Medicinal Nuts , almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, cashew

Almonds

Remember when you discovered almond meal? Suddenly, the world got a whole lot bigger and brighter. You cranked out Primal pancakes, cupcakes, cookies. You dusted chunks of chicken with powdered almonds before plopping them in hot oil to produce a chicken nugget that even Loren Cordain would begrudgingly accept. And then you gained some weight back, and your stomach felt kind of funny, and you started worrying about your PUFA ratios. So the almond meal got thrown out, and the sack of raw almonds soon followed. But wait: almonds themselves aren’t the problem. Your inability to moderate your use of almond meal is the problem. Give almonds another chance.

In an ounce:

  • 163 calories
  • 6 g carbs: 3.5 g fiber
  • 14 g fat: 8.8 g MUFA, 3.4 g linoleic acid (LA), 1.1 g SFA
  • 6 g protein
  • 50% vitamin E
  • 22% vitamin B2
  • 31% copper
  • 18% magnesium
  • 28% manganese

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • Almonds are a thirsty crop, with 10% of California’s yearly water usage devoted to growing almonds.
  • Phytate levels are high in almonds. Phytate has both good and bad sides (binds minerals and prevents their absorption on one hand, may be converted into beneficial compounds in the gut and have anti-cancer effects  on the other), but a good compromise is to avoid a nut-heavy diet. Almonds are snacks and supplements, not the main course. Soaking and/or roasting almonds can also reduce phytate levels.
  • Raw almonds are hard to procure. Most almonds advertised as raw on store shelves have been pasteurized. Purchasing directly from the producer/farmer can help you obtain truly raw, unpasteurized almonds.

Can you soak? Yes. 12 hours.

Brazil Nuts

Lining the banks of South American rivers are towering trees whose falling fruits are large and hard enough to stave in skulls. On the bright side, cracking open the fruit reveals up to 24 triangular, hard-shelled seeds containing delicious, slightly sweet nuts. These are Brazil nuts, and they deserve a spot in anyone’s diet.

In an ounce:

  • 186 calories
  • 3.5 g carbs: 2.1 g fiber
  • 18.8 g fat: 7 g MUFA, 5.8 g LA, 4.3 g SFA
  • 4.1 g protein
  • 15% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 55% copper
  • 25% magnesium
  • 15% manganese
  • 988% selenium

Benefits:

The incredible selenium levels are the most obvious benefit to Brazil nuts, as unless you’re regularly eating animal kidneys and wild salmonselenium can be hard to come by. But selenium is incredibly important for thyroid function, antioxidant capacity, immune function, cardiovascular health, cancer protection, and, you know what? It figures into just about every aspect of our health. And you don’t need to eat an ounce of Brazil nuts to get the benefits. A nut or two a day will get you adequate selenium.

Concerns:

  • The extreme selenium density of Brazil nuts causes some to worry about selenium toxicity, but I personally don’t. Extremely high doses of selenium in the form of Brazil nuts appear to be safe.
  • Phytate levels are high in Brazil nuts, but since you don’t need to eat very many to obtain the benefits, it shouldn’t be problem.

Can you soak? Unclear. Some say yes, some say no. Do a trial run of a few hours with a couple nuts before soaking the whole batch.

Cashews

Cashews also hail from Brazil, where they grow alongside a strange fruit called the cashew apple. The apple itself is actually edible and, from what I hear, quite delicious. The cashew shell, however, is lined with a poisonous resin called cashew balm. (Whatever you do, don’t put the balm on.) Cashews themselves aren’t poisonous, because they arrive on store shelves well-laundered and ready for consumption. This also means that raw cashews aren’t exactly raw. They’re steamed (to extricate the nut from the shell).

In an ounce:

  • 156.8 calories
  • 8.6 g carbs: 0.9 g fiber
  • 12.4 g fat: 6.7 g MUFA, 2.2 g LA, 2.2 g SFA
  • 5.2 g protein
  • 10% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 69% copper
  • 24% iron
  • 20% magnesium
  • 20% manganese
  • 15% zinc

Benefits:

There’s not a ton of research on cashews. What little exists isn’t very conclusive.

  • In one study, a high cashew diet had very little effect on markers of metabolic syndrome. If anything, blood glucose went up.
  • Another found that although a “prudent diet” containing cashews were higher in antioxidants than a control diet, it left serum antioxidant biomarkers unchanged.
  • One study did find that cashews improved baroreflex sensitivity, a marker of heart health.

On the whole, they’re probably fine to eat, but they aren’t superfoods.

Concerns:

Can you soak? Yes, 2-4 hours.

Chestnuts

Though they hail from trees and enjoy membership in the nut club, chestnuts are unlike most other nuts: they’re starchy things, low in fat and protein, more akin to a tuber than a mac nut. But they’re decidedly Primal. They’re low in phytate, high in flavor, and can be eaten raw, roasted, or steamed. The taste of a perfectly well-roasted chestnut is uniquely satisfying. Nutty, sweet, tender. Kinda like Christmas.

In an ounce:

  • 104.6 calories
  • 22.2 g carbs: 3.3 g fiber
  • 1.1 g fat
  • 1.4 g protein
  • 8% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 11% vitamin B6
  • 8% folate
  • 21% copper
  • 15% manganese

Benefits:

Nutrient powerhouses these are not and few studies into the health effects exist. I’m sure they’re perfectly healthy. Just don’t expect miracles.

Concerns:

  • The carb content is high, as chestnuts are more of a starch than a classic fatty nut. That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat them. Just be aware of the carbs and treat them more like potatoes than almonds.
  • Chestnuts are really tricky to open. Anyone have a foolproof method?
  • Exploding chestnuts.

Can you soak? A half hour of soaking should make cooking and peeling easier.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts, AKA filberts, aren’t popular snacking nuts. Instead, you usually encounter them in desserts, baked goods, and chocolate confections. But according to archaeologists, hazelnut shells are “one of the most frequently recovered plant materials from Neolithic sites,” so humans have had an affinity for the filbert for millennia — and very likely much longer. As you’ll see from the list of benefits, I think our ancestors were really onto something.

In an ounce:

  • 178 calories
  • 4.7 g carbs: 2.7 g fiber
  • 17.2 g fat: 12.9 MUFA, 2.2 LA, 1.3 SFA
  • 4.2 g protein
  • 15% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 28% vitamin E
  • 54% copper
  • 17% iron
  • 11% magnesium
  • 76% manganese

Benefits:

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.