If you don’t know already, yes, nuts are technically a Paleo-friendly food. They are whole foods that contain concentrated nutrients. Just think about it, they have enough energy to grow an entire new plant! For many experts, this puts nuts and seeds at the top category of health foods. However, not all nuts are created equal – some are better than others.
In this article, I’ll be explaining the details of both nuts and seeds. Though they are technically not the same, they share very similar properties, so the advice here applies to both.
I’m going to share with you the answers to the most popular questions about nuts so that you will learn how to choose the best nuts and how to prepare them so that you reap all the benefits!
The Best and Worst Nuts
Before we get into the details of preparation, first things first, which nuts are the best? This poses a lot of different considerations. Aside from nutritional value, the best nuts would be sourced from the purest soil, prepared properly and, of course, digested the most efficiently.
All nuts have their benefits. In general, they are high in B vitamins, which are essential for a healthy metabolism and cell development. Nuts are also great sources of healthy fats and antioxidants, making them a popular food for preventing heart disease and cancer. (1)
Here is a beneficial breakdown of common nuts:
- Almonds: These are some of the healthiest nuts because they are the only alkaline nuts. They also help to balance blood sugar and are rich in calcium and vitamin E. The only downside to almonds is in America they are pasteurized (2).
Because of the gluten-free trend, almond flour and baked goods made from it have become just as popular as gluten once was. This might lead to an overconsumption of almonds, causing an entirely new collective food intolerance. This is why variety in food is important! You can learn more on food variety on a previous article I wrote here.
- Brazil nuts: These are incredible nuts containing omega-3s and high levels of the mineral selenium. Selenium is important for immune function and may also help prevent breast cancer (3).
- Cashews: Creamy and delicious, cashews are high in magnesium, (second to almonds in magnesium content) which helps build bones. They have more carbohydrates and a lower fat content than most other nuts. Of all the nuts listed here, they are often the least expensive of the bunch.
- Hazelnuts: These nuts contain a high amount of quality protein. They are also rich in vitamin E and beta-sitosterol, which contribute to heart health and fight cancer (4).
- Macadamia nuts: These are the next coconut! If you’ve never tried a fresh mac nut then you are missing out. They are the least allergenic of nuts because they have very low protein content. (That may also be because they are so expensive that not many people eat them to excess.) They are one of the highest in fat, though nearly all of it is monounsaturated. They are a loaded with thiamine and contain lower amounts of phosphorous, selenium, calcium and potassium.
- Walnuts: This is one of the few nuts to have a more ideal omega-3 to 6 ratio. They also have high levels of vitamin E. The fatty acid content in them makes them a great anti-inflammatory food, which protects the heart and prevents arthritis (5).
- Pecans: These are similar to walnuts in nutritional value and also have high vitamin E content. They are not as high in omega-3, however. Research has shown that regular consumption of pecans may help decrease LDL cholesterol levels.
- Pine nuts: Pine nuts are actually the seeds of pine trees! These are a great wild food find if you live in the right area. They are some of the more expensive nuts because they are rare and extremely difficult to process. They contain large amounts of thiamine (vitamin B1) and protein. If you’re trying to achieve your ideal weight, then these are the nuts to consume. The protein will balance your hunger and regulate your metabolism.
- Pistachios: A personal favorite for many, these specialty nuts are popular staples in many Indian homes. They have plenty of calcium, magnesium and vitamin A, as well as iron, and they are a good source of fiber.
A Little About Peanuts
If you are familiar with the Paleo diet, then you understand that peanuts are not Paleo because they are not nuts; they are legumes. What’s worse is that because of how they are harvested, they are susceptible to growing mold and fungus that generates poisons called aflatoxins.
Aflatoxins can cause liver damage. This is another reason so many people avoid peanuts and peanut products unless they are sourced from clean sources. This may be the case for wild jungle peanuts, which may be the exception. You can experiment for yourself. Otherwise, it’s best to avoid peanuts at all cost.
Sprouting Nuts for Optimal Digestion
Before you run out to the bulk section of your store and start eating, it’s important to know a few more things about these superfoods. First of all, like peanuts, nuts can acquire fungus and molds too. Although they are less likely to do so than peanuts, they do sit in bulk containers for many months sometimes, and are exposed to sometimes-fluctuating environments.
Therefore, the best way around this issue would be to sprout your nuts. This not only eliminates any potential mold or fungus, but it makes them more digestible. Many people used to roast nuts to kill any harmful pathogens; however, the downside of that is loss of heat-sensitive nutrients.
To get the most out of your nuts without bringing yourself any harm, definitely soak or sprout them first. This is a very simple process; it just takes a bit of patience. Simply take your raw nuts and soak them in clean water with a dash of unrefined sea salt for at least 8-12 hours. I just soak mine overnight so when I wake up they are ready for use.
This cleans them, makes them easier to digest, and removes the gut-irritating anti-nutrients found on the outer layer of the nut.
Soaking and sprouting will leave the nuts soft, and unless used for a pate, they might not be as tasty. To get around this, I like to dehydrate the nuts once sprouted. This makes them crunchy again and much more delicious for grinding into nut butters or eating as a snack.
Grinding soaked nuts into a pâté will also help with digesting them. If you’re making a pâté, then you can skip this step.
Ideas for Eating Nuts:
- Once sprouted, toss them with spices and Celtic Sea Salt
- Pureed with olive oil, herbs and sea salt into a pâté
- Spread pâté on a sheet of nori (sushi paper) and top with avocado, kimchi and other veggies.
- Chopped and added to salads
Who Shouldn’t Eat Nuts?
Though nuts prove to be a powerhouse of a food, there are a few cautions to eating them. Here are a few reasons you might want to skip the nuts:
- If you have a virus. Active viral infections, such as herpes simplex or common colds, can be extremely agitated by nuts. This is because nuts are high in the amino acid arginine, which can encourage outbreaks of viruses. If you have a viral infection, then avoid nuts (and seeds) and eat more lysine-rich foods such as seafood and pastured animal meat.
- If you have poor digestion. Even when sprouted and turned into a pâté, nuts can still be difficult to digest, because they are a concentrated protein. Those with weak or compromised digestive systems may find nuts to be more difficult to digest than meat. If you feel your digestion is at all compromised, then just avoid them until you’ve improved your digestive abilities.
However, if you take measures to heal your gut, then once healed, you may start experimenting with consuming nuts. Start off with almonds and seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds. These are easier to digest, and then from there you can try others such as walnuts, cashews, pecans, etc.
In a Nutshell…
Overall, nuts are one of Mother Earth’s finest foods gifted to us. They contain astonishing amounts of nutrients to help us live vigorous and healthy lives. Not to mention, they can be used in a number of ways, and they taste delicious!
Use them as a star in a dish or for snacks on the go. Either way, if chosen and prepared with care, nuts can be one of the most nutritionally sound portable Paleo foods.
(You’ll Also Love: The Ultimate Guide To Probiotics)