Nuts can be a healthful, nutrient-dense addition to a balanced diet—but only if you steer clear of the many dangers posed by the majority of store-bought varieties.
Nuts certainty have their virtues, but they don’t yield their health benefits as easily as some other foods. Before we get into how to avoid their pitfalls, let’s take a look at some of their benefits (so that you can see why the effort is worth it).
Almonds are rich in healthy saturated and unsaturated fats, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and are even an excellent source of fiber.
Cashews are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, including vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B6, copper, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, iron, and selenium. They can also be combined with nutritional yeast to create a delicious, vegan cheese alternative.
Macadamias contain lots of vitamin A, iron, highly absorbable protein, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and the ever-important magnesium, and have a lower omega-6 content than other nuts. And macadamia nut oil has healing capabilities comparable to coconut oil.
All of these nuts make far healthier snacks than chips, crackers, and other carbohydrate-heavy choices. In addition to being heavily processed and filled with toxic ingredients, these carb products spike insulin levels, trigger inflammation, and lead to an unsustainable energy cycle (the body quickly runs out of sugar, blood sugar levels drop, and you crave more unhealthy carbohydrates).
On the contrary, one handful of nuts provides a healthy serving of fat and protein, which translate into sustainable, clean-burning energy.
Non-Organic nuts are routinely treated with a wide array of poisonous pesticides—scary-sounding chemicals like piperonyl butoxide, chlorpyrifos, methoxyfenozide, phosmet, MGK-264, dichlorvos, endosulfan, and the infamous glyphosate.
But here’s the catch…
It would be nice if we could simply trust that the food products we buy in stores aren’t inherently hazardous to our health—but unfortunately, that’s just not the world in which we live. Here are some of the issues with nuts of which you should be aware…
Pesticide treatment. Conventional (as opposed to organic) almonds, cashews, macadamias, walnuts, pecans, peanuts (and just about any other widely available nut) are routinely treated with a wide array of poisonous pesticides—scary-sounding chemicals like piperonyl butoxide, chlorpyrifos, methoxyfenozide, phosmet, MGK-264, dichlorvos, endosulfan, and the infamous glyphosate.
In past articles, we’ve covered the staggering number of diseases and conditions with which glyphosate has been conclusively linked. And researchers believe that many of the other pesticides listed above could carry just as many dangers. Washing or soaking conventional nuts won’t do any good, as the pesticides have been fully absorbed by the time they make it to market.
Pasteurization. It’s federally required that all store-bought nuts (except in very limited special cases) undergo pasteurization before being sold. This process destroys everything that is nutritious about nuts (the same is true for roasting or other forms of preparing nut products).
It’s important to remember that even organic nuts are pasteurized, unless they are specifically sold as truly raw. At present, you’ll only find truly raw nuts through special suppliers like Living Nutz, or in specialty coops and health food stores. These nuts are nearly always imported from other countries (which allows them to bypass mandatory pasteurization).
Note that raw nuts become rancid much more quickly, and must be stored at cool temperatures and used in a reasonable amount of time. Raw nut butters rancidify extremely quickly, and should be consumed within 48 hours of being made (unfortunately, this disqualifies pretty much all store-bought nut butters from being healthy).
Phytic acid. Even if you’ve managed to obtain truly raw, organic, unpasteurized nuts, there’s still one hurdle left to overcome (we warned you that ensuring the healthfulness of nuts isn’t easy). Phytic acid is a naturally occurring poison in nuts; it functions as a defense mechanism that deters animals in the wild from eating them. And unfortunately, it acts as a poison in humans too, preventing the absorption of nutrients and minerals, and sometimes even causing severe inflammation and allergic reactions.
Luckily, you can easily remove phytic acid from nuts by sprouting them.
Sprouting nuts to make them healthier
It’s easy: just soak the nuts in water for 8-24 hours (harder nuts like almonds should be soaked for at least 12 hours, while softer nuts like cashews are usually fine after 8 hours). Drain and rinse them, keep them in a bowl open to the air, and rinse them every 12 hours for a couple days. This process triggers the nuts’ growing phase, which eliminates the phytic acid and transforms the nuts into living, nutrient-dense snacks.
As they begin sprouting, there are should be some sign of growing, such as the inner kernel of the nut breaking through its skin or shell. Pasteurized nuts will not sprout (because they’ve already been rendered dead), so if it doesn’t look like the nuts are “growing” after a couple days, they’re not truly raw! As long as you stick to vendors like Living Nutz (or a coop that you trust), though, you can rest assured that the nuts will sprout properly.
This may seem like a lot of precautions for a simple snack food, but the effort is well worth it. Once you’ve obtained your organic, raw nuts and sprouted them, they can serve as a ultra-nutritious snack, a healthful cooking ingredient, and even the base for homemade nut milk.
Best of all, the process will empower you to remain vigilant and conscious about the foods that you consume, so that you can benefit from all the healing they have to give.