Common nut myths
Here we take a look at some of the most common questions and answers about nuts and bust some of those myths.
Should you avoid nuts if you’re trying to lose weight?
No, you don’t need to avoid nuts if you’re trying to lose weight. Eating a handful of nuts (30g) each day can actually help you to maintain a healthy weight. This is because:
- Nuts contain nutrients which can help control appetite such as healthy fats, fibre and protein. Healthy fats can reduce our desire to eat by switching on some of the satiety hormones in the intestines.
- Studies have found nut eaters excrete around 10% more fat in their stools, meaning they are not absorbing all the fat from the nuts.
How many nuts can you eat at a time?
We should all be aiming for at least one handful of nuts each day. But there’s no reason why you cannot eat more than one handful, as research suggests that around two handfuls each day assists with cholesterol lowering without affecting weight.
Are raw nuts better than roasted nuts?
There are only minor nutritional differences between raw and roasted nuts, so enjoy them both.
Nuts roasted in oil only contain around 5% more fat than raw nuts. This is because roasted nuts actually absorb very little of the oil they’re roasted in. And in terms of taste, roasting tends to add crunch and also brings out more of their nutty flavour.
Nutrients (especially minerals) become more concentrated during the roasting process as moisture is lost, meaning that roasted nuts have less water and a higher concentration of minerals. B group vitamins and Vitamin E are not heat stable, so these are also reduced in roasted nuts. Roasting can also cause the nut skins to fall off and since they are a good source of fibre and antioxidant compounds, consuming the skins is a good idea.
Can you eat salted nuts?
We recommend eating unsalted nuts as your everyday nut, saving salted nuts for special occasions.
Salted nuts contain all the nutrition and health benefits of raw or roasted nuts – they just have a higher sodium (salt) content. Salted nuts only contain around 1% added salt, so in a handful, that would equal approximately 0.3g salt (or approximately 130mg of sodium). In other words, the salt content is pretty small. But as a nation, we consume too much salt, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Do you need to eat activated nuts?
No, you don’t need to eat activated nuts. Activated nuts are soaked in water (usually overnight). The soaking is thought to break down some of the protein, starches, oils and other nutrients like phytates in nuts, seemingly making them more digestible.
There is very little evidence that activated nuts provide any additional benefits. If you enjoy activated nuts, then that’s great and you can continue to eat them. But you will still receive health benefits from regularly eating non-activated nuts.
Can you eat nut butters?
Yes, you can eat and enjoy nut butters. Nut butters and pastes provide many of the health benefits of whole nuts. Research shows the main difference is that more fat is absorbed from nut butters than whole nuts. This is because fat is trapped in the fibrous structure of whole nuts, with much of it being excreted from the body. Whereas in butters and finely chopped nuts, the fat is no longer ‘trapped’ meaning more fat is available to be absorbed.
Nut butters are an excellent option for infants and younger children, who are at risk of choking on whole nuts, and the elderly or those with chewing difficulties. Remember that nut butters can be very moreish, so always opt for a nut butter with no added sugars, salt or oils. It’s also a good idea to enjoy them with veggie sticks, fruit or on wholegrain bread and crackers (rather than straight out of the jar!).
What are the health benefits of eating nuts?
There are many health benefits of eating nuts. Nuts are a nutrient dense food, rich in several essential vitamins, minerals, mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (healthy fats), protein, fibre and phytochemicals. All nuts are gluten free, naturally low in sodium and contain no added sugars. Their unique combination of nutrients is one possible reason why they have been linked to a whole host of health benefits, enhancing life and reducing chronic disease risk.
Evidence shows that those who regularly eat nuts have a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, cancer and depression.
What’s the best way to store nuts?
To keep nuts in the best condition, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. Nuts can be refrigerated for up to 4 months and frozen for up to 6 months.
Can nuts affect digestion?
Nuts act as foods (prebiotics) for the bacteria (probiotics) in your gut. Nut skins in particular, appear to play an important role since they are rich in fibre and phytochemical compounds, with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming nuts may increase the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. This may cause healthy amounts of bloating and positively impact your gut health. Remember, if you have been eating a diet low in fibre, it’s best to introduce high fibre foods like nuts gradually, so your body has time to adjust.
Is it OK to eat nuts if you have diverticular disease?
Previous guidelines (from the 1990’s) recommended to avoid nuts and seeds as part of the treatment for diverticular disease. These guidelines have since been changed due to the results of several studies which showed no association of nuts increasing the risk of diverticular symptoms. Therefore, it is no longer recommended that you avoid nuts, unless they cause particular discomfort. Nuts are a valuable source of fibre, and fibre is important for diverticular disease.