Everyone from the public to experts in health have an opinion on nuts and your health, but these aren’t always supported by good science. Dietitian Rebecca Gawthorne @Nourish_naturally busts 6 of the most common myths about nuts.
MYTH 1: Nuts will make you gain weight
FACT: Nuts are high in healthy fats however eating a handful of nuts (30 grams) each day can help you to maintain a healthy body weight. This may be because:
- Nuts contain nutrients which can help control appetite such as healthy fats, fibre and protein. Healthy fats can reduce our desire to eat by switching on some of the satiety hormones in the intestines.
- Studies have found nut eaters excrete around 10% more fat in their stools, meaning that they absorb less fat and energy.
MYTH 2: Salted nuts are bad for you
FACT: Salted nuts still contain all the nutrition and health benefits of raw or natural nuts – they just have a higher sodium (salt) content.
In general, a diet high in sodium can increase your blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, there is some emerging research that found that those who ate salted nuts as part of a healthy diet, had the same health benefits of unsalted nuts, with no rise in blood pressure! This could be due to the heart healthy nutrients in nuts (healthy fats, arginine, fibre, antioxidants: vitamin E, copper, manganese, selenium and polyphenols) which may offset any negative effects of salt! Until more research is undertaken, it’s still recommend you consume raw/dry roasted unsalted nuts your everyday nut choice, and enjoy salted nuts as a healthier party food alternative.
MYTH 3: Nuts cause acne
FACT: There is no evidence to suggest that nuts cause acne. There is some evidence to suggest that diets based on products with a high glycaemic index (GI) leads to elevated insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels stimulate the secretion of androgens and cause an increased production of sebum, which plays a fundamental role in the cause of acne. Nuts are a low GI food and therefore can help to reduce the overall GI of a snack or meal.
MYTH 4: You should only eat activated nuts
FACT: Activated nuts are nuts that have been soaked in water for 12-24hours. The soaking is thought to breakdown some of the proteins, starches, oils & other nutrients in the nuts making them more digestible. The activation process is also thought to breakdown phytates – a plant seed compound which binds to minerals (e.g. iron, calcium and zinc) preventing their absorption. So hypothetically, this means we should also be able to absorb these minerals better. However, there is actually very little evidence that activated nuts provide any additional benefits. No research has been done to show what effect, if any, soaking has on nuts. If you enjoy activated nuts, then that’s great & you should definitely eat them, but you will still receive health benefits from regularly eating nuts that have not been activated.
MYTH 5: You should delay introducing nuts to your child until they are 12 months of age
FACT: Previously it was recommended that the introduction of nuts to infants should not be until at least 12 months of age in order to reduce the risk of allergies. However, there is currently little evidence to support this recommendation and there is actually some evidence that delaying introduction of foods like nuts, may actually increase (rather than decrease) allergy, this includes infants at high risk of allergy. The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology & Allergy (ASCIA) recommend that “when your infant is ready, at around 6 months, but not before 4 months, start to introduce a variety of solid foods, starting with iron rich foods, while continuing breastfeeding. All infants should be given allergenic solid foods including peanut butter, cooked egg, dairy and wheat products in the first year of life.” Whole nuts should not be given to children until after five years of age due to the risk of choking. Smooth nut pastes or ground nuts added to other foods are a great way to make sure even young children can benefit from a small handful of nuts each day. When giving children whole nuts (or any other food which could be a choking risk) ensure that they are sitting down to eat and supervise them closely. Encourage them to eat small amounts at a time and to chew their food well.
MYTH 6: Raw nuts are better than roasted nuts as they contain more nutrients
FACT: There are only small nutrient differences between raw and roasted nuts. Heating reduces the water content, so the mineral content appears higher. B group vitamins are not heat stable, so they will be reduced in roasted nuts. Roasting can also cause the nut skins to fall off and since they are a good source of fibre and antioxidant compounds, consuming the skins is a good idea. Both nuts can be enjoyed with health benefits.
For 5 simple ways to eat healthier today, check out this article.
Rebecca is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, Accredited Nutritionist and a member of the Dietitians Association of Australia. Rebecca’s extensive experience, love for health & fitness and easy to relate to tone, has made her one of Australian’s go-to girls for professional nutrition advice. She runs the popular Instagram @nourish_naturally & blog on rebeccagawthorne.com.au which offers free health guides, helpful & realistic nutrition advice & healthy yet easy recipes.