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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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March 15 2010

Dear Mark: Nuts and Omega-6s

By Mark Sisson
134 Comments

Nuts have gotten a surprising amount of flack as of late. Many nuts have a fairly high PUFA content, and most of that PUFA is Omega-6, which is the bad one. It’s easily oxidized, highly unstable for cooking, usually rancid on the shelf, and, thanks to government farm subsidies and public hysteria over animal fat, it’s in absolutely everything nowadays. We Primal types generally avoid it for good reason, and that tends to influence how we react to the O6 content of nuts. Last week I received this email from a reader:

Dear Mark,

I’m a little confused. I get the animal fat, the meat, the veggies, and the lowish sugar fruit recommendations, but what about nuts? I love nuts, don’t get me wrong… I’m just a bit paranoid about the Omega 6 content. You recommend nuts in the book. If you (and pretty much all other Primal bloggers) tell us to avoid Omega 6 fats, should we still be eating them?  I’m having trouble reconciling the two bits of advice and there seem to be mixed messages out there. Thanks.

Is there a place for nuts in the Primal Blueprint diet? Let’s take a closer look.

Omega-6 Content Various Nuts (1/4 cup)

Walnuts – 9.5 g

Almonds – 4.36 g

Cashews – 2.6 g

Macadamias – 0.5 g

Brazil nuts – 7.2 g

Hazelnuts – 2.7 g

Pistachio – 4.1 g

Pine nuts – 11.6 g

Pecans – 5.8 g

The basic takeaway is that quite a few nuts are fairly O6-intensive (with several, like macadamia nuts, being extremely low). A diet high in these nuts, then, would presumably skew the vaunted tissue O6-O3 ratio toward pro-inflammatory bodily processes… right? I mean, if you were to eat food fried in high-O6 vegetable oil at some restaurant, that would be pro-inflammatory. If you were to eat cheap Chinese food stir-fried in cheap, high-O6 soybean oil every day for lunch, you’d expect a good amount of oxidized LDL at your next lipid test. And if you were to supplement your diet with a few daily tablespoons of unheated corn oil, there would be markedly negative effects (besides gagging and/or vomiting) on your body. How are nuts any different?

For one, nuts aren’t just “bags of linoleic acid” (as Stephan Guyenet recently pointed out in a comment board I’ve misplaced). Isolating Omega-6 fatty acids and then exposing them to air or heat is bad dietary policy. I don’t care where it is – in your body, in your cupboard, or in the skillet. But nuts are much more than linoleic acid. In fact, a nut is a pretty complete nutritional source. After all, it’s the seed of a tree, a sort of arboreal egg. Contained within is everything that tree needs to start growing from scratch – fats, carbohydrates, even protein, plus natural antioxidants like Vitamin E and plenty of minerals. We have to remember that antioxidants in foods exist, first and foremost, to protect the food from damage. That linoleic acid in the walnut isn’t meant for you to consume (we’ve adapted to it, not the other way around); it’s there to provide energy for the budding tree. A damaged, oxidized fat is no good to any tree, and Vitamin E helps prevent oxidation. When we strip a nut of everything but the liquid fat, we’re asking for trouble, but if we eat the whole nut, the fat remains protected by the natural antioxidants, at least to a point (eating burnt, damaged, or rancid nuts isn’t the same as eating raw or soaked nuts). In other words, extracting, refining, and isolating a highly unstable Omega-6 fatty acid in oil form is entirely different than eating the odd handful of pistachios every other day or so. If you roast your nuts to the point of burning, then, yeah, you’re probably eating damaged fats, and that could be a problem. But eating a quarter cup of nuts every few days isn’t going to hurt you – even if they’re high-O6 walnuts (the horror!).

Even if the Omega-6 fat in nuts is bad, the positives of the nut seem to weigh more heavily. Whole nut intake seems to reduce markers of systemic inflammation, and inflammation is linked with a wide range of ailments and afflictions (obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease, excess cortisol, etc.). The study’s (PDF) authors hesitate to isolate and praise a single component of the nut, referring to them as “complex food matrices containing diverse nutrients and other chemical constituents.” I think that’s an accurate appraisal of the humble, irreducible nut.

What’s the Downside?

Problems arise with steady year-round access to foods whose historical availability was seasonal and intermittent. If you were a hunter-gatherer, you probably weren’t gathering bushels of nuts on a daily basis – at least, you weren’t finding enough nuts in the wild to eat eight ounces a day. Nuts should never comprise the bulk of your diet, anyway. A quarter cup as a snack every now and then isn’t going to kill you. It’s not even going to compromise your progress. I mean, they’re nuts. They aren’t meals, and they’re not meant to be. They’re snacks, basic supplements to an already nutritious diet replete in animal fat, protein, and vegetables. And in a high Omega-3 diet like the Primal Blueprint they definitely have a place.

Just make sure you treat your nuts as delicious snacks, rather than staple cornerstones of a meal. Don’t burn your nuts, and don’t cook with the oil. The safest bet is to buy them raw and soak or roast them yourself. That way, you control the heat and you can mediate the oxidation.

Overanalyzing your food intake is a good way to stress yourself out and make every little dietary choice an internal struggle. Avoid falling into this trap. Be vigilant of your food choices, but pick your battles wisely. Making sure you ask the waiter to cook your omelet in butter rather than vegetable oil is worth the trouble; stressing over the Omega-6 content of the twenty walnuts in front of you is decidedly not.

This is a fairly contentious topic in the community, with a ton of bloggers weighing in. Richard Nikoley (last I heard) opts for the harvest-and-gorge nut consumption style, going regular periods of time where he eats none at all. He’ll avoid buying any “for 2-3 store visits in a row.” Remember, Grok didn’t have around the clock access to nuts.

Stephan Guyenet and Don Matesz go back and forth in the comments section of Don’s recent post on walnuts, in which Don offers very sound evidence in favor of walnut consumption. Definitely check it out.

My general take, as I see it, is that nuts shouldn’t make up the bulk of your caloric intake. It’s not that Omega-6s are inherently dangerous, especially bound up in whole food, nut form; nuts may even be beneficial to heart health, probably by decreasing systemic inflammation. It’s that they’re often too available, too plentiful, and way too easy to consume in excess. What drew our ancestors to nuts – the caloric density and the fat content – is what makes them “dangerous” to modern man. Most seeds, including grains, were passed over because the labor involved in their gathering and their refining was prohibitive with inadequate payoff. Nuts are meaty, though, and they’re dense and (somewhat) filling. It makes sense that we easily snack on them all day, because our ancestors probably gorged themselves on nuts when they were available. We should eat them, too, but it’s important to stick to reasonable, evolutionarily realistic amounts.

Care to weigh in with your thoughts on nuts? I know a lot of forum members have reservations about them, so I’d love to hear in the comments section.

TAGS:  nuts/seeds

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134 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Nuts and Omega-6s”

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  1. Mark, does soaking nuts in water overnight reduce anti-nutrients in it?

  2. The book “Nurishing Traditions” by Sally Falon talks about soaking nuts in lightly salted water overnight to help with assimilation of the nutrients. I have to get my copy of the book back out and brush up on my nuts! Oops!

  3. Since going primal, my nut consumption has dramatically increased. I used to care less about them, but having tuned my taste buds away from overly sweet or salty foods (i.e., junk foods), they’ve quickly latched on to nuts as a delicious treat. For a while around the new year, my nut consumption had ramped up to a daily indulgence. Even though I stuck to the lower omega 6 nuts (macadamia and almonds), I found that I was starting to gain some weight around the midsection and my appetite had increased. Listening to Robb Wolf’s podcasts, I realized that nuts might be to blame so I cut them out completely for a week and returned to my normal post-going-primal weight and appetite. I’ve since added them back in to my diet, but only in small, carefully controlled amounts. Usually instead of eating them alone, I add them to salads. They are a great, healthy alternative to croutons!

    1. Exactly. They’re a condiment or a snack, and can occasionally be used in larger quantities for baking purposes- as long as you’re eating plenty of Omega 3s I don’t see to much to worry about.

      Yes, many on the PB find that cutting nuts and/or dairy can help break a weight loss plateau. Thanks for the comment, Aaron.

    2. Aaron pumpkin seeds are awesome for salads too. Fewer cals, more protein, & IMO less addictive 😉

        1. I just buy the raw shelled ones from the bulk at the grocery store. Unless its Halloween, then I just eat the guts raw 🙂 Or… any other time I have squash.

        2. Like Grok (below) I have also roasted seeds from the various squash varieties that I cook for dinner. It is a little bit of a chore to separate and clean them but worth it. I just roast them with little sea salt. Then I don’t have to wait for Halloween.

    3. In “Eat Fat, Lose Fat”, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig talk about how eating a lot of monounsaturated fats can cause some weight gain. The idea fat, of course, is saturated fats because, if I remember correctly, you’re body utilizes them and burns them for energy quicker than the unsaturated fats.

      I’ve noticed the same thing, too, when it comes to overeating on the nuts. It just gives me a completely different feeling than when I eat saturated fats (especially coconut oil).

      So, yeah, up with the saturated fats, and some moderation with the monos/polyunsaturated fats.

  4. I think people might be forgetting that omega 6 is still an essential fatty Acid, meaning our body can’t make it, so we need to consume it. We just need to consume the right ratio of it. It’s only bad if consumed in excess and/or in a damaged form.

    Remember- our body uses omega 6 to synthesize Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA), which is very manti-inflammatory.

    I personally don’t worry about it too much. I eat a handful of nuts or a few spoonfuls of almond butter on a daily basis and my Omega 9 (monounsaturated) and saturated fat intake still far outweighs my Omega 6 intake when I crunch the numbers.
    Now I just need to work on being more consistent about Omega 3!

  5. Nuts are mini embryos… like beans, they will make you sterile…

    troy

      1. You mean it’s nuts. Why would they make you sterile? What does being a plant embryo have to do with it?

    1. You can’t seriously believe that! My husband and I eat lots of almonds and beans, as well. I just had my 3rd child 9 weeks ago. There are no fertility problems here.

      1. Jamie, beans are usually loaded with phyto-estrogens. Nuts, not really.

        Here’s some phyto-estrogen content (mcg/100g or 4OZ) in certain foods:

        Flax seed 379,380
        Soy beans 103,920
        Tofu 27,150.1
        Soy yogurt 10,275
        Sesame seed 8008.1
        Flax bread 7540
        Multigrain bread 4798.7
        Soy milk 2957.2
        Hummus 993

        1. I do not eat soy at all, but properly prepared beans (soaked and sprouted), yes, sometimes. Nuts, though, we eat quite a lot.

        2. Most of use who eat flax seeds sprinkle them on or in something else, We don’t eat 4 ox of them, or anything close.

  6. nother Horizon programme..unless in Blighty we canny use BBC I player but can download from myriad other sources.

    Very interesting of note in the prog were the bods doing research on oxidative stress and anti-oxidants and if i understood them correctly, certainly in mice…….antioxidants did bugger all.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00qm7zr

  7. When I first started PB, I had some nuts every day to help transition over, but I found that it actually make me hungrier.. So now I’ll eat ’em if they’re around, but I won’t go out of my way to stock up on them. I find eating a hard boiled egg is much more satisfying than a handful of nuts 🙂

  8. Very interesting post! Im not gonna stress about my almond butter that I have once in awhile, or those *gasp* walnuts I sprinkle on my salad every so often. 🙂 Enjoy life, no one ever died from eating healthy except for nuts! lol

  9. As a grower of pecans and follower of your primal blueprint I think your post is fair. I eat a small handful of nuts most days but not as a meal. I raise a grassfed beef for that.

    As a side note I recently purchased your book for my brother in law and he can not believe his weight loss and how much better he feels. My results were the same.

  10. Thanks for the clarification Mark! I have been downing a ton of nuts each day. Problem is, I don’t like avocados or coconut so much so I found a handful of nuts at each meal was an easy way to get my fat. Now I understand that I will have to limit that as well. Maybe I will better control my appetite like another poster without all the nuts?

  11. My only problem with nuts is that it’s hard to find really fresh ones. Most are old and have mold (you don’t see it by the way)…if you eat them frequently this is an issue I think. Best to keep it random.

    Marc

  12. My body is hyper sensitive and I’m dealing with huge leaky gut, candida and inflammation problems.

    I get irritated from almost anything except meat, but I want to stay out of ketosis because it seems my kidneys became irritated from too low carb (don’t know why).

    Right now it’s no nuts, no seeds and no eggs and it seems to be helping. Even eggs, for unknown reasons, are irritation. I know the whites could be Biotin binding, but I don’t know why my system gets irritated from them.

    Too much fruit seem to irritate also. It might be because of the fructose because I’m having a lot of spaghetti squash in order to stay out of ketosis and I don’t have any problem. Spaghetti squash is low on fructose to my knowledge.

    Of course, I’m also focusing on a lot of probiotics to help out with the candida and maybe fix my problems ounce and for all.

    It’s funny all problem foods for me are foods that are in the grey area for the Paleo diet. Seems that these food choices are borderline fine for already healthy people and out of question for people with challenges.

    1. For the egg sensitivity… I have heard that some people are sensitive to egg whites. For some people, mixing the white & the yolk (for example, cooking the eggs scrambled instead of sunny side up) is enough to let them eat the eggs without problems. But if they eat the whites & yolks separately they get problems.

      Just a thought, maybe something to try. Good luck!

      1. I’m one of those that’s highly allergic to the whites. I can eat the yolks just fine.

        I get intestinal swelling minutes after consuming egg whites. Intestinal swelling is an anaphylactic shock in the gut…but it isn’t called that. They only call it an anaphylactic shock when it happens in your throat and cuts off air passage…resulting in death most of the time.
        Well, for years I had no clue what’s causing my giant ‘8 month pregnant’ belly (I wasn’t pregnant) until I finally had an allergy test done…after having an anaphylactic shock in the throat and was rushed to the emergency room.

        I have however NO clue what exactly it is in the egg whites that causes that. Wish someone had an answer 🙁

    2. I can really relate to your post. Was diagnosed with colitis in December 2009 after 3 years of symptoms. Had not eaten gluten, corn and or dairy for 10 years because I knew these foods upset my system. But was otherwise high carb low fat and was slowly getting worse over time. Going paleo in July 2009 helped shift the trend to improvement. But was still experiencing minor symptoms until I cut out a daily dose of raw mixed nuts and eggs. Loren Cordain posted an excellent explanation on his blog about why egg whites might cause a problem in sensitive individuals. I’m now pretty much asymptomatic, and owe a huge debt of gratitude to people such as Mark, which I can never really repay notwithstanding purchasing his book (which arrived yesterday).

    3. Hey have you tried the Specific Carbohydrate Diet? Its very similar to Primal– but was created by Drs about 50 years ago to help heal the intestines, usually for patients with Celiac, Colitis etc. But Leaky Gut too. It might be interesting for you to read about.

    4. I’m on the same journey with you Sebastian. Leaky gut, candida, adrenal fatigue, you know, the works haha. I also find eggs and nuts irritate me for now and will give your suggestion of staying out of a ketosis a go. Seems like a struggle everyday but I know we can do this!

      F

    5. Sebastian, L-glutamine in large quantities is an effective way to fix leaky gut. Atleast 15 grams taken 3-4 times a day between meals. Stay away from common allergens: Eggs, wheat, oatmeal, dairy, shellfish. Take enough fish oil (3-5grams daily).

    6. Sebastien,

      I feel your pain. I was like that years ago. I could not eat anything except meat and homemade broth for a long time. It turned out that I have several food allergies. After I strictly avoided the allergenic foods and followed Specific Carbohydrate Diet for better part of a year I was a lot better. It has been a few years since I had to do that – there are still foods that I can not eat but much better than I was.

      Try extra virgin coconut oil. It is very good for digestion but is very detoxing so watch out.

      Good luck.

  13. Is it about the same idea with the Omega 6’s in seeds such as flax and chia. Take them out if your weight is stalling but a few tablespoons are fine?

  14. Thanks for the tip on eating out – I’ve never thought about request my order be cooked with butter rather than the oil! In fact, the strange looks will be half the pleasure.

  15. Isn’t the favorable 3:6 ratio for Walnuts and Macadamia nuts what make them our first choices as far as nuts go?

    1. Recent medical knowledge is coming to agree that you want the ratio of Omega-3s to Omega 6s to be almost 1:1 rather than 1:4 or even 1:2 as was previously thought.

      That’s why, in my opinion, Walnuts, which have long been touted to have the “optimal ratio” of polyunsaturated fats definitely do not, as we are (yes, even the Government nutritionists!) slowly learning.

      1. Can you link study refs? Searching Pubmed for Walnut http://tinyurl.com/9e799bu does not result in any articles finding inflammation markers increased. Given that n-6/n-3 is 4 it borderline on the PUFA theory and we don’t have a very good idea how the Walnut is digested. For example, could it be the Omega-3 “beats” Omega-6 to the pathway mediating Omega-6 metabolism? Also, remember the typical American diet has a ratio of 16 to 20.

  16. I LOVE nuts. All nuts. I have nuts every day. But, never as a main dish – who does?

    Nuts are a perfect snack and a perfect garnish to salads. Nut butters are excellent for smoothies/shakes or as a spread on celery.

    I am going more and more primal as the days progress, but I think I will always love my irish steel cut oats 1-2 times a week 🙂 This with any kind of nut is incredible.

    Mark,

    What about coconuts? Coconuts are nuts but seem to be different then a traditional nut? I now consume some form of coconut everyday. Coconut oil, coconut flour (1-2 times a week in coconut pancakes!, coconut milk, coconut flakes, coconut water, fresh coconut meat….

    It by no means makes up the bulk of my diet… maybe 100 calories a day on average (rough guess)… is this ok? What if I was consuming 300 calories of coconut a day… would this be ok?

    1. My understanding is that Coconut is actually an MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) and is fairly different than the omega3/6 fats available in most other nut products.

    2. Almost every day I consume between 500-2,000 calories of coconut. Often much more. Oil, milk, flakes, water (in that order) make up the bulk.

      You should be fine.

      1. That’s awesome. I admire you, lol. I never ate coconut until about one month ago. My father always had a whole coconut around and added it to various stuff (usually cereal – gross) and I never had any. My mind told me coconut was gross.

        Thankfully I found this website and have learned that coconut is incredible for you.

        I now love coconut and it is one of my favorite foods. David Wolfe says it is the #1 natural liquid source of electrolytes…. therefore the perfect sport drink – take that Gatorade.

        Yes, I understand that coconut is vastly different. Coconut milk has 14 grams of fat per serving, but 12 grams is saturated fat. So, it has little omega 3 or omega 6 fatty acids, if any.

        But, wow, up to 2,000 calories a day of coconut? How many calories do you eat total in a day?

        1. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see plenty of coconut talk, plus lots of other useless info 😉

          Depends on the day, but I usually fall somewhere between 2,500-9,000. Up to 20,000 if I don’t care & go unmetered. 6,000 to 9,000 seams to be where I’ll naturally land for a meal. Keep in mind this is primal food, not junk.

  17. Interested to see what your thoughts were on Macadamia Nut Oil for cooking Mark. Robb Wolf talks a lot about not using Olive Oil for high-temp cooking, as it’s fairly easily oxidizable. Since then I’ve been using Macadamia Nut Oil, which according to the data from the company I purchased it through is 1:1 in Omega3:Omega6. It also tastes like BUTTER! 🙂

    1. My understanding is that the same issues are involved with heating ANY unsaturated oil (either Poly or mono). My advice is to stick with more saturated oils, especially coconut, for your cooking purposes.

    2. Olive oil oxidation varies widely with quality. Typically the higher the quality (such as cold pressed extra virgin organic oil) the lower the smoke point.

      The smoke point of oils is a) literally the temperature where the oil will start to emit smoke, and b) the oxidation saturation point where you’re both deodorizing the oil and converting about 2/3 of the Omega 3 content into trans fats.

      Due to the wide variation of oil quality and information sources on the subject, I’ve started heating a pan when I receive new brands/bottles of oil and adding a teaspoon and waiting 2 minutes to ensure there’s no visible smoke. If not, I consider it good to go (no bad effects to the fats).

      I tend to stick to cold pressed avocado oil and extra virgin coconut oil for sauteing, and leave extra virgin olive oil for cold dishes. I use extra virgin coconut oil and extra virgin red palm oil for deep frying the few times a year I do any. Both nutritional value and smoke point enter into these choices.

      Allegedly macadamia oil has a smoke point higher than 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so I’ll be trying some out shortly to see if I can add it to my list of oils I cook with.

  18. I’ve definitely noticed that I can’t eat a ton of nuts. I swear I used to be able to, but not any more. As a snack, a handful is fine, great even (they can be delicous), or as a salad topper, but NEVER as a meal. Oh god, unless you want to have no appetite and terrible BM’s for the next 24 hours.

    Just a bit here and there….mmmmmmmmmmmm

  19. When I first moved to AR I noticed we had many hickory nut trees. That fall I collected the nuts and cracked them. They are not like the thin shelled walnuts or pecans – no, the shell is very thick and it was a lot of work getting to the nut. No gorging on hickory nuts – took too long to get a handful.

    I imagine nuts in paleotime were not the thin shelled varieties we have now.

    That year I also collected the wild blueberries from the woods. They were very tiny berries with a wonderful taste. Again, collection was slow making them a treat.

    Thanks for the info on nuts and O6’s.

  20. i have super high cholesterol, and have been trying to get a better 0mega 3/6 balance. anyone have a good link or resource that shows foods levels of both 3&6?

    Often foods are touted as being high in level 3, but forget to mention that they are 4 times that high in omega 6’s, like all of those ‘heart healthy’ spreads that i no longer use- very frustrating.

  21. I noticed cooking with oils was mentioned because of their high Omega-6 content, so i wanted to ask a question pertaining to Canola Oil. WIth nearly a 2:1 ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, is cooking eggs and such in canola oil ok?

    1. I’d say stay away from canola oil totally. Cook with butter, ghee, coconut oil, lard, tallow or other animal fats.

      1. – Butter from grassfed cows, i should add. If you don’t have access to a local farm, there is a brand called irish gold, that is supposed to be from pastured cows, that is readily available. you could google to find others

        1. I searched irish gold and found kerry gold… after some more searching it seems as if they are the same brand? Is this true?

        2. Sorry yes. It’s called Kerrygold Irish Butter. I realized last night i got the name wrong……what can i say, I’m just a caveman.

  22. I ceated a list for myself some time ago:

    Nuts and seeds that are low in omega 6:

    chestnuts
    macadamia
    chia
    acorn
    lotus
    breadfruit seeds
    ~hazelnut or filberts -> border line
    ~flaxseed, chia, -> other issues
    breadnuttree seeds
    ginkgo nuts

  23. So what’s considered too many nuts in a day? I usually pack 2oz. of walnuts which I snack on throughout the day when I get hungry. Would that be considered too many?

  24. Oh no! I probably eat about a quarter pound of nuts a day. They’re all raw and various kinds, (pretty much all the ones Mark listed above). I have to say though, that I have severely decreased BF% and have even lost a fair amount of weight. Daily, I usually consume lots of protien (meat, fish, chicken, etc) and TONS of nuts. I also eat a fair amount of raw sheep and goats milk cheese and have a glass (or a whole bottle, I KNOW, I KNOW) of red wine 2-3 days a week. But, I must say, I am making a killing; energy level is through the roof, faster stronger, leaner and most importantly LESS HUNGRY. Intermittent fasting has become a breeze since eating this way, (with the large amount of nuts that is, been doing this for about 6 or so months).

  25. I grind up macadamia nuts and coconut oil. I store it in the refrigerator, since the integrity of the nuts have been compromised. I have about 2 oz of the mixture a day. Sometimes spread over some celery, or right off the spoon. Occasionally, I’ll take some unsweetened coconut flakes, and grind them into the butter.

  26. I am probably guilty of eating 2 many nuts. I eat a lot of almonds and I have a mature walnut tree in my garden. It is the start of the harvest season and I collect and store enough nuts to last for about 9months of the year. I probably use half a kilogram a week.

    My children love almonds and walnuts and if it were a choice between sugary confection or cake I’d rather seem them snack on the nuts.

  27. Good take, Mark.

    Dave Lull sent me a study awhile ago that showed that eating nuts with yogurt helped minimize the downsides and maximize the upsides of consuming a few nuts here and there. That’s how I eat my nuts: sprinkled on top of yogurt. That’s a primal dessert for me.

    Cheers,

    Brent

  28. Big fan of the nuts here. I figure I get so many Omega 3’s in my diet, that I don’t worry too much about my nut consumption. However, I wish raw almond butter tasted as good as roasted! 😉

  29. Good article and timely too. I eat Macadamias and I was glad to see that they have the lowest O6 content on the list. I find them good for a snack since being on the PB because there is little else that I can get that is as handy. Berries are extremely expensive here.

  30. i like raw almonds mixed with sunflower seeds and blueberries; that’s my “cereal”. but i only eat it a couple times a week. nuts are a good pack food, too. i’ve been avoiding roasted ones since the post on choosing one’s oils carefully

  31. “Overanalyzing your food intake is a good way to stress yourself out and make every little dietary choice an internal struggle”

    I think this is the crux of the case – Nuts are a healthy food snack and ingredient. I think it is that simple. As always, it is moderation that will do the trick!

    I have to admit I find them a bit addictive though. I think it is that natural crunch and great taste – they are like nature’s Pringles (crisps) a bit for me…
    I love the versatility, home made almond milk, nut butter, roasting pumpkin seeds on butternut squash…it’s all great. Granted I think that keeping the nuts even in an airtight container is not going to keep them that fresh but so what if some nutrition is lost, what can we do – life is to short! Buying them with shells is better but not everyone has time to deshell…

    I say enjoy your nuts!

  32. I have cut out a lot of junk food and don’t often get enough protein from other sources due to my schedule. I rely heavily on nuts (mainly walnuts and almonds) for breakfast and snacks throughout the day. As a matter of fact, I eat a handful with oatmeal (still working on cutting out carbs) each morning after I workout. I really need some fast breakfast ideas to replace the nuts and oatmeal. Also, what do others use as quick snacks with protein during the day? I keep a cup full of mixed nuts and snack on them between meals and also at lunch on my salad. I probably consume about 8 oz a day of nuts at a minimum right now.

    1. Can you eat eggs and/or cheese? I usually have a couple of hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, because it’s easy to cook up a dozen at a time & just grab them from the fridge. My snacks usually involve cheese and a few nuts, berries, or olives.

      Good luck, I hope this helps!

  33. Hey Mark/All,

    I am new to the primal way of eating and still trying to figure out the ‘rules’. I haven’t seen any guidance regarding buckwheat. I usually eat soaked buckwheat for breakfast. They are technically not a grain but a fruit. Are they ok to eat on the primal style diet?

  34. My understanding is that the ratio of O6 to O3 in walnuts is low relative to other nuts. Macadamias are the only ones close to it.

    The ratio is important yes?

    Almonds have negligible O3. Ratio-wise, they’re at the bottom of the nut list.

  35. So, a meal like Son of Grok’s primal pizza should be eaten very rarely, yes?

  36. I eat raw almonds all the time as a snack. I love the taste and consider them a quick and satisfying snack. I buy the small individually wrapped bags at Trader Joe’s so I don’t overdo it.

    Best – Mike

  37. Thanks for the mention, Mark. And you’re right on. This is exactly how I handle nuts, going 2-3 weeks at a stretch without any so that when I do get them chowing down with even a whole cup or more in an evening is no big.

    Also, I’m pretty much sticking to macadamias and pistachios from time to time.

  38. I have recently re-introduced more omega 6 into my diet after avoiding it like the plague and being an omega 3 junkie for many months. Believe me, you do not want too little omega 6 in your diet and there is some omega 6 that is downright beneficial, not to mention essential for inflammation, regeneration and the nervous system. Omega 3 (both EPA, DHA AND ALA) regulate the body’s conversion of omega 6 fatty acids into the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes and so where there is omega 3, there can also be omega 6. One omega 6 fatty acid that we tend to ignore is GLA which can be found in evening primrose, borage oil and my new favorite seed, hemp. GLA also regulates inflammation and so adding a source of GLA along with your nuts and seeds or in the case of hemp in the same package is a downright smart move.

    In the absence of any omega 6 from sources other than the little bits in meat, flax, chia, olive oil and avocado, an oz or two of nuts and most definitely some hemp seeds is a downright healthy choice. Just don’t go overboard and don’t roast them.

  39. The consensus seems to be nuts are OK, but in moderation… If the main issue here is n6, what is wrong with eating more than a “moderate” amount of macadamia nuts (only .5 g in 1/4 cup)? Also, since they are so low in PUFA would roasted be OK?

  40. My only way to regulate my nut consumption (they are SO delicious!!) is to buy them in the shell. Yes it is a royal pain in the ass to de-shell each nut, but Grok had to, right? I just buy a mixed bag… Tip: to max out on the primal factor, dont use a nutcracker either!! Grok on!

  41. For those who have trouble controlling their nut intake, they are now conveniently sold in 100 calorie packets. However, I find it much less expensive to buy them in bulk and exhibit some self-control!

    1. That is a useful tip – although as you say bulk is cheaper, so I too take that option. Nuts are moreish and calorie dense so self control is the key…

  42. I have been eating far too many nuts as of later and have not been feeling well for quite some time. I will cut them out and see if it helps.
    I only recently converted from a vegetarian so eating meat is still a teething process so I was relying heavily on nuts for protein and fat. Its not unusual for me to eat 3 cups a day. Yikes!
    Also I am eating a full avocado every day – can someone tell me if this is also pushing my omega 6 – 3 ratio too far?

  43. Great article! Everything in context, and everything in the proper amounts.

    By the way, “The Irreducible Nut” would make a great name for a rock-n-roll band. 🙂

  44. Hi Mark,

    I just wanted to comment on your statement that “Overanalyzing your food intake is a good way to stress yourself out and make every little dietary choice an internal struggle.”

    Especially for folks who may have or are currently exhibiting patterns of disordered eating, getting too analytical with your food choices can cause an unhealthy obsession with the quality of the food you eat, to the point of having a serious impact on quality of life.

    The approach you promote seems pretty balanced, though — there’s a lot to be said for ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’.

    Cheers

  45. The argument that Grok didn’t eat nuts each day doesn’t really work here I think. Cant see that Grok consumed about 3-5 eggs a day either but I got the impression PB says that is okay?

  46. The Primal Blueprint book states (p125): “Nuts and seeds and their derivative butter products are filling and nutritious and can be *consumed liberally* in place of high-carbohydrate snacks.” This seems to be in contradiction with this blog post. Or am I missing something?

  47. Doesn’t the ratio of O6:O3 come into play with the nuts? Can I assume that’s why the amount of O3 in the above nuts is not listed?

    Signed,
    Diabetic, and so very confused about nuts 🙁

  48. Wow. This is interesting, because since I added more Almonds, I lost weight. I was for the first four days of eating them everyday, loosing 1lb a day. When I cut back I gained weight. I just had a baby three months ago, and lost all the weight I gained. I never thought I’d be fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes so fast, compared to my other two pregnancies, I never got back to pre-pregnancy with either of those. I still have the boys weight to loose, but with my little girl, it all fell off. And I was eating Almonds everyday, several times a day, feeling great and less hungry. They were baked into foods, so it was more like Almond flour I ate allot of. I guess I’m just different? Or maybe nursing a little one really changes things? I don’t eat them as often right now (and not seeing weight loss, more like fluxes), even though I and have added Coconut oil into my diet. I add it to my smoothies in the morning, and it’s so good. I love Coconut oil, and can’t say enough good things about it. I also make other dessert foods with all types of coconut, like raw sugarless fudge. It’s really good, and uses Macadamia nut butter instead of almonds. Or Mark’s recipe: Truffles. Thanks for all the info.

  49. I try to keep PUFAs under 10%, though I usually only reach under 15%, but given all the research on proinflammatory eicosanoids (obviously derived from n6), I’d say it’s not too bad. I get most of my fats from salad oils (usually 75% red palm oil and 25% olive oil). I’m a big nut for saturated fat, anyone read the 1992 Framingham study where the director pretty much summed it up as “the more saturated fat and dietary cholesterol individuals ate the less they weighed and the lower cholesterol they had?” I’m not aiming for the latter as high cholesterol is pretty healthy, though the former shows great potential for obese people.

  50. The other part of the story with walnuts is that, although higher in omega-6, they are also higher in omega-3 with a ratio of 4:1. Almonds on the other hand, have no appreciable omega-3s and have an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 1689:1. While consuming more nuts I therefore weigh the walnuts more heavily than the almonds or other nuts. For me, this is a consideration on those days when I make a nut mix of 4 to 6 ounces. It helps knowing that I’m consuming a good dose of omega-3 to help balance the omega-6 intake.

  51. I was really confused to read that nuts actually reduce inflammation. Doesn’t this undermine everything we are told about omega 6 consumption? How can the fact that nuts also contain other nutrients offset the omega 6 effect? Seems there must be a lot we don’t yet understand – certainly in my case. Am I missing something?
    Justine

  52. I’m typically to running a blog and i really appreciate your content. The article has actually peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your website and maintain checking for brand new information.

  53. Hmm… I eat TONS of nuts. Couldn’t do primal without it. Guess it’s all a bit of a trade off!

  54. lol arboreal egg, mark is so eloquent 🙂 I’m glad he’s the current figurehead for Paleo

  55. Mark have you read prof Brian peskins studies on omega 3 and 6 it will open your mind

  56. So in other words, if you eat a lot of primal salmon and beef, you can eat nuts, but only a 1/4 once every few weeks or so.

    Nuts have the pro-inflammatory omega-6 and many anti-nutrients. The omega-6 content of nuts can be balanced out by the DHA and EPA forms of omega-3 found ONLY in meat. Your body needs a 1:1 ratio of omega-3(DHA and EPA, not ALA) to omega-6.

    So if you are a vegetarian or vegan, eating nuts would be bad for you. In fact, with all the anti-nutrients and omega-6 in nuts, it seems like they should be in the same category as grains and legumes, but that’s just my opinion.

  57. Basically, everything you’ve heard about how nuts are supposedly healthy ARE NOT TRUE.

    People really need to know the importance of balancing omega-3 to omega-6, and that only the meat forms of omega-3 (DHA and EPA) are the reliable ones. The plant form of omega-3(ALA) is the bad one because it has no use in your body. Even the omega-3 nuts don’t have the DHA and EPA, only the ALA (bad) form.

    1. ALA isn’t necessarily bad for you. ALA can get converted by our bodies into DHA and EPA. The problem is that this is not a perfect conversion. The amount that gets converted is fairly small.

      So while ALA can be converted, consuming 200 mgs of ALA does not equal the efficiency of consuing 200 mg oof either EPA or DHA since not all 200 mgs of it will be converted.

      Still, some usable Omega-3 is certainly vastly preferable to none!

  58. Mark…you mention we should roast our own nuts so as not to overcook them. Ok…but you never say what temperature and for how long

  59. You people are nuts! Omega 6 is hardly the devil you paint it to be and eating nuts certainly isn’t detrimental to your health. In fact, one would be hard pressed to put on weight simply because they ate nuts everyday. One would have to eat POUNDS of nuts for it to have any sort of cumulative effect.

    And the piddly amount of omega 6 (which is good for you) that you get in a handful of nuts is nothing to worry about. It’s sad that so many of you people are neurotic worry warts. I wish my life was so empty and pointless that I had nothing better to worry about all day than the linoleic acid in a handful of almonds. Insert eye roll here please.

    1. Omega-6s (well, MOST Omega-6s, anyway) are pro-inflammatory and this is NOT good. It’s one of the problems of the standard American diet that it is EXTREMELY heavy in Omega-6s. Now, to some extent, Omega-3 fats can cancel the negative effects of too much Omega-6 fats. But I don’t see people (even those who supplement with fish/krill/shrimp oils) consuming near the amount of Omega-3s that it would take to equal the huge amount of Omega-6s they already intake.

      Mark (and I don’t think anyone else here) is suggesting that you never consume nuts, or that you have to avoid Omega-6s like the plague. Humans NEED Omega-6s. The problem is, we are consuming VASTLY more now, than we ever were in the past. What I think is suggested here is simply bringing down your consumption of Omega-6 fats closer to the more reasonable level that Grok most likely would have consumed. Moderating nut intake is an extremely good way to bring this down to size, as is watching your oil intake.

  60. Hello everyone,
    I’ve just discovered this website, very interesting and informative I should say 🙂
    Recently I’ve started on a nutty diet, eating about 200 grams of mixed nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, dried grapes… I’ve to say that it completely fills me in (in one go) and then it’s like my stomach is totally peaceful – I don’t feel hunger, I’ve no cravings, my stomach doesn’t hurt… Fo as long as I remember myself my stomach aches when I eat cooked food (I think I have gastritis). But when I eat only nuts and fruits and veggies my stomach is at peace 🙂 Roasted nuts also make it hurt so I avoid them, in fact don’t consume them at all. I’ve tried soaked nuts and they seem very lively and like they say ‘Hey, I like you, eat me please, It would be my pleasure’ :))))
    Some time ago I underwent a 3-month nuts and plants diet and lost seveal pounds, I felt really energetic, really truly good! I’m starting again, with teh desire to make this my main life style for as long as I can.
    Nuts are just great!! :)))

  61. I don^t like nuts because they taste horrible when I tried them on my pizza.
    Even on my pasta with tomatoe sauce there not good. II^l stick to peanut butter in the morning with my grains(oatmeal,whale wheat etc)

  62. The limit my body alerts me to when I eat nuts, especially walnuts, is when my mouth and teeth get that “dry” feeling, a simple mental reminder only due how mildly uncomfortable it is, but a nice cue to stop (I wish snack foods had similar cues). So, probably about 5 big handfuls as the ultimate limit to my nut consumption, and even then I usually never get that high. I ‘ll still snack on them happily in this limited amount, however. They have a place.

  63. Ik think nuts where large parts of the year available since they have excellent ‘shelf life’ properties as long as they are kept in their skin. So the idea we were just eaten nuts some parts of the year, needs more scientific back up. We were not just hunters but also gatherers. Even grains were eaten already 100.000 years ago (contrairy to modern paleo believe) But these where other grains, processed and eaten in other ways.

    About the inflammatory effect of nuts there is more to say than just their natural omega-6 content. Roasting nuts actually means frying them, probably interchanging natural oils and water partly for the oil they are fried in (corn, soy, peanut) so that will upper their natural omega 6 / omega 3 balance. Really dry roasting probably is a little less harmful.

  64. What about almond bread? I make it daily for my 5 boys to make sandwiches for lunch. Am I hurting my family?

  65. I just entered my food diary on “food journal” and they said I had consumed too many omega 6’s. I had 3 eggs, about 450 – 500 gms of lamb and a handful of almonds and walnuts. I had a total of 12 gms of omega 6 and 2 gms of omega 3. Since all of this is recommended by the PB, how do I cut down my omega 6’s? The eggs are DHA enhanced eggs.

  66. You do realise ,don’t you, that this fussing and worrying about getting the perfect ratios ,etc is going a bit too far?
    Foods like nuts are perfectly fine to eat.
    Don’t worry about omega 3/ 6 in nuts ; there are far more to nuts than just those 2 components. We are finding problems with foods because scientists have labeled certain parts of that food(eg vitamin D, omega 3, pantothenic acid, etc ,etc) and we learn that one component is ‘good’ or bad’..when truthfully the food is made of countless components which all act together.
    There are lots of studies to show vastly improved blood profiles ,heart-health, etc from eating liberal amounts of nuts and seeds.
    Here is one such paper : http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/apjcn/volume17/vol17suppl.1/333-336S21-4.pdf

  67. Although the internet is awash with info about the supposed health benefits of nuts, I have recently learned that a particular nut, namely almond, is probably not so healthy for me. And I had to learn it the hard way: after eating almonds for six days in a row, I developed symptoms of what felt like carpal-tunnel syndrome (main symptom in my case was numbness in some fingers). First in my right hand and then in my left. I also experienced some mild pain in my right arm. When I ate hazelnut on one occasion during that period, within 30 minutes my symptoms worsened, despite the fact that I have never experience an adverse reaction to hazelnuts before. When I stopped eating almonds, the symptoms subsided, although it took me four days to become symptom-free.

    I´m wondering how truly paleo/primal nuts really are anyhow. Now don´t get me wrong, I´m in no way some kind of paleo fundamentalist, who thinks everyone should cut out every single food item that are ancestors did not eat, even if you don’t have any adverse reactions. What I would appreciate, however, is some info about nut consumption among actual hunter-gatherers who survived into the twentieth century and not the highly speculative conjectures about ancient hunter-gatherers in the Palaeolithic. My take on this is, that the only sure thing about the Palaeolithic diet is that people ate meat, animal fats, and costal populations ate seafood. What kind of plant based foods people were eating, I think the only honest answers is: nobody knows. I just find it very odd that nuts are such potent allergens for so many people, yet there are supposed to be this health food which presumably people ate regularly for eons before agriculture. If that was true, surely we would be better adapted to them.

    I am hoping that someone can enlighten me about how nuts may cause numbness in the hands. Any ideas about a possible underlying mechanism? I don’t think it can be explained as the result of excessive amounts of omega 6 oils causing inflammation because in the days when I was cooking with sunflower oil exclusively (also high in omega 6) I had never had the symptoms described above. ( Don’t get me wrong , I am not in any way advocating sunflower oil.) Oh, and by the way! The only time I did experience the numbness in my hand before was when I was taking fish oil capsules – rich in omega 3! So this is somewhat of a conundrum for me…. Any thoughts on this would be highly appreciated!

  68. I have been eating loads of walnuts in the last year after learning they had the most optimal 3:6 ratio. Now I can see that while their 3.6 ratio is the best of all the nuts, the total amount of 6 is actually quite high compared to most other nuts.

    So my question is: What is more important, the amount of omega 6 consumed in the diet, or the ratio of 3 to 6?

    Thanks!!

  69. Here some update about the strange symptoms I was having descried in my previous post. The numbness evolved gradually into travelling pain across my fingers. It is not so much that my joints hurt, but it felt as if by bones were hurting, every day a different one. In addition, there were some pins and needled sensations in fingers and my fingertips felt really sensitive. After a while the same symptoms appeared in my feet. Also both my hand and feet were at this point really cold during the day and very hot when I went to bed. And if all of this it wasn´t bad enough, I gradually lost all my appetite, I felt really tired and it was as if I was freezing inside. At this point I was panicking.

    To remedy my problems, I tweaked my diet this and that way, but nothing helped. But somehow I still thought that it must be diet, because all this started happening to me when I changed my diet pretty drastically toward a more paleo type of eating. So one day out of desperation I grabbed a pack potato chips baked in sunflower oil just to eat something. I wasn´t expecting this to help my hand and feet. I was just trying to find something I still could eat because I started to lose weight pretty fast as a consequence of having no appetite at all. The same evening the pins and needles sensations subsided substantially and my hands and feet felt less hot than in the days before! Now I do think there is a strong argument for not cooking with vegetable oils due to them easily becoming rancid, so I was thinking maybe if I was to eat sunflower seeds instead, it should still do the trick. Today, after a week of eating sunflower seeds every day, my appetite is close to normal, I feel much less tired, my hand and feet are much better – no pain, they don’t get really hot in the night, although they are still quite cold during the day. Needles to say, I’m elated!

    Please, please if there is someone out there who had a similar experience or any experience (good or bad) with sunflower seed or oil, share it with me. I still don’t understand was going on with me. Is it possible that I had a omega 6 deficiency? What you always hear is that it is omega 3 deficiency you should worry about. What omega 6 deficiency might lead to is almost never mentioned. I have found some mention of omega 6 deficiency leading to anorexia, joint pain, dry skin –this I have also noticed- , but the info about this on the internet very scarce. Or is it something else in sunflower oil /seeds that was responsible??? I was eating meat the whole time, that is, until I was still able to eat. Meat is supposed to be high in omega 6 if it is not grass fed and most of what I was eating was not grass fed.

    This is also a cautionary tale. Be very careful when changing your diet drastically, because it might have unintended consequences, not all of it positive.

  70. Really confused – I just read various websites saying walnuts were the number 1 choice for high Omega 3’s – boy, what’s really going on here????

  71. I read that soaking grains, nuts and legumes in acidic medium will neutralize Phytates. It gives instructions for grains to add 1 TBSP whey, lemon juice or vinegar to the water and leave covered at room temp. 6 – 12 hrs, drain and cook. However, when it comes to nuts and legumes, only water is mentioned for soaking, which is confusing. Should lemon juice etc. be used for everything? Does it even matter? Please help. Thanks.

  72. I eat 1 fruit about the size of an average apple or orange and 90 pieces of almonds without the skin everyday. This would add up to about 60 g of carbohydrates a day which is exceeding the 30 g per day limit. I did this because I developed an egg allergy and can no longer eat eggs. Otherwise, I would have four hard-boiled eggs instead.

    The rest of my diet throughout the day is 1 rockfish fillet, 152.5 g of ground beef, and 3 chicken thighs with the skin left on. I bake the rockfish fillet and ground beef in a toaster oven. 300ºF for 25 minutes for the rockfish fillet and 300ºF for 15 minutes for the ground beef. I divide 610 g of ground beef into 64 meatballs and bake it all at once. For the chicken thighs, I smear them each with 1 tbsp of coconut oil and steam them on low heat for 50 minutes and drink the resulting broth as well

    To remove the skin from the almonds, I bring a small pot of water to a boil, pour 90 almonds into the boiling water, turn off the heat after 1 minute, pour the hot water away while using a strainer to catch the almonds, submerge the almond in cold water, and individually squeeze the almonds out of their skins by squeezing at the tapered end of the almond.

  73. I have anorexia and I just ate a LOT of peanuts… like maybe 600 cals worth. I was doing really well with recovery and then bam… I was worse. So I’m kind of freaking out about how much I ate. I am vegan and low carb so I eat a lot of nuts….. is that going to harm my healthy a ton?

  74. Homemade almond milk with insecticide free almonds how bad is it

  75. Mark, I’m a bit confused about what to think about in regards to but consumption. Nuts contain mostly LA, not AA, right? Meanwhile, as far as I know, humans use AA, not LA. And the body can only convert a tiny amount of dietary LA into useable AA. So as long as the LA isn’t oxidized, do we need to worry about it?

    Should plant sources of omega 3/6 really count toward your ratio? If I eat a bunch of ALA, I feel like it shouldn’t really count because I can’t use it. Same with LA.

  76. If the problem with Omega 6 fats is only when they are separated from the plant, void of antioxidants, rancid, heated, burned, or oxidized, it almost seems like Mark is arguing that Omega 6 per se is not the problem. If so, the 6:3 ratio is not an issue. Maybe we should simply avoid the “bad” (referring to my first sentence) fats and ignore omegas altogether (other than getting adequate essential fatty acids, and keeping overall fat intake where you want it to be, etc). True?