Will nuts make me fat and which nuts are best?
A girlfriend said to me the other night that her weakness was eating nuts. “I just love snacking on them, isn’t that terrible because they are so bad for me.”
Let’s be frank – there are a significant number of foods that I would consider to be ‘poor choice snacks’ AND NUTS ARE NOT ONE OF THEM. My friend could be gorging on chocolate or cakes — high in sugar and resulting in her quickly searching for another sugar fix, or she could be eating hollow carbohydrates such as breads and grains. Nuts are actually a rich source of nutrients which, according to “The Journal of Nutrition”, promote satiety (the feeling of fullness) allowing us to then eat less in general.
My friend couldn’t believe it when I said that nuts are actually good for us and are in fact an important source of GOOD FATS.
WILL NUTS MAKE ME FAT?
Before we look at the health benefits that nuts provide, let us firstly address the burning question of “Will nuts make me fat?”. There’s no denying that nuts are high in calories. It appears however that ‘nuts’ — which contain a lot of fibre — have an appetite-suppressing effect. And when your appetite is suppressed, that obviously makes it easier to stick to a diet or focus on eating other healthy foods.
In a 2010 article published in the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition”, the authors note that your body excretes 10 to 15 percent of the calories in nuts and likely burns an additional 10 percent of the calories through the increased metabolism created by eating nuts. Once people consume nuts, they are likely to consume less of other foods, resulting in a balanced intake of energy. In some cases, eating nuts creates an energy deficit, as dieters who eat nuts tend to lose greater amounts of weight than those who do not, the researchers note.
Let’s remember the first step to losing weight is refraining from high-sugar, high-fat, processed foods that leave us hungry and tax the body. Instead, prioritise eating high-quality foods that the body including a broad range of high quality proteins, vegetables, fruits and good fats. Snacking on nuts can be a good way to stay lean and keep your stomach full. You can eat nuts without weight gain if you substitute them for other foods in your diet including calorie dense foods such as grains, breads, cakes, sweets, etc.
Another vital step to maintaining ideal weight is ensuring that your calorie intake (INPUT) is balanced by your exertion (OUTPUT). With regular cardiovascular and strength forming exercise the body is able to balance out our calorie load.
THE POWER OF NUTS
Nuts are little powerhouses. They are a rich source of protein and fibre, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc and they are also a good source of B-complex vitamins. Each type of nut has different health benefits that I have outlined later in this post.
BEST WAYS TO EAT NUTS
It may surprise some of you that accessing the full nutritional goodness of nuts isn’t all that its cracked up to be. Mother Nature ensures that nuts and seeds only grow or germinate when they have sufficient sunlight, water, soil and they have a special enzyme that inhibits this growth.
When we eat raw nuts and seeds we also consume the outer coating of the nut which holds these nutritional enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances. These enzymes inhibitors bind to our own digestive enzymes and prevent them doing what they’re meant to do putting a strain on our digestive system and reducing our ability to break down food and absorb precious vitamins and minerals.
By soaking nuts and seeds in a little warm water and salt (salt helps activate beneficial enzymes that de-activate the enzyme inhibitors), we release these toxic enzyme inhibitors and unlock the full vitality contained within the nuts and seeds. The process of activating nuts (soaking and dehydrating) neutralises enzyme inhibitors, aiding digestion and ENHANCING our capacity to absorb more nutrients than we do from consuming raw or roasted nuts.
If you haven’t tried activated nuts, you must — they taste incredibly different. Walnuts and almonds especially, actually taste better after they are soaked and rinsed, losing their bitterness.
I will share with you how you can soak your own nuts and then dehydrate them but if you are curious about the distinction between regular nuts and activated nuts or if you simply can’t be bothered with the hoo-har (and it is a fairly lengthy process!!!) then we recommend Loving Earth’s Activated Nuts.
Loving Earth’s organic nuts are soaked and then dehydrated between 38-40 degrees to maintain optimum nutrition. Using such a low temperature for such a long period of time is fairly arduous. Loving Earth’s nuts are a much simpler alternative to activating your own nuts. Click here to take a look.
How can I re-activate Nuts and Seeds?
- Select your preferred organic nuts.
- Pour the 500 grams of nuts into a container that can simply fit that amount or more of nuts (make sure to have some space before the lid of your container).
- Pour purified water (enough to cover) over the nuts
- Add ¼ teaspoon of salt
- Seal with the lid, leave at room temperature for 12 hours or 4 hours (macadamias or cashews respectively)
- Drain in a colander. Rinse your nuts and seeds well.
- Use immediately (eg. for nut butters, baking etc) or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Ms. Alisa Motorina asked me, “What is the quantity of nuts vs container and salt ratio, please?”. Typically, it is 1/4 teaspoon per 500 grams of nuts. I make sure that the container simply fits that amount that amount of nuts but usually, I tend to do about a kilo of nuts at a time. So I use 1/2 teaspoon of salt – not that it really matters to get this precisely… since We discard the water afterwards. I then reactivate using a dehydrator because they aren’t that expensive (I have had trouble with getting my oven to a low enough temperature for the nuts). I hope this helps you prepare your own batch yourself.
Dehydrating or Roasting your Nuts or Seeds:
This process involves drying the nuts in a dehydrator or in an oven at an extremely low temperate (higher temp’s will destroy some of the nutritional benefits of this process) for 24 hours (fewer hours will again decrease the value) to remove all moisture.
If you don’t have a dehydrator then spread the nuts onto a baking tray and place them in an oven on a very low temperature and lightly roast them for 1-6 hours (depending on your time schedule). While heating at a higher temperature can damage or will destroy some of those good enzymes, you’re better off having slightly toasted nuts than un-soaked with ‘un-accessible’ nutrients!
Alternatively save yourself the time and purchase Loving Earth’s Activated Nuts.
Health Benefits of Nuts
- Rich in protein, iron, copper, zinc, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins E and B1, and antioxidants.
- Sky-high in Vitamin E – a fat soluble anti-oxidant that improves functioning of immune cells.
- Good For The Brain, Heart, Nervous System, Digestion and support good blood pressure.
- Beneficial for improving digestion. The Institute of Food Research in the UK found that the skin of an almond acts as a pre-biotic and is therefore a food source of good bacteria in the digestive tract
- One of the most balanced nuts and seeds (alongside sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds) as other nuts are reported to be acid forming.
- Interestingly 20 per cent protein and, weight for weight, they have a third more protein than eggs!
- Shown to assist with cardio vascular health. Almonds naturally contain no cholesterol and help to regulate cholesterol in our bodies by reducing LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and increase HDL (‘good’) cholesterol.
- Anti-inflammation, immune boosting and liver supportive qualities have also recently been published in various medical journals.
Brazil nuts are
- Despite their name, are botanically speaking a seed. They contain no enzyme inhibitors and are easily digested.
- A great source of GOOD FATS (Omega 3 and 6) and PROTEIN
- High in vitamin E, thiamine, copper, manganese, magnesium, CALCIUM, phosphorous and ZINC.
- Interestingly, brazil nuts have also been found to be one of the richest dietary sources of selenium. Eat just one brazil nut and you’ve probably taken in one day’s supply of your body’s requirement for the mineral selenium, a key player in the immune system and a vital antioxidant which helps protect our hearts.
Soils dedicated to intensive farming are likely to be depleted of their selenium content, so quality brands are important.
Being high in fat, brazil nuts can turn rancid very quickly. So, as with all nuts, we recommend only buying small amounts at a time.
- Are great for flexible joints and strong bones. High in copper content, helping to eliminate free radicals. Copper also aids the binding of collagen and elastin, providing substance and flexibility in bones and joints. Cashews are particularly rich in magnesium, which is necessary for strong bones and nerve health.
- They contain less fat than most other popular nuts, including peanuts, pecans, almonds and walnuts.
- Contain significant levels of protein and they are a source of monounsaturated fat, often described as the “good oil”. Macadamias contain a higher percentage of monounsaturated oils (omega 9s) than any other natural product.
- Offer some potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, selenium, zinc, copper and iron, B vitamins, vitamin E and folate.
- Are prone to rancidity due to their high fat content, so they are best stored in an airtight container and refrigerated if possible.
- A quality source of protein and contain over 19 vitamins and minerals.
- The RICHEST source of antioxidants among tree nuts.
Pine nuts are
- Tiny nuts packed full of nutrients and good fats.
- Contain a long list of antioxidants—from vitamin A to vitamin E, fibre, coleic acid (which is a monounsaturated fat that helps control cholesterol levels), vitamin K (important for blood clotting and bone health and assists with circulation) and lutein (which has been shown to improve vision and eye health).
Note: Raw pine nuts should be refrigerated to maintain freshness.
- Have the LOWEST FAT content of any nut, and much of the fat they do have is healthy monounsaturated fat.
- They are a good source of healthy fats, plus protein and are a SIGNIFICANT SOURCE of four important minerals: MAGNESIUM, CALCIUM, IRON and POTASSIUM.
- Very high potassium to sodium ratio, which helps normalise blood pressure and maintain water balance in the body. Pistachio nuts also contain the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, which boosts the immune system.
Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
- The Spanish culinary term for pumpkin seeds.
- For a little seed, a rich source of protein and most minerals including zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, calcium, copper and potassium.
- High in essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, in addition to phytosterols, which some studies have shown may prevent arteriosclerosis and help regulate cholesterol levels in the body.
- Proving to be helpful in reducing prostate symptoms.
- Renowned for their fatty acid profile and have one of the highest amounts of omega-3 fats of any other nuts, making them GREAT FOR THE BRAIN.
- Foods high in Omega 3 are proving to assist attention and focus. Several studies have demonstrated great attention, reduction in behavioural problems, and less ADD like behaviours in school kids when they are given omega-3s.
- Are also a significant source of protein and dietary fibre, potassium, zinc, some B vitamins, vitamin E plus about half the Daily Value for manganese—an important trace mineral that’s essential for growth, wound healing, peak brain function, and the proper metabolism of sugars, insulin and cholesterol.
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From the desk of…
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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For more information and
super-tasty superfood recipes,
click here to take a look
at Lunchbox Solutions
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U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data Laboratory”Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition”; Nuts and Healthy Body Weight Maintenance Mechanisms; Richard Mattes, et al.; 2010
*Last Updated: April 7,2014