Nuts are a great way to pack on extra calories when you’re eating a healthy diet. Paleo plans and plant-based plans encourage nuts as a great source of protein fats and minerals. Nut butters are great for subbing out oil in baked goods, peanut butter is the most delicious thing on the planet, and then there are the alternative milks made from every single nut you could think of. Oh! And every recipe for healthy baked goods seems to contain almond flour these days.
Especially when you’re first transitioning to a healthier diet from something less optimal, it can be tempting to keep reaching for the nuts. Why? Because you’re quite possibly feeling hungry, and you know those nice crunchy little calorie rich nuggets of yum will be there for you. That is until you perhaps start experiencing tummy upset and start sprinting to the bathroom on a regular basis. Along with fiber, nuts contain a defense mechanism, as most plants do, called phytic acid. Because when nuts and seeds particularly are eaten by animals, they need to somehow survive so that when they come out the other end… ahem… they still hold the nutrients to grow into a new plant, even after all they’ve been through. It’s quite remarkable actually. But phytic acid can actually interfere with our body’s mineral absorption.
So before we get mad at the nuts, it’s not their fault. It’s simply part of nature. But since phytic acid can interfere with our body’s mineral absorption, this is where it becomes necessary to limit our consumption and prepare them properly. When we cannot absorb minerals well enough, this can weaken teeth and bones and make us more susceptible to decay and injury. Nuts are not only food containing this antinutrient, phytic acid. We’ve got a whole lineup of plants that contain this in order to survive.
Good news is, soaking, sprouting, fermenting, roasting, and cooking are great ways to help reduce phytates, depending upon the plant product you’re dealing with. Especially with grains, legumes, and nuts. You can drastically reduce phytates in these categories with soaking and sprouting.
There is so much we could go into here, but I’m not going to address it all, for fear of getting in over my head and saying things I’m not totally sure about. I’m no expert on these things. But there is such extensive research on this issue, and enough of us seem to have trouble with digesting these foods, so I thought it important to share with you like-minded healthy people.
Here are my thoughts on nuts. I absolutely love nuts. I mean really – I go for nut butters like gangbusters. Creamy goodness right there. And when I’m stressed, we can really plow through the peanut butter around here. Organic peanut butter, of course. But is it always a good thing? I experience some pretty foul digestive side effects when I OD on the nuts, you guys. I just have to be honest.
When I first started making the switch to a healthier diet, my digestion actually got a little bit worse. What!? Now I have learned (though it took me a while to figure it out!) that cutting back on the nuts really helps, if not eliminates the issue completely. Yes, I’m talking about foul gas. Let’s get real. Nuts are high in fats as well, and too much of a good thing isn’t always good.
Have you ever read the serving size suggestion on the nut package or nut butter container? 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter. Or almond butter. Alright… so let’s say I eat that (or a little extra, c’mon…), on some sprouted toast. Then I have almond milk creamer in my coffee. And later that day I make an almond milk smoothie, and we make a creamy cashew or tahini dressing for our salad for dinner. A healthy day, right? Woah! My digestion would be in total uproar.
So, soak em, sprout em, soak em again… your body will thank you.
Practical ways I live this out:
- I love oatmeal, but I always soak my oats overnight with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and then I can lightly cook them in the morning. The ACV is key because it’s an acid that helps break down the antinutrients. It’s pretty cool. Oatmeal seems to be lower in phytic acid overall, to begin with.
- Gluten Free. Yes, it’s a fad, but there’s a lot to it, as many of you know. Wheat is extremely high in phytic acid!
- Soak, rinse, soak, rinse your beans, and maybe even sprout some of them. There are many tutorials for how to do this on the internet. Oh yes, that also means that I don’t reach for the canned beans too often. And if I do, in a pinch, I rinse them very thoroughly.
- I Cut back on alternative nut milks. Actually, I nearly completely cut them out. Alternative milks are often fortified with essential vitamins and minerals which is one reason they can be helpful – so just be mindful that you’re getting those nutrients someplace else in your diet. But for me, my personal favorite way to eat nuts is in the form of nut butter. So figure out your favorite way to have them, and have them that way.
But in spite of all this, let’s not forget the great benefits that we CAN reap from consuming nuts! When eaten in appropriate quantities (maybe a serving a day instead of six, for example?) we can enjoy them for being actually quite high in minerals, and they are a good source of healthy fat.
But seriously, do you experience digestive upset when you OD on nuts? Lets get real. TMI? Go for it, I think it’s high time we “health nuts” (no pun intended) start taking it easy on the nuts.
Disclaimer: Please do not take my story and my opinion as medical advice. I am not a doctor or healthcare professional. I’m simply sharing my research and observations with you, my readers in hopes you can identify with me and maybe glean some tips and tricks every once in a while!
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