Though many Paleo dieters eat lots of nuts, they may not know exactly why they are eating them. Here are twenty surprising facts that you probably didn’t know about these handheld snacks!
If you love nuts as much as we do, you might have some questions about them. Is it bad to eat too many of them? Which kinds are actually legumes? Can you survive on a diet made purely of nuts?
The answer these questions and many more can be found in the following list of nutty facts!
1. Brazil Nuts: The Best Nut You’re Not Eating
Brazil nuts are high in magnesium, fiber, but more importantly in selenium, which could help ward off prostate cancer. (1) The amazing part is, it only takes one ounce of Brazil nuts to obtain over 700% of your daily value for selenium! This means you only need to eat a few of them to get all of their beneficial nutritional properties. Go buy some – I’ll wait.
2. Peanuts Are Not Nuts
Yes, you read that right – peanuts are actually legumes. They are also highly allergenic, and exposure can result in death for those with extreme sensitivities. The number of humans with a peanut allergy has tripled in the last 15 years – meaning this problem is not going away. (2) Alfatoxin B1 is the most toxic mycotoxin related to peanuts, and can be found in many peanut butters and cooking oils on your shelves of your grocery store. One more reason to avoid peanuts and go full-on Paleo!
3. Peanuts Are the Most Popular “Nut”
Believe it or not, peanuts account for two thirds of all nut consumption. Blame it on all the peanut butter manufacturers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that Americans eat. Either way, Americans simply can’t get enough peanuts.
4. Hazelnuts Are Also Called Filberts
Hazelnuts are routinely overlooked as a nut choice – though I’m not quite sure why. Besides the double name, hazelnuts are also Oregon’s official state nut. (3) To answer your next question: no, I wasn’t aware that states had “official” nuts either.
5. Pine Nuts Are Found Inside Pine Cones
Pine nuts are another overlooked nut, but did you know they are actually found inside pine cones? That’s right, those things you may have thrown at girls on the playground actually contain delicious, expensive pine nuts. (4) Try toasting them, then top over oven-roasted broccoli!
6. Cashews Have Toxic Shells
You might not think of cashews as unsafe in any way, but believe it or not, the shell of a cashew is quite dangerous. (4) The double shell covering the cashew contains urushiol, a resin which is toxic when ingested. The same resin is found in poison ivy. Be glad the cashews you’re eating have been processed and steamed!
7. Pecans Are Rich With Antioxidants
I don’t think I’ve ever had a client who ate pecans on a regular basis – even though they are one of the most antioxidant-rich nuts out there. Pecans are rich in vitamin E, and are usually ranked in the top 15 of all antioxidant rich foods. (5) Stop waiting for pie season and eat them daily!
8. Pistachios Are Actually Fruits
Another unbelievable-but-true fact: pecans aren’t nuts. To be specific, pistachios are the seeds of a fruit (the outer fruit is removed during processing). (6) Still, like other nuts, pistachios are a rich source of many beneficial phytochemical substances, including vitamin E and carotenes. Get festive and make white chocolate bark studded with crunchy pistachios!
9. Almonds Influence Good Gut Bacteria
All those almonds you eat as snacks are probably helping your balance of beneficial gut bacteria. Studies show that there are also plenty of prebiotic properties in almonds as well. (7) Don’t skimp on these guys the next time you are looking to add some crunch to your diet.
10. Macadamia Nuts Are Possibly The King Of All Nuts
Besides having a great inflammation-fighting omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, macadamia nuts contain the largest amount of monounsaturated fatty acids of any nut. Regular consumption of macadamias may result in lowered triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. (8) Not too shabby!
11. Walnuts Have the Highest Amount of Omega-3
While a good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is ideal, most nuts still do not contain much omega-3. This is not true of walnuts, as just one serving of walnuts has over 100% of your daily value! (9) Even the skin of walnuts has been proven to have some nutritional value (the skin is whitish in appearance, in case you were wondering).
12. Chestnuts Are The Only Nuts That Contain Vitamin C
Chestnuts, possibly most famous for their inclusion in Christmas songs, are often overlooked in the nutritional department. The truth is, chestnuts provide about 20% of your daily value of vitamin C — much more than any other nut. (9)
13. Coconuts Are Not Nuts
Coconuts are actually considered “dry drupes.” However, if using looser definitions, coconuts quality as fruits, nuts AND seeds. Coconuts are multi-faceted in how they can be eaten, too — you can drink coconut water, bake with coconut flour, cook with coconut oil, braise with coconut milk or cream, and slather coconut butter on Paleo toast as a healthy spread.
14. Cashews Are Not Nuts
This one always surprises my clients. Cashews are actually fruits, which come from the cashew tree. Through a variety of complex processes, you eventually get the “nut” which you can buy at the store. But the entire journey of the cashew is actually far more complex. (Psst.. if you’re a cashew lover, you’ll adore these home-roasted on-the-go snack ideas!)
15. 40% Of All Almonds Are Bought By Chocolate Manufacturers
Blame it on all those Valentine’s Day assortments. Chocolate manufacturers can’t get enough of almonds, and these days they commonly try to make chocolate appear healthier than it is, by throwing in heart-healthy almonds. Never mind the fact that chocolate is still very high in sugar and is pretty close to being empty calories. It is best to eat almonds on their own – not as a part of a crunchy chocolate nut cluster.
16. Macadamias Are Toxic To Dogs
Yes, that’s correct. If you drop some macadamias on the floor, make sure you pick them up right away. Although they are healthy for humans, macadamias can cause weakness, depression, vomiting in your pooch. (10)
17. Pistachios Are Green Due To Their Antioxidant Content
Have you ever cracked open a pistachio and marveled at the fact that part of it is green? This green (and sometimes purple) color is in fact due to the antioxidants found in the pistachio. (11) Neutralizing those free radicals is just one more reason to crack open some of these delicious and colorful nuts!
18. Most Brazil Nuts Don’t Come From Brazil
These treats really should be called Bolivia nuts, since most of them come from the northern region of that country. No matter what you call it, Brazil nuts are packed with selenium and other nutrients, so make sure you’re eating them!
19. Cashews Should Actually Be Called Brazil Nuts
Yes, things are about to get more complicated. If foods were named more logically, we would have named cashews after the country where they come from and Brazil nuts something else entirely. (12) But remember, cashews aren’t actually nuts at all, so perhaps we should call them Brazil fruit?
20. Peanuts Can Also Be Called Goobers
There’s even a Johnny Cash song that includes the word in its title. No word yet on whether they are related to the candy or not.
As you can see, there is often much more going on with your food than you realize! It is these hundreds of little facts that make our world that much more interesting.
Trivia aside, the most important thing to remember is that nuts contain lots of nutrients and are usually a reliable source of healthy fats as well, so make sure to add them to your diet regularly.
One last reminder – nuts are very high in calories, so take a serving or two, and put the rest away. This goes for nut butters, as well. Stick to eating a few as a snack or side item – not a main course.