Healthy vs. Unhealthy Nuts
July 23, 2005 8:34 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to add more nuts to my diet (specifically almonds) but want to make sure I'm eating the right ones. Do tins of Planters mixed nuts or Blue Diamond smoked almonds have the same nutritional benefits of raw or dry-roasted nuts that I can find in the local Whole Foods store?

I understand that they may have a much higher amount of sodium... but I have never had problems with high blood pressure, so should I care about the extra sodium? How about the other oils and seasonings? Is the process of making these super-market nuts taste better actually reducing the nutrients in the nuts?

Hopefully this isn't too dumb a question. I have seen several references online to the benefits of adding nuts to your diet and they usually mention avoiding salted or smoked nuts, without going into the reasons why.

I just bought a couple tubs of the store-brand smoked salted almonds at Whole Foods that seems to have significanly less sodium and no hydrogenated oils and want to feel good about my purchase.

posted by jimmereeno to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
I don't think you should worry about the sodium, it's all on the outside of the nut anyway, along with the other flavorants, and most people just pee it out. I think the nut is just roasted, and nuts are nuts, pretty much.

I don't believe planters or blue diamonds fries their nuts in hydrogenated oils!
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:39 PM on July 23, 2005

Too much salt is a concern, though not a huge one. You don't have high blood pressure problems now but you may have them later in life, so it's a good idea not to developing a craving for the salt.

The smoke flavour, whether natural or artificial, involves lots of funky chemicals. You have to decide for yourself whether a higher incidence of cancer and other problems in laboratory tests on rats will have an effect on you in real life.

I think the best diet advice is, as always, everything natural and in moderation.
posted by randomstriker at 10:59 PM on July 23, 2005

Best answer: I'm not a dietitian, but I play one at the grocery store. I'm one of those guys who stands around the big bins of food and tries to explain the difference between 'Organic' and merely 'Natural' to people.

Almonds are a great addition to your diet because they contain larger amounts of Vitamin E, which has been linked to reductions in heart disease, heart attack, and bad cholestorol levels. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which helps block free radicals that have been linked to cancer. Pistachios & Hazelnuts also have similar benefits.

Raw, Unsalted nuts are the best because they do not contain salt, oils, or other ingredients/additives. The main reason (in my opinion and that of others I have spoken with) that the experts say stay away from Salted, Seasoned, or Smoked nuts is because many of them contain ingredients (mainly salt, salt, and more salt) that will raise your blood pressure. Generally if you're worried that you need to add almonds to your diet to fight heart disease, you'd want to watch the salt as well.

If you have no problems with blood pressure, you shouldn't worry about the salt. The fact you're adding different foods to your diet is a good thing. Just make sure to run if it says 'Hyrdogenated Oil' and run faster if it says 'Partially Hydrogenated'.

If your supermarket has in-store nut grinders, see if they have one for almonds. They generally have one for peanuts and one for either cashews or almonds. Almond butter is really good and the almonds in the grinder are usually unsalted.
posted by aristan at 11:08 PM on July 23, 2005

If you're near a Trader Joe's, they sell raw almonds for a reasonable price. (But keep them in the fridge so the oil doesn't become rancid.) There's an interesting article about the benefits of almonds here. If want to lose weight and lower your cholesterol, they're certainly a tasty choice.
posted by maryh at 11:12 PM on July 23, 2005

Good lord-- On preview, what aristan said, x 1,000!
posted by maryh at 12:01 AM on July 24, 2005

Be aware that if you're storing nuts for some time, the best place to store them is in your freezer. Due to their high fat content, nuts can go rancid very quickly.
posted by trip and a half at 12:47 AM on July 24, 2005

And rancid food is full of oxidants. Since its a chemical reaction involving oxygen, vacuum packed nuts will keep longer than bulk (not saying don't use bulk, just make sure it's fresh).
posted by 445supermag at 1:04 PM on July 24, 2005

And rancid food is full of oxidants. Since its a chemical reaction involving oxygen, vacuum packed nuts will keep longer than bulk (not saying don't use bulk, just make sure it's fresh).

Most grocery stores that sell bulk nuts will go through 25-50lbs a month. Feel free to ask for a sample if you're buying in bulk. If they're unwilling to give you a sample, don't buy anything from them. (I know I'd rather lose 2 cents worth of almonds you ate & maybe make a ten dollar than worry about the shrink on what you ate.)

Most supermarkets require their employees to date & initial the boxes/bags when they come in for rotation. If it's organic & the store is organically certified, they'll even be required to keep the exact name of the farm the nuts came from and the date they were picked & processed on the package the product came in and on file.
posted by aristan at 3:18 PM on July 24, 2005

Not to derail the fine answers already given here, but could someone please explain why adding nuts to one's diet can help one lose weight, when nuts are as high in fats as several answerers have posted? Wouldn't one need to also remove something from one's diet to achieve weight loss?
posted by Lynsey at 7:32 PM on July 24, 2005

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