HEALTH: Cracking the nutty nutrition myths

06 September 2018

This September is the Nuts for Life #nuts30days30ways challenge - a tasty dare to get Aussies eating a handful of nuts a day and gain the many health benefits.

To get the low down on nutty nutrition, Nuts for Life dietitian Belinda Neville has answered five of the most Googled nut nutrition myths and questions:

1. What’s healthier raw nuts or roasted nuts?

Both are great. Several studies have found that both roasted and raw nuts reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, eating either a handful (30g) of raw or roasted nuts at least five times a week can reduce heart disease risk by 30-50%, as well as  help to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol.

While you can easily buy dry roasted nuts, even those roasted in oil are fine as very little oils is absorbed during the roasting process. The only real difference between raw and roasted nuts is that roasted nuts contain less B group vitamins. These vitamins are not heat stable and some are lost during the roasting process. It’s not a worry though, as in general, Australians get most of their B group vitamins from grains and cereals.

2. Will eating nuts make me fat?

No! If you are watching your weight, nuts are the perfect go-to snack. In fact several studies have shown that nuts eaters weigh less. This myth came about because nuts are a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats. However, these fats actually reduce hunger pangs by switching on some of the satiety hormones in your gut.

Here’s five more ways nuts help to keep you lean:

  1. Crunching on nuts sends signals to your brain – the more you crunch, the less you eat.
  2. They’re high in protein, fibre and healthy fats to keep you fuller for longer and help control your appetite.
  3. Not all the fat from nuts is absorbed by the body.
  4. They boost metabolism by 5-10%.
  5. Nuts are yummy, making it easier to stick to a diet that includes snacking on nuts.

3. Should I only eat 8 or 10 nuts as a snack? How many nuts can you eat?

To get the many health benefits nuts provide, you should aim to eat 30g of nuts every day – that’s at least a handful. The amount varies dependent on the nut variety, but here's a guide:

  • 20 almonds
  • 10 Brazil nuts
  • 15 cashews
  • 4 chestnuts
  • 20 hazelnuts
  • 15 macadamias
  • 15 pecans
  • 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 30 pistachio kernels
  • 10 walnut halves
  • a handful of mixed nuts

4. Are activated nuts better for you?

There’s been a lot of fuss made about activated nuts - which are nuts that are soaked in water to help make the nutrients more digestible.

It’s thought that by soaking the nuts it may reduce phytates - a plant seed compound that binds minerals together and makes it difficult for the body to absorb the minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc in the nuts.

So hypothetically, by activating nuts, we should be able to absorb these minerals better. However, no research has been done to show what effect, if any, soaking has on nuts.

Phytates actually have their own long list of health benefits too. With antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, they appear to have anti-cancerous properties, and may help carbohydrate metabolism and glucose control. They also improve bone mineral loss and may even reduce kidney stones.

5. Can you eat nuts when you are pregnant or breastfeeding?

Nuts are safe to eat during pregnancy and when breastfeeding, providing you don’t have a nut allergy. They make a perfect nutrient-dense snack, during a time when your body is craving essential nutrients. There is a myth that women should avoid nuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as some women have been advised it may reduce the risk of their baby developing allergies, but there is no good evidence to support this. In fact, several studies have shown just the opposite – eating nuts during pregnancy may help reduce the baby’s risk of a nut allergy.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommends against restricting your diet when you are pregnant or breast feeding, as this can have a negative impact on the nutrition and weight of both you and your baby.

 


The #nuts30days30ways challenge is all about inspiring Australians to snack on a handful of nuts each day, for a month, to help them develop a tasty habit with big health benefits. To join the challenge in three easy steps:

  1. Eat a handful of nuts a day in September.
  2. Watch #nuts30days30ways for daily inspiration.
  3. Share your nut snacks with the hashtag #nuts30days30ways to go into the draw for great prizes.

 

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City
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