In-the-know about nuts & seeds
Nuts and seeds are “real food,” right? So why do we need to have this little “chat” about ‘em?
Here’s why: there are a few foods that, despite their “real food” status, can be used in a way nature didn’t necessarily intend; and for some people, this can cause issues. The whole point of all these real food shenanigans is to respect and understand nature, because it’s nature that gives us our food in the first place!
This isn’t meant to over-complicate things. It’s just information. And the more you know, the more simple, easy and intuitive EATING REAL FOOD becomes!
Before we begin: remember, this might not apply to everyone. Nuts and seeds are absolutely real, nutritious food (with an exception or two – read on for more). They contain healthy fats and good nutrients, which makes them a MUCH better snack than a granola bar could ever be. Many people can eat them with no problem.
But if you’re having trouble meeting your goals, healing your digestive system, or feeling your best, it’s possible this information could turn on the light bulb.
Here’s what you need to know:
In nature, nuts and seeds are rare, hard to find, and difficult to crack (literally). That’s nature telling us “use this food judiciously.”
When we dig a little deeper, we see again that nature is always right. (I hate it when she’s right!) Here’s why too many nuts and seeds, too often, can cause problems:
Nuts – and, to a lesser degree, seeds, can be tough on weaker digestive systems. And if your digestive system has been assaulted with cruddy foods for decades, nuts and seeds can mechanically irritate the system even more thanks to their sometimes rough, jagged, incompletely-chewed chunks. To become fully healthy, our digestive systems have to heal – so if digestive issues are present, think twice about nuts and seeds until you heal.
Nuts also contain some components – often called “anti-nutrients” – that can “hoard” their own nutrition and keep our bodies from absorbing it. In short, nuts want to keep their nutrition to themselves – see “soaking, sprouting & dehydrating” below for how to overcome this potential problem. Honestly, unless the diet is composed of nothing but nuts and seeds, this is unlikely to pose a problem.
Nuts and seeds are often stored for very long periods of time, which can cause the fragile fats inside to become rancid. Eating rancid fats means eating free radicals, which can damage our cells. If they smell “off,” skip them. This is an issue of supplier practices, not the nuts and seeds themselves. The fresher, the better!
For most people, however, nuts and seeds are well-tolerated. Here’s where we’re most likely to run into issues:
Sometimes, nuts and seeds are just filling the void. Often, when we eliminate all the modern packaged junk and quit the bread, pasta, cookies and cereal, we feel a little strapped for edible options. Sure, meats and veggies supply us with a TON of nutrition, and there’s enough variety in the animal and plant world to keep us busy for decades, but when we’re just starting out, snacking on, say, Kohlrabi might sound a little foreign.
Possible solution: soaking, sprouting & dehydrating: Soaking in water, usually overnight, can “trick” plants – like nuts and seeds – into sprouting, which is the process of eliminating anti-nutrients. From there, you can dehydrate – or, cook at a low temperature until the nuts are crispy – for flavor and texture.
So we start to eat the nuts and seeds by the faceful. A handful of walnuts as a snack…six times a day, with a macadamia nut chaser and some sunflower seeds to top it off. Eliminating highly allergenic peanut butter? No problem! Grab a jar of almond butter and eat it by the spoonful.
That’s a lotta nuts.
And when we learn that we can make grain-free “bread,” muffins, cookies and even chicken fingers using, for example, ground almond “flour,” we jump right on that gravy train. (We even have a few recipes for these items on this site!) Forget the Kohlrabi – let’s have a Giant Chocolate Chip Cookie!
While most people can enjoy nuts and seeds; it’s really all about how we use them. There’s nothing wrong with having an apple with some almond butter on it. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some goodies like cookies, chicken fingers, and “bread” made from nut “flour…” every once in awhile.
A Tablespoon or so or nut butter daily (on average) is probably perfectly fine; a “treat” or a grain-free item made from nut flour once a week-ish is likely good to go for most. But you’ve got to get a feel for how you tolerate all of it – just pay attention!
But if handfuls of nuts, spoonfuls of nut butters, and goodies, made from nut “flour” are daily occurrences, or they’re crowding out other sources of good nourishment, it might be time to fill that space with something else.
Like Kohlrabi. (Okay, it doesn’t have to be Kohlrabi.)
Instead of nuts, what should I snack on?
First and foremost, we shouldn’t need to snack all the time. Needing to snack multiple times each day means we’re not getting enough from our meals. Try bulking up breakfast first to see if you can reduce the need to snack.
In a pinch, a combination of coconut flakes and nuts is a good choice. Add “clean” beef jerky (we like Steve’s PaleoGoods) for extra protein, which will help keep you fuller, longer.
Fresh fruit, when combined with the above sources of healthy fat and protein, makes a good option as well.
Hard-boiled eggs are portable and yummy, and can go un-refrigerated for a few hours at a time. For the true nutrient nerds, a tin of sardines is a great, portable snack!