walnut.

Daily snack of nuts important for longevity

Nuts are an important part of my daily life on the ketogenic eating plan to reset my metabolism, but everyone can benefit from their health benefits. I include them in salads, and eat a small handful in the evening while relaxing.

A large-scale, 30-year long Harvard study published in 2013 (6,7,8) found that people who ate a small handful (approximately one ounce or 28 grams) of nuts daily (seven times per week or more) were 20 percent less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who avoided nuts. “‘Even those who ate nuts less than once a week had a seven percent reduction in risk. Consuming nuts at least five times a week corresponded to a 29 percent drop in mortality risk for heart disease, a 24 percent decline for respiratory disease and an 11 percent drop for cancer.” (8,9)

And the good news about nuts just keeps coming. A March 2015 research abstract reveals: “Researchers at Maastricht University nvestigated the link between specific nuts and diseases, and found that those who ate at least 10 grams (0.3 ounces) of nuts or peanuts a day had an average 23 percent reduced risk of death due to cancer, diabetes, respiratory- and neurodegenerative diseases during the decade-long study.” (8,10)

Nutrition in nuts

See also Specific Nutrients of Several Nuts, below.

Overall nutrient content of nuts puts them quite high in good fats, relatively high in protein, and moderate in carbs. For example (5):

  • 1 oz of raw almonds is approximately 24 almonds and represents 164 calories, 14.4 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 5.6 g carbohydrates, 3.3 g of fiber, 1.4 g sugar and 6 g of protein.
  • 1 oz of raw cashews is approximately 16-18 cashews and represents 160 calories, 12 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrates, 1 g of fiber, 2 g sugar and 5 g of protein.

Nuts are an important part of a paleo-diet or ketogenic-diet which include high levels of fat; however, nuts are excellent snack no matter what diet/eating plan you follow. 

From Dr. Sara Solomon (5), nuts are excellent snacks (between meals):

  •  Thanks to their high fiber, fat and protein content, nuts make you feel full and provide you with sustained energy levels. As a result, you’re less likely to overeat at subsequent meals.
  • Evidence links regular nut consumption with greater resting energy expenditure, which is a fancy way of saying, “nuts increase your metabolism.”

Fats: Nuts generally are rich in oils that contain (1, 2):

  • mono-unsaturated fatty acids such as oleic and palmitoleic acid;
  • polyunsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids such as α-linolenic (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic, and Docosahexonic acid
  • polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acids such as linoleic and γ-linolenic acid.

Other nutrients: Many nuts are good sources of:

  • Vitamins: E, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folate;
  • Antioxidants such as carotenes, resveratrol, lutein, and cryptoxanthin
  • Fiber
  • Essential minerals: magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium.

The most nutritious and healthful way to eat nuts is sprouted, or at least given an overnight soak in acidic water, then dried. Raw nuts are more healthful than toasted or roasted nuts, as roasting oxidizes the fragile oils, but if nuts are a significant part of your diet, you should sprout/soak them.

Specific Nutrients of Several Nuts

The following is quoted from Mercola (8b); I note that pecans are missing from the list. To see his references which I have replaced with  (*), refer to his article.

Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), providing 37 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), as well as riboflavin, which is excellent for brain health, magnesium and manganese.

Eating healthy amounts may improve your heart health,(*) help individuals who are overweight or obese achieve their weight loss goals and lower their blood pressure,(*) and lower post-meal blood sugar levels by 30 percent in people with diabetes.(*)

Further, they may improve your gut microbiota by supporting the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, both beneficial bacteria.(*)

Pistachios also contain high amounts of fiber (3 grams per ounce), helping to assist smooth movement of the foods you eat through your colon. They’re also a good source of vitamin E and magnesium. Besides helping to optimize your cholesterol, pistachios help improve several aspects of heart health.(*)

Researchers gave volunteers foods that raise blood sugars significantly — rice, white bread, mashed potatoes and pasta — and found that adding these little green nuts helped lower blood sugar, sometimes significantly.(*)

Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium. Autoimmune and thyroid problems, cancer, AIDS, heart disease and asthma are all improved with healthy amounts of selenium, but as many as 1 billion people worldwide may be deficient. Studies say they have an antioxidant effect in the blood(*) and improve blood vessel function.(*)

Cashews improve the antioxidant potential of your diet(*) and also help to improve the blood pressure of people with metabolic syndrome.(*) A few studies, however, indicate that cashew consumption may raise the blood sugar of people with metabolic syndrome [insulin resistance]; however, more studies are needed.(*)

Walnuts are one of the most popular nuts, so it’s good that they’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, making them beneficial for the prevention of coronary heart disease.(*) They can improve the flow of blood through your circulatory system, which helps diabetics,(*) and increase inferential or deductive reasoning.(*)

Peanuts, being a legume, may come with large amounts of extra oils that are not good for you. This is particularly true in peanut butter, with the unnecessary addition of sugar or worse, so always make sure your nuts and nut butters are free of these. They may also contain an imbalance of omega-6 fatty acids in relation to omega-3s.

They also may cause allergic reactions, and they also tend to be one of the most-sprayed with pesticides and laced with harmful metabolites known as aflatoxin.

Serving size recommendations

The American Heart Association recommends four (4) 1.5 oz servings of nuts per week. However, the FDA recommends one (1) 1.5 oz serving of nuts daily.

Recommended 1.5 oz or 42 g  servings for common snack nuts are (3):

  • Almonds: 23 nuts/ounce or 35 nuts per 1.5 oz serving
  • Cashews: 18 nuts/ounce, or 27 nuts per 1.5 oz serving
  • Hazelnuts (filberts): 20 nuts/ounce, or 30 nuts per 1.5 oz serving
  • Peanuts: 18 nuts/ounce or 27 nuts per 1.5 oz serving
  • Pecans: 19 halves/ounce or 29 nuts per 1.5 oz serving
  • Pistachios: 49 nuts/ounce or 74 nuts per 1.5 oz serving
  • Walnuts: 14 halves/ounce or 21 nuts per 1.5 oz serving

References:

  1. Wikipedia on nuts: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nut_(fruit)
  2. Nutrition and You, Nuts Nutrition Facts (nutrition-and-you.com/nuts_nutrition.html)
  3. Strive newsletter for Healthy Living, from AARP Medicare Supplement Plans, Winter 2015 issue
  4. Spark People.com: sparkpeople.com/myspark/team_messageboard_thread.asp?board=0x1024x39701877
  5. Dr. Sara Solomon: drsarasolomon.com/do-you-eat-too-many-nuts
  6. New England Journal of Medicine November 21, 2013: 369:2001-2011 (nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1307352)
  7. NPR.org November 21, 2013 (npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/11/21/246549388/nuts-for-longevity-daily-handful-is-linked-to-longer-life)
  8. Mercola: (a) articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/06/22/raw-organic-nuts.aspx and (b) articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/12/19/nuts-proven-healthy.aspx 
  9.  Washington Post November 21, 2013 (washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nuts-to-you-new-study-finds-regularly-eating-nuts-seems-to-extend-life-span/2013/11/21/2776cd22-52b8-11e3-9e2c-e1d01116fd98_story.html)
  10.  International Journal of Epidemiology March 9, 2015 [Epub ahead of print] (ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/05/26/ije.dyv039.abstract

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