By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist
1. Nuts are Fattening
Nuts are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, these are the healthy kind of fats that benefit health, especially cardiovascular health. Yes, one of the major nutrients in nuts is fat, but fat does not make you fat! Your whole diet plays a role in weight gain, actually quite the opposite is true, various studies show that nuts can help with weight loss. Thanks to their rich fat content, as well as the protein and fiber content, nuts are very satiating, they help maintain glucose levels stable which makes it easier to go longer without food in between meals.
Fats have 9 calories per gram, making them the most calorie-dense nutrient so it is important to pay attention to the serving size, but if you stick to the serving size, then nuts provide many health benefits and can actually contribute to helping you lose weight and keeping it off.
2. Soaking or activating nuts is necessary to obtain its benefits
The main reason nuts are soaked is to reduce the phytic acid content which is known as an anti-nutrient because it affects mineral absorption, especially calcium, iron, and zinc. But, if you are eating a balanced diet, you are most likely getting plenty of these nutrients and don't have to worry about the minerals that are partially not absorbed due to the presence of phytic acid. There are also ways to reduce this effect, such as eating nuts separate from foods that are rich sources of calcium, iron, and zinc so that their absorption wont be affected. You can also pair them with foods that enhance mineral absorption, therefore neutralizing or minimizing the effect of phytic acid.
Most importantly, phytic acid is not all negative, there are many studies that show positive health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant activity, and anti-cancer properties.
Regardless of soaking or not soaking, the macronutrient content is the same. Nuts, whether activated or not are good sources of heart-healthy fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants and they are packed with vitamins and minerals.
3. One type of nut is healthier than the rest
Nuts, in general, are a nutrient-dense food, loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, heart-healthy fats, and other healthy compounds.
Each type of nut has different concentrations and combinations of nutrients, so it does not mean one is healthier than the other, they are just different. For example, almonds are especially rich in vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant; walnuts are a great source of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation; Brazil nuts are the richest food source of selenium which is important for thyroid health and to combat inflammation; cashews have the highest zinc content than any other nut which helps boost immunity; pecans are the most antioxidant-rich nut; and hazelnuts have the highest folate content.
4. If you have a peanut allergy you can't eat any nuts
Peanuts are actually not nuts, botanically they are legumes. Many consider them nuts because the nutritional properties and their use are similar to nuts. Some people who are allergic to nuts can also be allergic to other foods, however, most people with a peanut allergy can safely eat tree nuts.
5. Babies should not eat nuts or any nut products because they are an allergenic food
Peanuts and tree nuts are among the top 8 most common allergenic foods for children. Due to this fact, previous recommendations delayed the introduction of these and other allergenic foods such as eggs, milk, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat for the first years of life. However, after much research, it turns out that we've been doing the opposite of what we should have been doing. Research shows that introducing these allergenic foods early may reduce the risk of children becoming allergic to these foods later in life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends introducing peanut and other nut butters to your baby only after other solid foods have been fed to them safely, without any symptoms of allergies. This can happen between 6 and 8 months of age.