Everything you ever wanted to know about NUTS? Guaranteed my post is going to surprise you…..
Chances are if I asked most anyone reading this to select nuts to eat, bake or cook with I would see peanuts, almonds, maybe some cashews. Right??? Wrong. Actually, none of those mentioned are nuts any more then a coconut could be considered a nut (who is naming our food? Seriously). Just quickly I will list off some of the more common “nut” misconceptions and what they really are:
Peanut = Legume (same food family as peas and lentils)
Almond = Seed
Cashew = Seed
Walnuts = Seed
Pistachio = Seed
Brazil Nut = Seed
I’m not kidding! That bag of mixed nuts you just bought is actually a bunch of seeds!
So who cares though really? They still taste great and are healthy even if they are commonly incorrectly classified. This however is where things get tricky. Particularly when it comes to peanuts, which remember is neither a seed nor a nut.
For the most part seeds and nuts are a fantastic source of nutrients. I use them ALL the time in my cooking and baking and snacks. They are a source of monosaturated fat (“good” fat), loaded with vitamin E, vitamin B6, fibre and protein.
Where things get confusing with seeds and nuts is for those with inflammatory issues. Despite being an extremely healthy choice and ironically have been found to actually lower inflammation markers in some people (measured by something called C-reactive protein levels or CRP), nuts and seeds are also unfortunately a food with an extremely high incidence of intolerance and allergy. This translates to inflammation! While true allergies are easy to recognize many people experience sensitivity to seeds and nuts without being aware and suffer internal inflammation without knowing the cause. If you suspect a sensitivity, have inflammation issues or suffer from any auto immune disorder it would be in your best interest to eliminate all nuts and seeds and reintroduce one at a time to observe for any ill effects, in addition to seeing a nutritionist or having allergy testing.
As for peanuts I don’t even know where to start. I am often asked if I have an allergy to peanuts since I never, ever use them in my recipes or even acknowledge them for that matter. This is because I really don’t have anything good to say about peanuts. Sorry to all you peanut butter lovers out there!
Peanuts contain a high amount of something called Phytic Acid, which binds to foods and negatively effects nutrient absorption (watch for an upcoming post on soaking nuts/seeds to reduce phytate). Although nuts, seeds and even grains also contain phytic acid, peanuts also bring bring along Lectins, a sticky protein that binds to sugars in the body causing an inflammatory reaction and making digestion nearly impossible. Lectins may also mimic insulin and therefore inhibit weight loss efforts.
Furthermore, peanuts contain a carcinogen called Aflatoxin. This is a mold peanuts are susceptible to due to the fact they are grown in the ground and have permeable pods NOT shells. Permeable pods also means higher pesticide levels, as anything grown in the ground is only as good as the quality of soil it is grown in. Unfortunately this means that whether buying organic or not, chances are the peanuts or peanut product you eat contains Aflatoxin and high levels of pesticides.
All of this in addition to the extremely high peanut allergy rate means that I have personally chosen not to include peanuts in my diet but will continue to use other nuts and seeds regularly.