Are Nuts & Seeds Really That Good for You?
Eating nuts and seeds as part of our diet has been toted as a healthy alternative to snack foods and a great way to get the nutrients we need in a day, especially if we are aiming to lower our carb intake. This has lead bulk bins of nuts and seeds to become a focus of health and a pillar in many weight loss diet plans - as some types have nuts have even been found to aid weight loss.
This leaves many asking if nuts are so good, can we eat as many as we want? Are they the ultimate health food? And even, are nuts and seeds healthy at all?
In this article, we’re going to dive into the nitty-gritty details behind nuts and seeds. Which ones you should eat, how much, and the rule of thumb for nut lovers everywhere.
Here’s all the information you really need to know when walking down the bulk aisle at your local grocery store - from what nuts and seeds are to why they might not be the superfood they are made out to be.
What is the Difference Between Nuts & Seeds?
Okay, this little bit of info may blow your mind…A nut can also be a seed. Eek, what?
A nut is technically a seed in a hard shell. However, in culinary terms, a nut is any edible part of a plant surrounded by a shell.
Meanwhile, a seed is a fertilized ovule. A seed cannot be a nut. To confuse things further… almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts are actually seeds. In fact, even a peanut is technically not a nut, but a legume.
Categorization aside, you can really call them whatever you want. The terminology of calling a seed a nut is widely accepted. The only difference is now you know its technically wrong (sorry).
Basically, nuts and seeds are hard pieces that humans can consume as food and that come from a plant or tree.
The Great Nuts & Seeds Debate
Now, we get back to whether or not these guys are actually good for you or not. When you look at the paleo diet or other popular fad diets, nuts and seeds often come highly recommended. They claim you can get a ton of protein via these entities, as well as obtain a filling and satisfying snack.
And a side note here: If you enjoy nuts and seeds, by all means, enjoy them as an occasional snack, but don’t make them your main go-to. Like most parts of nutrition, everything in moderation is key.
So, what’s the problem?
Nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients, such as phytates. In fact, there are various plants that contain anti-nutrients. These anti-nutrients are compounds that create issues when it comes to absorbing nutrients in the digestive tract. In other words, they make it harder for the body to obtain nutrients.
How do anti-nutrients do this? These compounds bind to certain nutrients, like calcium or iron, which then prevents your body from receiving them. As a result, you end up excreting them out of the body when you use the bathroom.
In the long-run, this can lead to malnutrition or health dysfunctions, such as hormonal imbalances. In turn, a person may struggle to lose weight and have other health problems.
Nuts and seeds further contain lectins, which may lead to disease or illness through digestive inflammation and enzyme inhibition.
Now, this isn’t to say that having nuts and seeds is necessarily a bad thing. Yet, for individuals with digestive or health problems, it may add more issues into the mix - especially if you’re consuming nuts and seeds every day.
Further, here’s the other side of things: Nuts and seeds are high in calories. Many individuals don’t have nine almonds. Usually (you know the drill), you grab a handful or pour some in a small bowl. This often exceeds the serving size amount, meaning you’re eating too many of them in the first place.
Then, there’s the protein debate. While nuts are protein-dense, to get even close to the amount of protein your body needs in a day, you’d have to eat a ton of nuts. Again, you’d be overdoing it, and this is a food you definitely don’t want to overconsume due to anti-nutrients.
Nuts and seeds also contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats. While sometimes said to be beneficial by the medical community, polyunsaturated fats in high amounts can wreak havoc on the metabolic processes within the body. This is because polyunsaturated fats when oxidized in the body create free radicals that can damage the body and its systems.
Read this next: Supplements 101: Do You Need Them?
What Types of Nuts & Seeds are Not That Good for You & Why?
Alright, so there are some downsides to nuts and seeds. So, which ones should you maybe avoid or limit?
Usually, nutritionists recommend limiting the following, especially if you have digestive issues:
These nuts above contain a high amount of phytic acid. Thus, they can be particularly problematic when it comes to ensuring your body is able to absorb the nutrients it needs. Aim to eat these in small amounts.
Generally, if you have digestive problems, it’s best to avoid nuts and seeds altogether. Depending on what type of digestive problem you might be dealing with, it’s best to have a chat with your doctor about which nuts and seeds you can safely consume!
Some of the best nuts to eat that have a low polyunsaturated and anti-nutrient profile are:
- Macadamia nuts
Remember to always read the serving size and stick to it. Nuts are a really easy food to snack on and mistakenly consume in large amounts.
Stick to “Everything in Moderation”
So, are nuts good for you?
Ideally, it’s all about eating in moderation. This has been said time and time again, but it continues to prove to be true again and again. Too much of anything is a bad thing for our bodies. It’s all about obtaining a wide variety of nutrients from a broad amount of food.
Having some nuts and seeds as part of a meal or a quick snack every once in a while is just fine, having handfuls of nuts and seeds and your only sustenance is not.
It’s also important to remember that one specific diet or nutritional profile may work well for your friend or family member but not for you. Each person is unique and different in what their body requires and needs.
Sometimes, it pays to test and measure to find out what works for you. When you do, you feel better and everything else in your life gets better. Nail your nutrition and you’ll nail your life.
Want to include a healthy amount of nuts and seeds in your diet? Try this homemade trail mix recipe for optimal healthy snacking.