Raw, organic nuts (make sure they are raw and organic!) are a great source of healthy, unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and plant sterols. Many doctors will recommend nuts as a heart healthy snack food, as evidence has shown that people who eat nuts and seeds have higher overall health, are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular issues, and have less incidence of diabetes.
There are numerous peer-reviewed research studies and articles that prove an inverse relationship between nut consumption and mortality rates. That being said, nuts should still be consumed in moderation as they are high in protein and carbs, both of which American’s get too much of. There are other facts to consider when purchasing nuts as outlined below.
Almonds and peanuts
Almonds and peanuts (peanuts are actually legumes but are included in this post because they are a popular “nut” choice) are very common but are actually not the healthiest options when it comes to choosing nuts. They are both very high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which most people get plenty of in their diet. Too many Omega-6’s can disrupt the Omega 3/6 balance in the body leading to inflammation. More importantly, peanuts are sprayed with numerous pesticides, and both peanuts and almonds (including peanut and almond butters) can also contain high levels of aflatoxin. See below for more information on this.
Additionally, all almonds sold in a retail setting are pasteurized, which means they are not a raw product. This is despite the fact that many labels may still say “raw”, a blatant lie due to extremely lax labeling laws. A 2007 USDA law requires all almonds to be pasteurized (a process typically done using harmful chemicals) in some form due to an outbreak of salmonella poisoning linked to raw almond production in the early 2000’s. You can only buy raw, unpasteurized almonds directly from the farmers or at their farm stands, most of who live in California. You can find some available online but please do your research and contact the farms directly to ensure you are purchasing truly organic, unpasteurized almonds. With almonds (and walnuts), also keep in mind that 90% of the antioxidants present are found in their skin, another important reason to purchase organic.
Aflatoxin, actually a mold poison, was discovered in the 1960’s, when over 100,000 turkeys died of aflatoxin poisoning in England. The aflatoxin was eventually traced to the peanut meal the turkeys were being fed. It formed due to moisture imbalance in the silo where the feed was being stored. Since that incident, aflatoxin has been studied intensely. Any whole grain, nut, or food product for that matter, if not handled and stored properly, can contain large amounts of molds, aflatoxin and other mycotoxins. Aflatoxin and other mycotoxins can lead to severe fungal illness when ingested and many holistic doctors believe it is the underlying cause of countless health problems including chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, digestive issues, depression, eczema, respiratory illness, brain fog, and others. Ongoing research may also show that this fungus could be the cause of peanut and gluten sensitivities and allergies, not the wheat or peanut themselves.
Which nuts to choose
The best nuts to consider are macadamias, pecans, and walnuts. These are all very low in omega-6’s, protein and carbs, but high in healthy fats and other vitamins and minerals. Macadamias are especially very high in Omega-9’s, the same monounsaturated fat found in olive and avocado oils. They are also very high in some B Vitamins, manganese and magnesium. Walnuts also have proven anti-cancer health benefits and are very high in Omega-3’s and antioxi-dants, once again, found in their skin. Pecans are one of the most antioxidant rich. They are high in numerous vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, E, C, some B vitamins, manganese, and copper. Whichever nut you choose please make sure it is raw (not roasted or dry-roasted), organic and from a reliable source!
Anti-nutrients, Digestibility, and Soaking nuts
Soaking nuts prior to consumption is very important. Nuts naturally contain phytic acid, the storage form of phosphorus, and other enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid is found in all plants, with higher concentrations in grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It is necessary for growth and survival of the plant. For humans, it is considered an anti-nutrient due to the fact that it can bind to important nutrients in our body including calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron and copper, blocking their absorption. Phytic acid can also inhibit important digestive enzymes including pepsin, amylase and trypsin, making overall digestion more difficult.
For these reasons it is important to soak your nuts and seeds for at least 8-12 hours, in warm filtered water. The water activates the germination process and will neutralize the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Adding a small amount of salt to the water can also help activate certain enzymes in the nuts that can help to deactivate the enzyme inhibitors. You may also dehydrate your nuts after soaking with a dehydrator or in the oven at low heat to prevent any mold from forming.
Soaking is important for almost all nuts and seeds, although some seeds such as flax and chia will not soak well. You can also go a step further with seeds and sprout them. This is a process of soaking, draining, rinsing, and re-soaking the seeds while they are also given exposure to air for at least 3 days until they sprout. Sprouting reduces the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitor content even more. It also increases the antioxidant, enzyme, and vitamin and mineral content. Once you are eating a seed that has been sprouted you are essentially getting the benefit of the whole plant, and not just the seed. Seeds are a great alternative for those who have nut allergies.
Is Diverticulitis a Contraindication?
Yes and no. Along with all of the information listed above, and the fact that people don’t chew their food well and many have impaired digestive processes which include vulnerable intestinal walls, the answer is yes. The answer is no if you eat quality nuts and seeds, soak and/or sprout, chew your food well, and/or make nut and seed butters.
Post by Michelle