It’s no surprise that nuts are a favorite snack, whether you’re a health nut or not (just couldn’t resist!) They’re easy to take on the go and are jam-packed with nutrients. But there are 4 important facts about nuts that you simply must know before diving in!
The type, quality, and processing of nuts should be considered before believing that all nuts are beneficial.
If you’ve heard that you should stay away from nuts due to their high fat or calorie content, think again. Nuts have been proven to be great for weight management and can even curb hunger cravings.
4 Important Facts About Nuts
1. Not all nuts are created equal
Some offer more health benefits than others, and some should just be avoided altogether. The following are a few examples of the beneficial types of nuts, and the one type that should be avoided.
While they’re technically seeds (not nuts), almonds have been shown to offer some incredible health benefits. In addition to being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (the kind most Americans are deficient in), almonds are high in biotin and vitamin E (2 nutrients great for skin health). They support and promote heart health, as they’re high in magnesium and fiber.
I’ve also found that eating a handful of almonds helps stabilize blood sugar, as they have a low glycemic index and offer 6 grams of protein for every 1/4 cup (~15 almonds)
They are a great snack to curb cravings, as their high omega-3 content satiates hunger. You can even eat a small handful before a meal, which can prevent overeating and insulin spikes.
Ways to enjoy the benefits of almonds:
- almond flour works as a great substitute for wheat flour when baking
- almond butter can used to replace peanut butter
- soaked almonds can be used to make homemade almond milk
If you’re thinking to yourself ‘cashews are too fattening’, don’t worry. Again, they contain the beneficial kind of fat- omega 3’s, which the SAD (Standard American Diet) is deficient in. Studies have even shown that people who eat nuts on a regular basis are less likely to gain weight.
An excellent source of both copper and manganese, cashews are a great source of several key nutrients and minerals. Because of this, cashews are beneficial for joint and heart health, as well as bone health. They have even been said to help prevent certain types of cancer, as they are high in antioxidants and fight free radicals within the body.
Cashews have less fat than most nuts and offer about 5 grams of protein for every ¼ cup.
Ways to enjoy cashews:
- Use them to make cashew milk (another great dairy-free milk)
- Mix them in trail mix for a boost of nutrition
- Try cashew butter if you’re not a fan of almond butter (it’s a bit smoother)
If you’re interested in more grocery shopping tips and how to save money on real food, I created a Real Food Grocery Guide for you. Click the image below to download it!
Walnuts are known by some as the healthiest nut, because they offer 100% of the daily recommended intake of omega 3 fats. Similar to almonds and cashews, walnuts are great for heart health and weight management.
What makes walnuts unique is their ability to prevent certain types of cancer, specifically prostate and breast cancer. They have also been shown to promote male reproductive health.
Ways to enjoy walnuts:
- Eat them alone as a snack to curb hunger cravings
- Add them to granola or yogurt/pudding for extra nutrition
Other great options for beneficial and health-promoting nuts are macadamias, pecans, brazil nuts, hazel nuts, and pistachios.
Note: the most popular nut isn’t as good as you think…
Avoid peanuts (which are actually not nuts, but legumes) as they are high in omega 6 fatty acids, which when out of balance with omega 3 fatty acids, contributes to inflammation. Peanuts are also known to be heavily contaminated with pesticides.
2. There are several key things to look for when buying nuts
With all of the benefits that nuts offer, it’s important to realize that not all nuts are created and processed equally. In fact, even the healthiest nuts can come with additives and processing that do more harm than good.
To make sure that the nuts you’re buying aren’t heavily processed and full of additives, look for the following:
- Raw (wondering why? See below!)
- Unpasteurized, Unbleached, and Non-Irradiated
- Free from oils, specifically vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, etc.
Related Post: 12 Oils to Avoid (and which are best!)
- Free from additives like sugar, corn syrup, sodium, flavorings, thickening gums, etc. (Yep, you may be surprised to learn that there is a lot more to your favorite nuts. Many have all these extra additives- just look at the ingredient list!)
3. The way they’re prepared makes all the difference
Unfortunately, many store-bought varieties of nuts are heavily processed, which means they are heated to such extreme temperatures that the many of the nutrients are destroyed. This is why you want to opt for raw whenever possible. Many types of nuts even undergo ionizing radiation to kill bacteria.
If you’re worried that raw nuts will be boring and won’t taste as good or have that perfect crunchy texture that store-bought roasted nuts have, then read on!
The following technique not only makes nuts taste a million times better, but also makes them more easily digestible and bioavailable (so that you’re actually able to absorb the nutrients they offer).
4. Soaking & Roasting Makes them delicious and nutritious
Raw nuts are naturally high in phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. In other words, they contain ‘anti-nutrients’ so instead of providing you nutrients, they are absorbing them- not what we want! This can interfere with the digestion of nuts, which is why some people feel bloated or uncomfortable after eating nuts.
Thankfully, by soaking and roasting raw nuts you can reduce the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, making them more easily digested and beneficial.
The following handy chart from Radiant Life indicates how to soak and roast various types of nuts.
After soaking nuts for the appropriate length of time, rinse them off (you’ll see why!), then dry them with a towel before dehydrating in the oven.
*This may seem like a bit of extra work at first, but once you taste the difference- you won’t want to look back. I ate raw nuts for quite some time before learning about this technique and was surprised at the difference this process makes (both for taste & texture as well as digestion.)
Nuts can be a terrific source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial fatty acids. Just make sure you’re choosing quality nuts that are free from harsh processing & additives and properly preparing them so they become even more delicious and nutritious!
What are your favorite nuts? Have you tried soaking & roasting nuts?
Hannah is the founder of Healthfully Hannah and is a nutrition professional empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Get in touch with Hannah right here.
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