Don’t Go Nuts for Nuts and Seeds

evolution rPrimal enthusiasts have promoted nuts and seeds as healthy. Well, it’s true, but also it’s not so true.
Nuts are whole foods that are unprocessed in their raw state. They have vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats, protein, and some carbohydrates. What could be wrong? Our primal ancestors ate nuts and seeds and had no problems. But, they ate them in moderation.
What’s going on? There are phytic acid, lectins, and polyunsaturated oils in nuts and seeds. And, some people end up consuming quite a few of them. In excess, nuts and seeds can be harmful.
Phytic acid
Phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorus found in many plants. Humans aren’t able to digest phytic acid, which binds to minerals (especially calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium) in food and prevents their absorption. Phytic acid does not leach minerals that are already stored in the body; it only inhibits the absorption of minerals from food when phytic acid is present.
Phytic acid interferes with digestive enzymes including pepsin, which is needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase, which is required for the breakdown of starch. Phytic acid also inhibits the enzyme trypsin, which is needed for protein digestion in the small intestine.
Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to cell membranes and are abundant in raw legumes, grains, nuts and seeds. They are commonly found on the surface of the seed coat. Lectins are resistant to human digestion and will enter the blood unchanged. They can irritate the gut lining and create inflammation.
Polyunsaturated Fats
Most nuts and seeds have high concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). These fats are generally chemically unstable and potentially create damage on a cellular level in the body. Polyunsaturated fats are made up of various fatty acids including omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. High levels of omega-6 fatty acids are inflammatory. An excess of omega-6 fatty acid and total PUFA intake strongly contribute to today’s chronic and metabolic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. PUFAs are easily oxidized when in contact with oxygen, heat, and light. Their oxidized form creates toxic reactions with sugars and proteins in our bodies.
In addition, the omega-3 fats in nuts or seeds are not a good source of omega-3. The omega-3 fat found in plants, nuts, and seeds is alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is difficult for the body to convert to the necessary DHA and EPA.
Solution and Problem
Soaking nuts and seeds overnight in salty water is a way to get rid of most of the phytic acid and leptins. After the nuts and seeds have soaked, they should be rinsed thoroughly. Then they could be dried or eaten while moist. However, the polyunsaturated component of nuts and seeds cannot be reduced. As a matter of fact, these fats are easily oxidized and thereby could cause cellular problems when ingested.
Here is a table of various nuts and seeds and their composition of Saturated Fats, Monosaturated Fats, Polyunsaturated Fats, and their ratio of Omega-6 Fatty Acids to Omega-3 Fatty Acids. You can see that the healthiest nut is the macadamia nut with a low polyunsaturated component and a healthy Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. (The ideal ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in the human diet is between 1:1 to 3:1.)

[table_row][table_cell_head] NUT [/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] SAT. FAT [/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] MONO. FAT [/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] POLY. FAT [/table_cell_head][table_cell_head] Omega-6:Omega-3 [/table_cell_head][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Almond [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 8% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 66% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 26% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 28:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Cashew [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 20% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 60% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 20% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 48:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Chia [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 11% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 8% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 81% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 0.33:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Flaxseed [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 9% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 19% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 72% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 0.26:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Hazelnut [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 7% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 79% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 14% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 90:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Macademia [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 17% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 81% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 2% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 6:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Peanut (not real nut) [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 15% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 52% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 33% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 5,162:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Pecan [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 9% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 59% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 32% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 21:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Pine Nut [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 9% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 32% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 59% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 300:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Pistachio [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 13% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 55% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 32% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 52:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Pumpkin [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 20% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 32% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 48% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 114:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Sunflower [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 10% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 40% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 50% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 312:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

[table_row][table_cell_body] Walnut [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 10% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 14% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 76% [/table_cell_body][table_cell_body] 4:1[/table_cell_body][/table_row]

While nuts and seeds are often loaded with beneficial nutrients, most nuts and seeds should be kept to a maximum ingestion of a handful per day because:

  • Most nuts contain phytic acid that binds to minerals and blocks their absorption
  • Most nuts contain lectins that can irritate the gut lining
  • Most nuts are very high in total polyunsaturated fat and omega-6 fat, two things that should be kept to a minimum and that cannot be improved with soaking

Healthier Mouth … Healthier Lifestyle … Healthier You
Part 3 of 5

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS Nutritional Periodontist
October 10, 2014 [printfriendly]


evolution rIn keeping with my emphasis on evolutionary lifestyles, these are the foods that were and still are critical for our bodies not only to survive but also to thrive.


Foods to Include (organic is best):

• Every time you eat – be it a meal or a snack – think of it as “a plate of food.” The types of food on that plate should be divided up as follows:

• • At least 1/2 should be non-starchy vegetables
• • Less than 1/4 should be a protein source with all of its healthy fats
• • Less than 1/4 could consist of deeply colored fruits and/or nuts and seeds and/or a starchy vegetable along with additional healthy fats


• Saturated fats that have been demonized are essential for many biological functions. We need to eat all forms of healthy fats, which also include many essential micronutrients. Healthy fats made up as much as 60% of calories of our primal ancestors’ diets. Healthy fats are found in avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, wild-caught oily fish like salmon, organ foods like liver and brain from pastured animals, butter from grass-fed cows, and fats from pastured animals. One of my favorite sources for healthy fats is salmon roe. Here is a source I use regularly.


• The micronutrients in non-starchy vegetables provide essential building blocks for our individual cells. These vegetables also provide necessary fibers for our gut and gut bacteria. A great way to “eat” your veggies is to “drink” some of them in a smoothie. Here is a link to my favorite green smoothie.


• Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, full-fat plain yogurt, full-fat plain kefir, other fermented vegetables, and kombucha (fermented tea) offer healthy bacteria that can support a healthy gut. Be sure they contain live cultures. Include these with your meals as often as you can. Here is a source for fermented vegetables. And, here is an article by Helen Sanders from Health Ambitions.


• Protein from grass-fed and grass-finished meats, wild caught fish (especially small varieties like sardines, herring, and anchovies) and shellfish, pastured chickens and their eggs, and pastured hogs contain essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that need to be included in your diet.


• Homemade bone broth offers unique nutrients for your body and especially your gut and joints. Here is my favorite recipe. If you are not going to make it on your own, here is a reliable source for pastured bone broths.


• Sea vegetables (seaweeds) are also unique because of their abundance of trace minerals. Examples are wakame, kelp, and dulse. Here is my favorite recipe for seaweed soup using bone broth as a base.


• Filtered water provides minimal toxins and necessary hydration. Recent evidence suggests that if you drink when you are thirsty, you will have sufficient water intake. Usually 6-8 cups a day should be adequate. Adding ? cup of fresh lemon juice, lime juice, or apple cider vinegar to your water during the course of a day can help prevent kidney stones. These work because their citric acid inhibits stone formation and breaks up small stones that are beginning to form.


• Nuts and seeds provide healthy nutrients, but they also contain anti-nutrients. It is best to soak all nuts and seeds overnight to remove the anti-nutrients, and then allow them to dry.


• Fruits are generally healthy, but they contain fructose and should be eaten in moderation. Their level of carbohydrates can be a concern especially if you are trying to lose weight. The best choices are all berries (like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries).


• Herbs and spices offer many nutrients even when used in small quantities. Not only do these make food tastier, they also are very healthy. Consider chili peppers, cocoa, sage, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, rosemary, turmeric, parsley, and oregano to name a few.


Tomorrow I will suggest some supplements that you may want to include in your diet. I do not believe in supplements usually because our bodies were designed to be nourished from nutrient-dense whole foods found in nature – not packaged substitutes. However, the ones I recommend are unlike the packaged nutritional supplements with which you may be familiar.





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