April 2021. About this episode: Nuts are high in healthy fats and are energy (kilojoule) dense. But does this mean…
Top 10 Nut FAQs
Top 10 Nut FAQs
We answer your top 10 most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about nuts, and bust some nut myths along the way!
Should you avoid nuts if you’re trying to lose weight?
No. Decades of research shows that regularly eating nuts is not linked with weight gain.
Eating a handful of nuts (30g) each day can actually help you to maintain a healthy weight. How?
- Nuts contain an abundance of healthy fats, fibre and protein which help satisfy hunger and control appetite.
- Research suggests we may not actually absorb up to 30% of the kilojoules in nuts! This is because the naturally-occurring fat in nuts is held (or trapped) within the cell walls of the nut, making it hard for the body to digest and absorb.
- Regularly eating nuts can boost resting metabolic rate by 5-10%, meaning we naturally burn more kilojoules (or calories).
How many nuts can you eat at a time?
Every Australian should be eating a healthy handful (30g) of nuts every day for good health*.
Many of the studies that have linked nuts with health benefits have investigated a one ounce (28g) serving – or increments of an ounce serving. And the Australian Dietary Guidelines define a serving of nuts as 30g.
But there’s no reason why you can’t eat more than a 30g handful. Research suggests that around two handfuls each day assists with cholesterol lowering without affecting weight.
*The exception is people with a nut allergy, who must completely avoid nuts, and infants and younger children, who are at risk of choking on whole nuts.
Are raw nuts better than roasted nuts?
Raw and roasted nuts are both healthy. They are very similar in their nutritional ‘make-up’, with some minor exceptions.
- Roasting nuts has little impact on their energy and fat content. Nuts are naturally high in healthy fats, so when they are oil-roasted, they are unable to absorb much (if any) extra fat.
- Roasted nuts have a slightly higher concentration of minerals than raw nuts. This is because the roasting process removes some moisture (water), which further concentrates the minerals in nuts.
- On the flip side, levels of some vitamins (such as B-group vitamins and vitamin E, which are not heat stable) are slightly reduced in roasted nuts, compared with raw nuts.
Importantly, research tells us that the health benefits of eating nuts apply to both raw and roasted!
Can you eat salted nuts?
Yes, you can eat salted nuts. Unsalted nuts, which are naturally low in sodium (or salt), are the preferred ‘everyday’ nut – but salted nuts can also have a place in your diet.
A 2020 Nuts for Life audit found the majority (74%) of salted nuts products available, as sourced from five major Australian grocery stores, had fewer than 400mg sodium per 100g. The Heart Foundation classes such foods (with <400mg sodium/100g) as ‘moderately salted foods’ that are ‘ok options’.
Most Australians miss out on the health benefits of eating a daily handful of nuts, as their intake falls well short of the recommended 30g.
Given salted nuts contain all the nutrition and health benefits of raw or roasted nuts, it may be worth reconsidering them, as part of a healthy eating pattern.
A GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian can give you advice in this area, which is specific to you. And, as with all packaged foods, use the Nutrition Information Panel to compare the sodium content of different nut products.
Do you need to eat activated nuts?
No, you don’t need to activate nuts before eating them.
Some people suggest that activating (or soaking) nuts breaks down some of the proteins, starches, oils and other nutrients, like phytates, making them more digestible. But research has found no evidence that activating nuts makes the nutrients in nuts any better absorbed by the body.
Results of a recent study showed common methods used to activate nuts do not reduce phytate levels, and in some cases actually increased phytates. It also showed that some minerals in nuts, specifically iron, calcium and zinc, leached out during soaking process, suggesting that activating nuts probably does more harm than good.
If you enjoy activated nuts, continue to eat them. If you’re happy to eat regular raw or roasted (non-activated) nuts, you will still get all the health benefits.
Can you eat nut butters?
Yes, you can enjoy nut butters and pastes! They offer many of the health benefits of whole nuts.
Nut butters are particularly useful options for infants and younger children, who are at risk of choking on whole nuts, and for people with chewing difficulties.
The main difference between whole nuts and nut butters is that more fat is absorbed by the body from nut butters. With whole nuts, some of the fat is trapped in the fibrous structure of the intact nut, meaning that this fat may not actually be absorbed by the body. Whereas in nut butters, the fat is no longer ‘trapped’, making it more available for the body to absorb.
When buying nut butters and pastes, compare products using the Nutrition Information Panel, and opt for those without added sugar, salt or oil.
What are the health benefits of eating nuts?
Eating a handful of nuts every day could save your life.
An in-depth research review, which combined the findings of 20 good-quality studies, found that people who ate 28g (a handful) of nuts a day had a 22% reduced risk of dying early, compared with people who almost never ate nuts. Why?
Evidence shows that people who regularly eat nuts have a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, cancer and depression.
Nuts are a nutrient-dense food, with at least 28 different nutrients – including essential vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, protein, fibre and phytochemicals. Research suggests the disease-fighting effect of nuts is likely due to the unique combination of nutrients and bioactive compounds they contain.
All nuts are gluten free, naturally low in sodium and contain no added sugars.
What’s the best way to store nuts?
Store nuts in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Nuts can be refrigerated for up to four months and frozen for up to six months. Bring them back to room temperature before eating to enhance their nutty flavour.
Can nuts affect digestion?
Nuts can improve digestion, or gut health.
Like all plant-based foods, nuts (and especially nut skins) provide fibre, which plays a major role in digestive health. Research tells us that people who consume high-fibre diets have lower rates of constipation, haemorrhoids and diverticular disease, compared with those that eat less fibre.
Eating nuts may also increase the growth of good bacteria in the gut. This is because nuts act as food (prebiotics) which feed the healthy bacteria (probiotics) in the gut. In turn, this positively impacts our gut microbiome – currently one of the hottest topics in nutrition!
If you’ve 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. And always couple a high-fibre diet with enough fluid and regular physical activity.
Can you eat nuts if you have diverticular disease?
Yes, people with diverticular disease can eat nuts.
Guidelines from the 1990s, which are now outdated, recommended that people with diverticular disease avoid certain foods, including nuts and seeds, for fear that these foods would get ‘stuck’ in the diverticula (or tiny ‘pockets’ within the bowel wall) and inflame the bowel.
These guidelines have been superseded, due to a lack of scientific evidence to back up them up. The current recommendation is that people with diverticular disease do not need to avoid nuts (unless they cause particular discomfort for individuals).
In fact, avoiding nuts may even be counterproductive. This is because nuts are a valuable source of dietary fibre, which is important in managing diverticular disease.
Published March 23, 2021