Nuts are fattening, right? Well no, just the opposite.
Americans have never expected much from nuts. We tend to eat them from bowls while sitting around a bar drinking beers, or scarf down stale peanuts from those tiny bags on a plane.
Even at the supermarket, jars of nuts and seeds are found in the snack aisle, by the microwavable popcorn and the bags of Doritos—as if they were just another junk food.
The bad rap on nuts began in the 1980s, when low-fat diet advice dominated and high-fat foods got labeled as fat-storing calorie bombs. The government’s misguided 1992 Food Guide Pyramid didn’t help: They told us to limit fat as much as possible, telling us to eat foods like nuts “only sparingly.”
When it came to nuts, the government and many experts got it wrong.
In fact, nuts are an excellent source of healthy fat and protein along with fiber, minerals, and other healing nutrients.
I understand how confusing this can be when you see those old bags of peanuts at gas stations and wonder why they would be healthy. (Side note: Peanuts are legumes, not nuts.)
Even if you know the right kind of nuts are healthy, choosing the best types among the bewildering array in grocery stores can be frustrating. Cocoa-dusted, honey-glazed, candy-coated: The choices are endless.
That’s why I wrote Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? My new book helps you undo all the beliefs about food making you fat and sick and replace them with a new understanding that will lead to health and longevity.
Here are 5 takeaways about all things nuts from my new book:
- Nuts are a miracle food. One study found just one serving of nuts per day could prevent 4.4 million premature deaths annually in the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific.
- Nuts can help you lose weight. One study published in the journal Obesity followed 8,865 men and women in Spain and found that over a twenty-eight month period, those who ate nuts two or more times per week were 30 percent less likely to gain weight than those who seldom or never ate nuts.
- Walnuts are highest in this anti-inflammatory fatty acid. Walnuts are good for everything from bone health to cancer prevention to blood sugar control, but the main benefit is to our arterial function. They also contain a good dose of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats (ALA, or alpha-linoleic acid).
- Nut butters are healthy… in moderation. Almond butter and other nuts butters are healthy, but eat them in moderation and choose the kinds that don’t have added oils, sugars, or anything else—the nutrition label should mention just one ingredient. Look for a store that grinds the nuts into butter right there, so they’re fresh and not subjected to industrial processing, which can damage their fragile fatty acids.
- Many (but not ALL) nut milks are better than cow’s milk. Nut milks don’t come with the same baggage as dairy—meaning no hormones (which even organic milk contains). But they contain additives like xanthan gum and carrageenan, both of which can alter the gut flora and create a leaky gut. And you have to read the labels carefully, because even organic nut milk can contain sugar and other additives. Barley malt, which is a sweetener used in some nut milk, contains gluten, too. Look for brands without those ingredients.
As you can see, nuts are a great food, with a few caveats. You want to eat the right kinds in the right amounts. The wrong kinds, loaded with things like preservatives and bad oils? They can make you fat, sick, and inflamed.
In Food, I talk about how eating the right nuts can help you lose weight and reduce disease risk, why seeds are their own fantastic food, the real deal about nut butters, how to choose the best varieties (and skip those that aren’t good), and ingredients you absolutely want to avoid when buying nuts and seeds.
With that information, you’ll be armed with everything you need to know to buy nuts and seeds (along with lots of other foods including vegetables, fruits, and so much more).
Not that long ago, we didn’t need a label to tell us that our food was local, organic, and grass-fed; all food was whole, real, unadulterated, traditional food.
Fortunately, there is a strong desire among conscious consumers to get back to that way of life and to heal our conflicted relationships with what we eat. And that includes healthy foods that manufacturers have made unhealthy, including nuts.
In my book Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?, just out February 27, I uncover the truth about the food we actually eat—what’s healthy and what’s not in each group of food we eat—–meat, poultry and eggs, dairy, beans, grains, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds, beverages, and more, and guide you to a science based, sensible way of eating for life that keeps you, our planet, and our society healthy. I also address the environmental and social impacts of the food we eat.
And I take the guesswork out of how to eat food that has the best information, the best quality to make you feel good now and prevent and even reverse illness.
If you have ever woken up wondering what the heck you should eat, this book is for you. Check out the trailer and order at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or get it at your local bookstore. And get a free video of the 4 biggest food lies out there!
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD