Though many Paleo dieters eat lots of nuts, they may not know exactly why they are eating them. There are many scientific properties behind nuts – and even behind eating too many of them.
Since this is a common fallacy when it comes to the paleo diet, it is ideal to figure out why eating too many nuts is a problem, scientifically. Another issue commonly seen – are some nuts actually legumes? And can you survive by only eating nuts? I will answer these – and many other questions – in the following list of nutty facts!
01. Brazil Nuts: Probably The Best Nut You’re Not Eating
Besides being high in selenium – which could help ward off prostate cancer – Brazil nuts are also a great source of magnesium and fiber. On top of these properties, it only takes one ounce of Brazil nuts to obtain over 700% of your daily value for selenium! This means you only need a little bit of these nuts to get all of their beneficial nutritional properties. Go buy some – I’ll wait.
02. Peanuts Are Not Nuts
Yes, you read that right – they are legumes. They are also highly allergenic, and exposure (if allergic) can even result in death. The number of humans with a peanut allergy has tripled in the last 15 years – meaning this problem is not going away. Alfatoxin B1 is the most toxic mycotoxin related to peanuts. In fact, many peanut butters and cooking oils have been found to be contaminated with mycotoxins. One more reason to avoid peanuts and go full-on paleo!
03. Hazelnuts Are Also Called Filberts
Hazelnuts are routinely overlooked as a nut choice – though I’m not quite sure why. Besides the double name, hazelnuts are also Oregon’s official state nut. To answer your next question: no, I wasn’t aware that states had “official” nuts either.
04. Pine Nuts Are Found Inside Pinecones
Pine nuts are another overlooked nut, but did you know they are actually found inside pinecones? That’s right – those things you may have thrown at girls on the playground – actually contain delicious pine nuts. Don’t feel bad I didn’t make this obvious connection either.
05. Cashews Have Dangerous Shells
The words “cashews” and “dangerous” are far from synonymous. But – believe it or not – the shell of a cashew is quite dangerous. The double shell covering the cashew contains urushiol, a resin which is toxic when ingested. The same resin is found in poison ivy. Be glad the cashews you’re eating have been processed and steamed!
06. Pecans Are Rich With Antioxidants
I don’t think I’ve ever had a client who ate pecans on a regular basis – even though they are one of the most antioxidant rich nuts out there. Mostly included in pies, pecans are rich in vitamin E, and are usually ranked in the top 15 of all antioxidant rich foods. Eat up!
07. Pistachios Are Actually Fruits
Another unbelievable-but-true fact. Commonly known for their slow rate of consumption (removing a pistachio shell takes quite a bit of time, you know!) there is actually much about pistachios that most people do not know. Pistachios are actually the seeds of a fruit (the outer fruit is removed during processing)! Like other “nuts,” pistachios are a rich source of many beneficial phytochemical substances. This includes vitamin E, carotenes and more.
08. Almonds Influence Good Gut Bacteria
Yes, this is true. All those almonds you eat as snacks are probably helping your balance of beneficial gut bacteria. Studies have ranged from looking at the properties of the almond skin, to the almond’s potential prebiotic effects. Don’t skimp on these guys the next time you are looking to add some crunch to your diet.
09. Macadamia Nuts Are Possibly The King Of All Nuts
Besides having a great omega-3 to omega-6 ratio – which helps in fighting inflammation – macadamia nuts contain the largest amount of monounsaturated fatty acids of any nut. Regular consumption of these nuts may result in lowered triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. Not too shabby!
10. Walnuts Are The Only Nut With Substantial Omega-3
While a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is ideal, most nuts still do not contain much omega-3. This is not true of walnuts. One serving of walnuts has over 100% of your daily value of omega-3. In fact, even the skin of walnuts has been proven to have some nutritional value (the skin is whitish in appearance, in case you were wondering).
11. Peanuts Account For Two-Thirds Of All Nut Consumption
Hard to believe? Maybe, maybe not. Blame it on all the peanut butter manufacturers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that Americans eat. Even though they’re technically a legume – and they may kill you – Americans simply can’t get enough peanuts.
12. Chestnuts Are The Only Nuts That Contain Vitamin C
Another overlooked nut choice, chestnuts are possibly most famous for their inclusion in Christmas songs. Vitamin C is a great antioxidant, and more commonly found in fruits. But chestnuts will provide about 20% of your daily value of vitamin C. This is much more than every other nut.
13. Coconuts Are Not Nuts
Another misnomer – coconuts are actually “dry drupes.” However, if using looser definitions, coconuts actually quality as fruits, nuts AND seeds. For our Paleo purposes, stick to drinking coconut milk, drinking coconut water, using coconut cream, baking with coconut flour, cooking with coconut oil, and using coconut butter. The coconut is very multi-faceted, I know.
14. Cashews Are Not Nuts
This one always surprises my clients. Cashews are actually fruits, which come from the cashew tree. Through a variety of complex processes, you eventually get the “nut” which you can buy at the store. But the entire journey of the cashew is actually far more complex.
15. 40% Of The World’s Almonds Are Bought By Chocolate Manufacturers
This one is crazy but true. Blame it on all those Valentine’s Day assortments. Chocolate manufacturers can’t get enough of almonds, and these days they commonly try to make chocolate appear healthier than it is, by throwing in heart-healthy almonds. Never mind the fact that chocolate is still very high in sugar and is pretty close to being empty calories. It is best to eat almonds on their own – not as a part of a crunchy chocolate nut cluster.
16. Macadamia Nuts Are Toxic To Dogs
Yes, that’s correct. If you drop some macadamia nuts on the floor, make sure you pick them up right away. You wouldn’t think that these nutritious nuts would possibly paralyze your dog – but it’s true. However, since these nuts are highly nutritious and delicious for humans, making sure you eat every last one (none left for your pooch!) shouldn’t be much of a problem!
17. Pistachios Are Green Due To Their Antioxidant Content
Have you ever cracked open a pistachio and marveled at the fact that part of it is green? This green (and sometimes purple) color is in fact due to the antioxidants found in the pistachio. This coloring method works for some other fruits and vegetables as well. Neutralizing those free radicals is just one more reason to crack open some of these delicious nuts!
18. Most Brazil Nuts Don’t Come From Brazil
Brazil nuts are somewhat misnamed. They really should be called Bolivia nuts, since most of these nuts come from the northern region of that country. This is sort of like hot dogs. The name is very misleading and borderline almost wrong. No matter what the name though, Brazil nuts are packed with selenium and other nutrients, so make sure you’re eating them!
19. Cashews Should Actually Be Called Brazil Nuts
Yes, things are about to get more complicated. If foods were named more logically, we would have named cashews after the country where they come from and Brazil nuts something else entirely. But remember, cashews aren’t actually nuts at all.
20. Peanuts Can Also Be Called Goobers
Yes, I’m completely serious. There is even a Johnny Cash song that includes the word in its title. If you aren’t scared off of peanuts yet – I’d be surprised. No word yet on whether they are related to the candy or not.
As you can see, there is often much more going on with your food than you realize! It is these hundreds of little facts that make our world that much more interesting. Putting these aside, the most important thing to remember is that nuts contain lots of nutrients and are usually a reliable source of healthy fats as well, so make sure to routinely consume them! They aren’t nutritious enough to be your sole source of calories, but they will help round out an already-nutritious diet.
And one last reminder – nuts are very high in calories, so take a serving or two, and put the rest away. This goes for nut butters, as well. Nuts are also pretty inflammatory, so do not pig out on them all the time. These two blunders are often seen when people first go Paleo – because nuts often feel like a treat. But remember: they are only a snack or side item – not a main course.
How did I do? Did you learn some fun facts about nuts? Let me know in the comments!