Nuts generally fall under the health food category, touted for their healthy fat content and as a good source of protein. Then why do they make me feel bloated, gassy and sometimes itchy? Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and all other nuts may just be all hype.
Why to not to go nutty over nuts
Nuts are designed by nature to protect themselves, their function is to reproduce and keep their species alive. In certain animals nuts can even pass whole through their bodies to ensure reproduction. Because of this, they are quite difficult to digest.
What makes them so difficult to digest is their high levels of phytic acid and this leads to those uncomfortable gassy, bloated effects. Phytic acid is an antinutrient that interferes with enzymes we need to digest our food. Human’s lack the enzyme, called phytase, needed to break it down. It binds to minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium in food and prevents us from absorbing them. It has also been shown that diets high in phytate actually cause mineral deficiencies.
1. Nuts are often as high or even higher in phytic acid than grains.
2. Nuts decrease iron absorption even more than wheat bread.
3. Nuts are high in omega 6, which causes inflammation in the body when not balanced properly with omega 3.
4. Phytic acid in nuts can impair digestion causing stomach upset.
5. Commercially packaged nuts are most often roasted in unhealthy oils like soybean, increasing the amount of omega 6 fats.
It is possible to prepare nuts so that they’re easier to digest. Soaking, sprouting, dehydrating and roasting help to break down the phytic acid making their minerals more available to our bodies. You can soak them in water for about 8 hours and the nuts will actually begin to germinate. These may not be enough for some people with more sensitive digestive systems. Test yourself with a few at a time and take notice of how your body responds.
Often used in grain free and paleo baked treats, nut flours do not contain as much phytic acid as raw or roasted nuts. Flours are made from blanched nuts, where the skin has been removed and phytic acid is found mostly in the skin. Because of the multiple stages of processing, the micronutrients are more easily absorbed.
Commercially sold nut butters are made with un-soaked nuts. Alternatively, you can make nut butter at home. Soak the nuts overnight in salt water and then allow them to thoroughly dry by roasting at your lowest oven temperature or use a dehydrator. Once dry, process until smooth and creamy.
Nuts are calorie dense and before you know it you’ve eaten an entire jar. At least that was my story… a little goes a long way so watch your intake. Another option is to limit their use as a garnish. For those with digestive issues it’s best to enjoy in small amounts and listen to how your body reacts.
Bioavailability of minerals in legumes., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12498628
Zn and Fe biofortification: the right chemical environment for human bioavailability., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25017159
Why Eating Nuts Upsets Your Stomach, http://pilatesnutritionist.com/why-eating-nuts-upsets-your-stomach/
Another Reason you Shouldn’t go Nuts on Nuts, http://chriskresser.com/another-reason-you-shouldnt-go-nuts-on-nuts
Six Reasons I Don’t Eat Nuts, http://paleoforwomen.com/six-reasons-i-dont-eat-nuts/