I have a confession: I used to go nuts on nuts and nut butters. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. After surveying numerous friends, I realised that very few of us are able to control our nut portions. Nuts and nut butters can be extremely addictive.
Hats off to you if you can eat a small handful of nuts and then put the bag away. For everyone else who eats way more than the suggested portion sizes of nuts—keep reading!
Here are my 5 reasons on why you shouldn’t go nuts on nuts.
1. Raw nuts have high omega 6 profiles
All nuts, save for macadamia nuts, are extraordinarily high in omega-6 fat
Check out these numbers collected by Mark Sisson:
Omega-6 Content Various Nuts
(1/4 cup, which is about 20 small almonds, and 200 calories)
Walnuts – 9.5 g (50% of the calories!)
Almonds – 4.36 g (25% of the calories!)
Cashews – 2.6 g
Macadamias – 0.5 g
Brazil nuts – 7.2 g
Hazelnuts – 2.7 g
Pistachio – 4.1 g
Pine nuts – 11.6 g (>50% of calories!)
Pecans – 5.8 g
As you can see, the macadamia (my fav) is innocent, and cashews and hazelnuts are okay. Other than these few exceptions, the omega 6 content of the others listed is extremely high.
Ok they are high in omega 6 but …. “Can’t I balance out my omega 3 to 6 ratio by increasing my consumption of omega 3? I heard that the most important aspect of these fats is getting the right ratio?”
Check Stephanie Ruper’s from Paleo for Women response
“Consider this math: your omega 6: omega 3 ratio should be no more than 4:1, and probably more like 2:1. If you ate one handful of walnuts which means you consumed somewhere between 5 and 9 grams of of omega 6, you’d have to eat one whole pound of salmon, herring, sardines, or mackerel to make up for it.”
So in a nutshell it’s hard to achieve a higher omega 3 to 6 ratio if you regularly eat nuts. Essentially its almost impossible.
2. Nuts are very high in calories
Ok I am not a “calorie counter”, far from it – but I do know that it’s important to keep calorie intake somewhat normal and constant in order to maintain a healthy weight. This can be hard to do when nuts are so dense in calories. Let’s look at it this way, If you are hungry and you reach for the nuts you will probably eat an entire cup, which on average works out at around is 545 calories and 45.5 g of fat. Compare this to 1 cup of berries, which is around 46 calories, 0.4g of fat. So, if you have portion control issues, you would be wiser to swap 1 cup of nuts for 1 cup of berries considering 12 cups of berries are equivalent in calories to 1 cup of nuts.
3. People tend to overeat them
No matter what, people tend to eat too many of them without even realising it. They are the paleo go to snack, there are so many different bars on the market. Nut flours are also used in many “paleo friendly” and gluten free baked goods. This means that they get way overeaten.
I’ll be honest: Last November, I ate half a jar of cashew butter in one day! It tasted SO good I just couldn’t help myself. I was working from home all day and kept going back to the fridge for one spoonful after another, eating it mindlessly. I calculated the damage: 1700 calories and 143g of fat! Now that’s NUTS. That’s enough calories for around two meals!
4. Nuts can play havoc with hormones
Nuts crops are often heavily sprayed with herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilisers. All of these contain known endocrine disrupting chemicals, shown to alter hormonal balance and even alter reproductive function.
Raw nuts are also high in phytoestrogens which are are a class of chemicals that possess hormone-like properties. Specifically, they can behave like the female hormone oestrogen once inside the body. While eating foods high in phytoestrogen may be of benefit if your oestrogen levels are low, it doesn’t make sense to ramp up the oestrogen-increasing foods if your oestrogen levels are within the normal range.
In either case, eating a lot of nuts can negatively impact female hormone balance. It’s worth noting at this point that combining these hormone disrupting effects with inflammation is a big problem for menstrual cramps. If you have trouble with cramping and regularly eat nuts, they may be to blame. I also found that when I had PCOS removing nuts from my diet reduced my symptoms massively!
5. Digestive distress
If you struggle with Crohn’s, Diverticulitis, inflammation, acne, autoimmunity, leaky gut, or impaired digestive comfort in any way, nuts can exacerbate the problem. Nuts are roughage, they can brush the inside of your intestines like a wire brush. Furthermore, nuts are notoriously difficult to digest and can leave you feeling constipated, gassy and bloated if you have too many. If you’re a constant nut-eater and you have health, digestive or skin issue tread carefully.
Take home message
You really shouldn’t go nuts on nuts, I promise you your gut, immune system, skin, hormones, and waistline will thank you.
Interested in receiving one-on-one support? I currently work with a select number of clients each month interested in nutritional therapy.
Can you control yourself when it comes to nuts? I would love to hear from you below.