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What’s the Best Way to Eat Nuts?

By Jiri Kaloc

Does it matter whether you eat nuts roasted or raw? Which types of nuts should you eat and which should you avoid? Nuts can be a very valuable addition to your diet. But they can also promote overeating and put a strain on your digestion. Let’s look at some tips that will allow you to enjoy their taste and nutritional benefits without any side effects.

Raw or roasted?

Roasting makes nuts tastier but it can also oxidize the fats they contain. Polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 and omega-6 are the most susceptible, the more of them a nut has the less stable it is. Flavonoids and other antioxidants like vitamin E can help protect those fats against oxidation. But it depends a lot on the temperature of roasting, dry roasting does much less damage than roasting in oils. The good thing is that the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and minerals are mostly unaffected by heat. So, freshly roasted nuts aren’t a big problem when consumed occasionally, just don’t store those, they will go bad quickly. If you want to avoid rancid fats in general, choose raw nuts that are stored whole, in a cold and dark place.

Nutrients and anti-nutrients

As you can see in the picture, every type of nut has a unique spectrum of nutrients. And similarly, they each have their own spectrum of anti-nutrients like phytic acid and lectins that interfere with the absorption of nutrients and make nuts harder to digest. That’s why you should have a wide variety of nuts in your diet. If you eat only one favorite type of nut, you will be missing out on a variety of nutrients and you will be overloaded with the same spectrum of anti-nutrients and that can lead to an allergy over the long term.

Nutrient content of nuts

Soaking and sprouting for the pros

If you like nuts a lot and want to consume them regularly as a staple in your diet, you should probably consider soaking or sprouting them before consumption. In practice, this means putting nuts in a jar full of water overnight (or at least a couple of hours), rinsing them in the morning and letting them dry out again. This process greatly improves digestibility of nuts and reduces the amount of anti-nutrients. Just be sure to consume these activated nuts soon, they become susceptible to oxidation just like roasted nuts.

How much is too much?

Studies that show health benefits of nut consumption use reasonable amounts, usually not more than 60 g (2 ounces), which is a large handful of nuts per day. This is where you might run into problems with roasted and salted nuts. They taste too good and most people can’t eat them in moderation naturally. Raw nuts are better in this regard, they aren’t as addictive.