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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 18 2015

The Definitive Guide to Nuts

By Mark Sisson
210 Comments

Of all Primal-approved food categories, none is more bedeviling to even seasoned followers of the lifestyle than nuts. The questions never end. What is a nut? When you’ve got all these nut-like gymnosperms, drupes, and legumes masquerading as nuts, what even qualifies as an actual nut? Does it even matter? Or phytic acid. Is it or isn’t it a problem? And soaking — am I supposed to soak every type of nut, just some nuts, or none of them? Aren’t nuts really high in omega-6s, which we’re supposedly trying to limit or at least balance with our omega-3 intake? How do we reconcile that conflict? Why is “hazelnut” one word, while “pine nut” is two?

I’m out of breath, but this is a fairly representative sample of the nut-related questions I receive from readers. It is confusing, so today I’m going to give you the definitive guide to nuts. After today’s post, you’ll have a solid grasp of which nuts you should and maybe shouldn’t be eating.

Almonds

Remember when you discovered almond meal? Suddenly, the world got a whole lot bigger and brighter. You cranked out Primal pancakes, cupcakes, cookies. You dusted chunks of chicken with powdered almonds before plopping them in hot oil to produce a chicken nugget that even Loren Cordain would begrudgingly accept. And then you gained some weight back, and your stomach felt kind of funny, and you started worrying about your PUFA ratios. So the almond meal got thrown out, and the sack of raw almonds soon followed. But wait: almonds themselves aren’t the problem. Your inability to moderate your use of almond meal is the problem. Give almonds another chance.

In an ounce:

  • 163 calories
  • 6 g carbs: 3.5 g fiber
  • 14 g fat: 8.8 g MUFA, 3.4 g linoleic acid (LA), 1.1 g SFA
  • 6 g protein
  • 50% vitamin E
  • 22% vitamin B2
  • 31% copper
  • 18% magnesium
  • 28% manganese

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • Almonds are a thirsty crop, with 10% of California’s yearly water usage devoted to growing almonds.
  • Phytate levels are high in almonds. Phytate has both good and bad sides (binds minerals and prevents their absorption on one hand, may be converted into beneficial compounds in the gut and have anti-cancer effects  on the other), but a good compromise is to avoid a nut-heavy diet. Almonds are snacks and supplements, not the main course. Soaking and/or roasting almonds can also reduce phytate levels.
  • Raw almonds are hard to procure. Most almonds advertised as raw on store shelves have been pasteurized. Purchasing directly from the producer/farmer can help you obtain truly raw, unpasteurized almonds.

Can you soak? Yes. 12 hours.

Brazil Nuts

Lining the banks of South American rivers are towering trees whose falling fruits are large and hard enough to stave in skulls. On the bright side, cracking open the fruit reveals up to 24 triangular, hard-shelled seeds containing delicious, slightly sweet nuts. These are Brazil nuts, and they deserve a spot in anyone’s diet.

In an ounce:

  • 186 calories
  • 3.5 g carbs: 2.1 g fiber
  • 18.8 g fat: 7 g MUFA, 5.8 g LA, 4.3 g SFA
  • 4.1 g protein
  • 15% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 55% copper
  • 25% magnesium
  • 15% manganese
  • 988% selenium

Benefits:

The incredible selenium levels are the most obvious benefit to Brazil nuts, as unless you’re regularly eating animal kidneys and wild salmon, selenium can be hard to come by. But selenium is incredibly important for thyroid function, antioxidant capacity, immune function, cardiovascular health, cancer protection, and, you know what? It figures into just about every aspect of our health. And you don’t need to eat an ounce of Brazil nuts to get the benefits. A nut or two a day will get you adequate selenium.

Concerns:

  • The extreme selenium density of Brazil nuts causes some to worry about selenium toxicity, but I personally don’t. Extremely high doses of selenium in the form of Brazil nuts appear to be safe.
  • Phytate levels are high in Brazil nuts, but since you don’t need to eat very many to obtain the benefits, it shouldn’t be problem.

Can you soak? Unclear. Some say yes, some say no. Do a trial run of a few hours with a couple nuts before soaking the whole batch.

Cashews

Cashews also hail from Brazil, where they grow alongside a strange fruit called the cashew apple. The apple itself is actually edible and, from what I hear, quite delicious. The cashew shell, however, is lined with a poisonous resin called cashew balm. (Whatever you do, don’t put the balm on.) Cashews themselves aren’t poisonous, because they arrive on store shelves well-laundered and ready for consumption. This also means that raw cashews aren’t exactly raw. They’re steamed (to extricate the nut from the shell).

In an ounce:

  • 156.8 calories
  • 8.6 g carbs: 0.9 g fiber
  • 12.4 g fat: 6.7 g MUFA, 2.2 g LA, 2.2 g SFA
  • 5.2 g protein
  • 10% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 69% copper
  • 24% iron
  • 20% magnesium
  • 20% manganese
  • 15% zinc

Benefits:

There’s not a ton of research on cashews. What little exists isn’t very conclusive.

  • In one study, a high cashew diet had very little effect on markers of metabolic syndrome. If anything, blood glucose went up.
  • Another found that although a “prudent diet” containing cashews were higher in antioxidants than a control diet, it left serum antioxidant biomarkers unchanged.
  • One study did find that cashews improved baroreflex sensitivity, a marker of heart health.

On the whole, they’re probably fine to eat, but they aren’t superfoods.

Concerns:

Can you soak? Yes, 2-4 hours.

Chestnuts

Though they hail from trees and enjoy membership in the nut club, chestnuts are unlike most other nuts: they’re starchy things, low in fat and protein, more akin to a tuber than a mac nut. But they’re decidedly Primal. They’re low in phytate, high in flavor, and can be eaten raw, roasted, or steamed. The taste of a perfectly well-roasted chestnut is uniquely satisfying. Nutty, sweet, tender. Kinda like Christmas.

In an ounce:

  • 104.6 calories
  • 22.2 g carbs: 3.3 g fiber
  • 1.1 g fat
  • 1.4 g protein
  • 8% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 11% vitamin B6
  • 8% folate
  • 21% copper
  • 15% manganese

Benefits:

Nutrient powerhouses these are not and few studies into the health effects exist. I’m sure they’re perfectly healthy. Just don’t expect miracles.

Concerns:

  • The carb content is high, as chestnuts are more of a starch than a classic fatty nut. That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat them. Just be aware of the carbs and treat them more like potatoes than almonds.
  • Chestnuts are really tricky to open. Anyone have a foolproof method?
  • Exploding chestnuts.

Can you soak? A half hour of soaking should make cooking and peeling easier.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts, AKA filberts, aren’t popular snacking nuts. Instead, you usually encounter them in desserts, baked goods, and chocolate confections. But according to archaeologists, hazelnut shells are “one of the most frequently recovered plant materials from Neolithic sites,” so humans have had an affinity for the filbert for millennia — and very likely much longer. As you’ll see from the list of benefits, I think our ancestors were really onto something.

In an ounce:

  • 178 calories
  • 4.7 g carbs: 2.7 g fiber
  • 17.2 g fat: 12.9 MUFA, 2.2 LA, 1.3 SFA
  • 4.2 g protein
  • 15% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 28% vitamin E
  • 54% copper
  • 17% iron
  • 11% magnesium
  • 76% manganese

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • Nutella is delicious, but it’s not an effective way to introduce hazelnut health benefits into your life. Sorry, guys.
  • Allergy, as always.
  • Moderately high in phytate.

Can you soak? 8-12 hours.

Macadamia Nuts

My favorite nut by far: the buttery, slightly sweet mac nut destroys all others. Sure, it may not have the densest nutrient profile. Sure, you’re not going to take care of your daily magnesium needs, and it has hardly any vitamin E at all (but that’s only because there’s no fragile PUFAs laying around requiring protection). But does every bite of every food we take need to be “optimized”? Or can it just be tasty and innocuous? And as you’ll see below, mac nuts do confer health benefits. I’ve yet to encounter a nut that doesn’t.

In an ounce:

  • 203.5 calories
  • 3.9 g carbs: 2.4 g fiber
  • 21.5 g fat: 16.7 g MUFA, 0.4 g LA, 0.1 g alpha linolenic acid (ALA), 3.4 g SFA
  • 2.2 g protein
  • 28% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 24% copper
  • 13% iron
  • 51% manganese

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • A little too good. Mac nuts are energy dense as well, so just tossing back handful after handful adds up quickly.
  • Allergy, although this is uncommon.

Can you soak? No need. I just soak them in my digestive juices.

Pecans

Another nut usually reserved for dessert applications, the pecan is underrated and underutilized as a snack nut. I get it. Pecans taste great encrusted in a syrupy shell and dusted with sea salt. They’re chewy, almost gooey when you roast them. Honey pecans pair marvelously with balsamic vinaigrettes and whatever leafy stuff you decide to eat them with. But I implore you: try a pecan without all the sugar. Try a raw pecan. No heat, no salt, just a raw nut in your mouth. Chew it, and savor the natural subtle sweetness. Pretty good, eh?

In an ounce:

  • 195.9 calories
  • 3.9 g carbs: 2.7 g fiber
  • 20.4 g fat: 11.6 g MUFA, 5.8 g LA, 0.3 g ALA, 1.8 g SFA
  • 2.6 g protein
  • 16% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 38% copper
  • 55% manganese
  • 12% zinc

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • Allergy.

Can you soak? Yes, for 6 hours.

Pine Nuts

Pine nuts come from pine trees, obviously, although most species of pine produce nuts too small to merit harvesting. But when you do get your hands on legitimate pine nuts, you’ve got the perfect ingredient for great pesto sauce; as much as the alternative nuts like walnuts or pistachios make a decent pesto, I still prefer pine nut pesto to anything else. As a snack, pine nuts are uncommon. But that shouldn’t preclude you from giving them a try.

In an ounce:

  • 178.3 calories
  • 5.5 g carbs: 3 g fiber
  • 17.3 g fat: 6.5 g MUFA, 7.1 g LA, 0.2 g ALA, 2.7 g SFA
  • 3.3 g protein
  • 29% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 33% copper
  • 16% magnesium
  • 53% manganese
  • 11% zinc

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • Pine mouth is a condition where everything you eat tastes bitter, metallic, and disgusting. In susceptible people, it occurs after consumption of pine nuts and lasts about two weeks. Not everyone develops it, and even people who’ve enjoyed pine nuts for years might experience it out of the blue.
  • Allergies.

Can you soak? Just a few hours.

Pistachios

I really like pistachios despite the common complaints. They’re funny-looking, the wizened old men of the nut world. Green, too, which maybe makes them the Yoda of the nut world. And it can be really frustrating when you get an entire bag full of shelled pistachios with a nanometer of space between the two halves. But darn it if pistachios aren’t worth the trouble.

In an ounce:

  • 159.3 calories
  • 7.8 g carbs: 2.9 g fiber
  • 12.9 g fat: 6.8 g MUFA, 3.8 g LA, 0.1 g ALA, 1.6 g SFA
  • 5.7 g protein
  • 21% vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • 28% vitamin B6
  • 17% vitamin K
  • 41% copper
  • 14% iron
  • 15% manganese

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • Allergy.
  • Those impossible-to-open shells are really just the worst.

Can you soak? Up to 8 hours.

Walnuts

Many people in the ancestral health community avoid walnuts. “Too high in PUFAs,” they say. “Unstable bags of linoleic acid,” they say. And I used to be like that. But while I’m not eating an inordinately large amount of them on a regular basis, and I am aware of the PUFA content, I enjoy a good handful of walnuts semi-regularly. The literature in favor of the walnut is too broad to deny. Also, they’re really good, especially freshly cracked walnuts.

In an ounce:

  • 185.4 calories
  • 3.9 g carbs: 1.9 g fiber
  • 18.5 g fat: 2.5 g MUFA, 10.8 g LA, 2.6 g ALA, 1.7 g SFA
  • 4.3 g protein
  • 50% copper
  • 10% iron
  • 11% magnesium
  • 42% manganese

Benefits:

Concerns:

  • The PUFA content is high, but should be okay in the context of a Primal eating plan low in seed oils and other sources of processed, refined PUFAs and replete in omega-3s.
  • In my experience, walnuts are quick to go rancid. Buy small amounts, preferably in the shell. If unshelled, store in the freezer. Actually, I like keeping a small stock of all my nuts in the freezer. Improves the texture, in my opinion.
  • Allergy.
  • Moderately high in phytate.

Can you soak? Yes, for 4 hours.

There is a downside to nuts, of course: the overconsumption problem. Nuts are easy to overconsume. They taste good. They’re Primal. They’re fatty, crispy, and slightly sweet. They’re nutrient-dense, so you don’t feel “guilty” eating them. But, throw in some salt and a bit of roasting and you end up with a snack fit for binges. What can we do?

Buy them in the shell.

Only the ability to consume handful after handful of calorie-dense nuts and seeds without breaking the bank or spending an hour cracking them and removing little bits of shell is a recent development. Buying nuts and seeds in the shell makes it work to eat them. Keeps them fresher, too.

Avoid nut butters.

Nut butters make massive overconsumption even easier and more unavoidable. It crushes and condenses what’s already a dense source of nutrients and energy into a delicious paste. And c’mon: those tablespoons are never just a tablespoon. Avoid nut butters if you can’t control yourself around them.

Overall, nuts are just good for you. Pick a nut, any nut: it probably doesn’t matter much. Nuts are consistently associated with lower risks of heart disease and all-cause mortality. They’re probably responsible for the good press PUFAs get in the literature. They’re all fairly rich with antioxidant compounds. They all seem to improve lipid profiles and reduce inflammatory biomarkers. Including nuts in a diet generally improves the nutrient content of that diet. As long as you don’t go crazy and get a large percentage of your calories from nuts, you’ll probably benefit from their inclusion in your diet. They are snacks and supplemental foods, not the main course.

So, folks, what’s your favorite nut? What role do nuts play in your diet? Or, if you hate all nuts and think I’m completely nuts for writing this post, tell me why. Either way, let’s hear what you have to say on the subject down below.

Thanks for reading!

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210 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Nuts”

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    1. Cashews are dangerous for me because I can eat way too may in one sitting. And after reading about them here, Mark — you dropped the balm on me. Now I only get them for an occasional treat.

      1. Sorry to say I love cashews but they hate me; in no time I get gout after eating a few, as does a good friend of mine.

    2. Omg. Costco salted macadamia in these big containers. The worst and the best. Cant have them around.

      1. I love those! I just try to get 1/4 cup and put them away.

  1. My favorite by far are almonds and pistachios. I have to keep a close eye when eating them or I can eat an entire bag in one sitting.

    1. Trader Joe’s sells raw unsalted almonds in prepackaged snack packs.
      Perfect when your kids want some for a snack! They can grab a pack themselves & when it’s empty they’re done! Can’t over eat ’em!

      1. I like buying these. They are tasty, but not so tasty that I’ll be tempted to overeat them.

      2. These little packs are also great for traveling!! Filling and easy to pack away…

  2. Pecans seem to be awesome to eat. That’s good because here in Oklahoma they are everywhere, both native and european. My great grandmas ranch has at least 50 mature pecan trees that dump a huge harvest every November which we have great fun gathering by the bucketful. Great post thanksgiving feast exercise! They tend to stay good in their shell forever also. Great in pesto. Thanks Mark for confirming what I’ve always felt in my heart.

    1. Pecans are my fave, so soft and aromatic. I’d love to visit OK during pecan season! Sounds divine.

  3. Lately I’ve been huge on the macadamia nut when I can afford it. I keep them in the freezer and grab a few as a treat a few times a day. So good!

    1. Macadamias are definitely the most expensive around here too but I’ve found that Trader Joe’s has them at a great (low) price, the best ‘ve found by far.

      1. I buy mac nuts in bulk– a 10 pound bag from the Big Island is only $100 (free shipping!), and they’re higher quality than anything I get in a grocery store.

        I was relieved after I finished one of those bags to find that it took me 10 months to get through it– good thing I had freezer space!

        1. I dont see the 10 pounds and free shipping from Big Island. can you provide the link please

  4. Try cutting a cross in to the chestnuts before putting them in the oven or roasting. It splits them wide open.

    1. Trust me, this is the BEST way unless you have an open fire.

      When you cut across the chestnut make the cut somewhat deep as there is a second, thinner skin underneath. Then place your chestnuts in cold water for 10 minutes – drain and dry them. Microwave 2 minutes and the peel should peel off easily.

      1. Thanks, I’ll give that a try.

        I cut mine in half then put in boiling water and leave until it comes back to the boil

        Then I grab them out of the water and squeeze – most pop out easily

    1. I thought I read somewhere that they are actually the seed of a fruit.
      Anyone know for sure?

      1. The cashew is a seed that grows on the bottom of a cashew “apple”

  5. Okay, what positive or enhancement to NUTS does the soaking process do for ups primal beings, please? Thanks! Dave “G”

    1. I had that question too. I never soak nuts. I think they’re great just as nature provides them.

  6. What about Pili Nuts? They seem to have a pretty high saturated fat ratio and are relatively low in carbs.

  7. Love pistachios, however, you need to be careful you don’t eat one of the little worms that I often find in them. I buy on the shell and have bought several different brands and I can almost always find a few pistachios with a worm that got roasted in the shell with it . The first time I discovered it I was horrified as it actually made it in to my mouth before I spit it out. I had the bad habit of opening the the shells with my teeth. Not anymore though! I now use my fingers and inspect each nut before eating. Now some of you maybe cool with some worms and think more protein! Lol!

    1. The little worms are perfectly Primal. No need to pick them out.

    2. Not sure why a roasted worm is a problem. Probably tasteless and full of nutrients. Most people don’t know this but the government allows quite a lot of bug parts in our foods. It’s impossible to keep them out so they just developed reasonable guidelines on “natural contaminants”.

      This is a good summary:

      http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/06/29/how_many_insect_parts_and_rodent_hairs_are_allowed_in_your_food.htm

      You can read the government guidelines here (scroll down)

      http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/sanitationtransportation/ucm056174.htm#CHPT3

      I reality you are eating bug parts, parasites, rodent hairs, mold and lot of other things when you eat.

    3. Yes…I’ve had the pistachios with worms burrowed in them. Something they do to the nut makes it really sour and inedible. I agree with the other comments about not minding the consumption of a worm, but I’m assuming they haven’t tried these particular worms…plegh!

    4. The perfect way to open a pistachio is to use a half of another shell! Wedge it in, then twist…Boom!!!!

  8. In my neck of the woods (literally) there are still some unblighted, nut producing American Chestnut trees growing though alas, the squirrels have beaten me to them every year. I’m going to make it a point to be there first when they drop this fall. Most, if not all commercially available chestnuts are from the blight resistant Chinese tree, at least in my experience. I’m curious to taste the native, roasted on an open fire or otherwise.

    1. Little known fact….

      About 1 in every 4 trees from GA to NY before Columbus was a Chestnut tree. A major food source for early Americans.

  9. Them damn pistachios…just. can’t. stop. Ha ha. Raw pecans are my favorite with a salad. A fork full of good romaine, salmon, tomato and a pecan halve with red wine vinegar and olive oil is absolutely delish!

  10. I love cashews, but they are way too easy to overeat. Moderation in nearly all things is the key.

      1. oh yes, i was wondering about an effective way to neutralize phytic acid to make peanut butter safely.

  11. NUTS!!! Thanks Mark for a few reminders– NUTS can be addictive and add a ton of calories without really thinking about the volume one consumes.

    NUT BUTTERS– Taste wonderful but are devilish! It’s easy to keep scooping the spoon.

    Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t!

    1. I think a more apropriate name for them would be “nut-peas.”

      1. I know that. I am not eating peanuts. I said all nuts, not peanuts.

  12. Excellent write-up on nuts. Thank you for pointing out that after all, nuts should be considered snacks and ditch the nut butters. I am the guilty one here. My biggest nemesis is not sweets. It is nut butters. I have no control over them. Ever since I cut them out and eat nuts in measured portions, my daily diet is more in balance.

    1. +1
      I found upping my protein helped with nut binges.
      Salted nuts, and nut butters are gone in one sitting if I don’t have adequate protein.
      I find it easier to say no in the supermarket when protein levels are maintained.
      Otherwise, I almost go on autopilot and just buy and start eating them on the way home.
      When I first started primal, they were my go to snack because they were easier to find than a real primal meal. A very easy trap to fall in.

  13. I carry an EpiPen for a known walnut allergy. Skin testing showed that I should also avoid cashews, pecans, and filberts as well as confirming the allergy to walnuts and hazelnuts. I knew that almonds were fine and was beyond thrilled to find out that macadamias are okay as well.

  14. Thank you for the information on cashew allergy. I wondered why I have digestive issues with them, but reading that they often coincide with a mango allergy makes perfect sense. Mango allergies can coincide with latex allergy and definitely co-exist with an allergy to poison ivy and oak. It’s the urushiol oil…I never looked into it until now because it’s not severe enough that I break out or feel miserable, they just give me funky bowel movements so I don’t eat them much anymore. Well, now I won’t eat them at all, knowing that at any time they could cause a more severe reaction since I’m allergic to mangoes and poison ivy and oak.

    I appreciate your blog because I learn a lot every time I read it. Thank you for all of your research and the way you present it in a more digestible format.

    1. i cannot eat cashews either and i’m fine with other nuts. i get severe gastro problems very soon after eating them. i should just use them as my next colonoscopy prep.

  15. What about beech nuts? There are a few mature fruiting trees near me and we occasionally scavenge a couple of cupfuls in the autumn – while very fiddly to open raw, they present a decent challenge and tasty reward after being lightly toasted. I know they are not so good in large quantities but not seen much mention about them in terms of a seasonal treat – is there any merit to them or should they be best avoided altogether?

  16. I love my almonds. 20 of those, a square or 2 of 85% dark chocolate and a glass of red wine makes for a nice Friday night dessert after a long work week. I do love my almond flour treats as well. Definitely easy to overuse/overeat these little gems though so have to keep a conscious eye on that. Just tried macadamia nuts for the first time. I’m not a lover of them and their price will keep me from buying them on even a semi-regular basis.

  17. Peanuts are not nuts…..they are legumes, which puts them in a totally different category.

  18. Perhaps Mark didn’t list peanuts because they aren’t really nuts. The alternative name of ‘groundnut’ might be a clue. They come from the legume family (beans and peas).

    Sadly, after decades of joyful consumption, I discovered I was intolerant of nuts. Hopefully I can reintroduce these delectable bombs-of-goodness back into my diet at some point in the future…

    In the meantime I celebrate your clear enjoyment of them, evident by your responses. 🙂

  19. Hi ! I need your help ! I live in Brazil . I need to know one thing . The real thing . I am so tired of diets , losing weights . I already cut all the junk foods , all sugar , all wheat , gluten , I think I follow a PALEO cause I eat fruits but fruits raise the insulin . Honestly , very honestly I see through the bet many people say that I have to cut all the carbs . Fruits , vegetables . I improved a lot after removing forever these foods . Sugar , wheat and only eating good carbs and fruits , I never got flu . I love my meal made with coconut oils . We have plenty of avocados here I do not count calories . And when I get out of my track I just do a very low car and high fat for the next 3 – 4 days and everything is ok again . Well my question is : do I really have to cut my fruits ? Is it possible to live without carbs and which type of carbs can I eat without worrying about ?

    1. I have been following a Primal lifestyle for more than 5 years now. I don’t drink juice. It can deliver too much sugar too fast. But I go ahead and eat whole fruit when I want it. I will add that I’m not a huge fruit eater by nature, so I won’t binge insanely on fruit. But I do like to eat some of what’s in season. Avoid dried fruit unless you’re hiking or working outside, and you keep track of the amount you eat. To my point of view eating Primal is also about reducing the stress of fretting about food. So personally I would say go ahead and have a piece of fruit.

      1. That’s it finally ! I think I found what I have been looking for . I have to watch what I eat but I dont have to behave like I am a lunatic , always worried about food . If I stay away from these junk food I have said this 80% . Fructose from fruits to overdo you have to eat toomuch and I don’t do it . I just wanna eat 2 a day along with my meal never with my empty stomach . Ok ? And I will eat avjcaods and coconuts cause these ones have few sugar . And what about chickpea and beans can I have it once a weak ? I have been following the non gluten non flour , low carb high fat PALEO for around almost a year and i am fine , but it’s kind of strick . I also don’t have milk cause of the lactose I prefer the cheese with low carb . I think I’m going right .

    2. Luis, eat LOTS of vegetables and eat fruit in moderation. You might be able to live without veggies, but I wouldn’t recommend it. They contain many nutrients that the body needs in order to be healthy. Don’t overdose on fruit if you are overweight; otherwise, fresh whole fruit is a healthful addition to the diet. If you are healthy you probably don’t need to worry about fruit raising insulin levels. It will normalize itself.

      1. Thanks for replying ! I was really lost cause many pages tell me that I was on a wrong way ! I think I am In a right way . Come on ! I stopeed all the sweets , junk foods , sugars , sweetners , flours , wheat and gluten , grains which make the diet very strict what else can I do ? I try to eat avocado and coconuts everyday in order to avoid the fruits . I am a single guy ! I am not crazy for food ! I am just against starvation , being hungry , having to say no to everything . I must confess that I am still afraid of fat , going to a steak house is still a big fear but I i am losing this fear . Well ! I just wanna live happy without worring about my weigh the best thing about my modification in eating a low carb and high fat PALEO was the floral gut . No more leaking gut or irritable gut .

    3. Luis, you can still have fruits just limit the amount of fruits you have. One a day, one every other day but not at every meal. Also try and switch out and go for fruits that aren’t as high in the natural sugars like berries; strawberries, blueberries raspberries, etc. just read the ingredients on everything you’re eating and make sure there’s no extra sugar added or wheat or preservatives. Basically stay away from most premade stuff and go as natural as possible in your food selection.

      1. Thanks for you reply ! The problem with me is to find the way not to make my life and diet very strict . The only carb source I have is fruits and vegetables . I don’t have grains although I miss some of them some times . I meam some time cause I am invited for friends houses and I can not choose the food . I like the non gluten grains like chickpea , beans ….

  20. This was very helpful. What about seeds? Pumpkin, sunflower, etc, Aren’t nuts a seed, or are they…..

    1. Agreed – very helpful to have all this in one post. Thanks!

      I’d also like to see a post about seeds.

  21. The first thing I eat every day is 1 oz. of macadamia nuts. Life wouldn’t be the same without them! After reading this article, I’m thinking about maybe adding in some brazil nuts and filberts. I always measure them out. When going on vacation, I take little baggies with me!

  22. I love all nuts, but pecans are my very favorite. We used to have two pecan trees in our back yard until Hurricane Fran took down all our trees. I really miss those super-fresh pecans!

  23. Thanks Mark, very informative. I’m going to have to try some pecans. Presently eating macadamias and almonds. Those salted macadamias are like candy so I have to limit myself to about an ounce a day at most. Not to contradict what you’ve said but if you’re attempting to maintain or even put on a little weight then nut butters are a good option.

  24. I think with nuts really just moderate intake. I find I get sick of them if have too many. One thing I think Mark has mentioned before is to try and listen to your body’s signals : if you listen carefully I do think the body is generally smart and will hint when you’ve had enough. The problem is when our ‘minds’ take over and ‘tell’ us we want all this stuff we don’t actually want.

    A post on seeds would be welcome also : eg sunflower seeds (in the shell) are a big (huge!) thing in china as a snack. Healthy?

    1. Sunflower seeds are good for you. They are high in vitamin E and various other nutrients. Like all nut and seeds, the downside is that they can be fattening if one overindulges.

  25. Great article! My favourite nut is pecans! Here in Georgia we can get them fresh from the tree, and I have a local source who gets 12 oz packages to the market within hours of harvesting. A fresh pecan is out of this world! My lipid profile has always been good but once I started adding more nuts, it has become phenomenal!

  26. Thank you for this very helpful guide. I was just thinking about this topic the other day. I like to sprinkle a small amount of nuts on top of a big kale and arugula salad that’s a favorite of mine right now. My favorites to toss in are pistachios and almonds.

  27. Any info on sunflower seeds? I suppose they’re technically not a nut but they’re always categorized that way in my head and I love them!

  28. I enjoy & buy mixed nuts, to have variety in my diet, but i never eat the ‘peanuts’ in the pack because i increased my weight in my earlier years from eating peanuts including beer nuts .

    1. A handful of mixed nuts is a sublime treat. We always have a variety of nuts around our house. I keep them in the freezer for freshness, with only a small container left on the counter that will get used up in a day or two.

      Peanuts get a bad rap these days, but they, too, have health benefits. We have a 78-year-old family member who eats a large handful of peanuts every day (unsalted, in the shell). His weight is normal, he takes no meds, and he just left the house to go skiing. I don’t think peanuts have damaged his health any.

  29. My daughter is allergic to cashews so we avoid all tree nuts at home. It’s hard because I love them! Both my husband and I eat almonds as snacks at work pretty regularly. But I was surprised to see here that cashews are such a common childhood allergy. I have not met anyone else with it. Thankfully it does not mean she’s allergic to peanuts. While I know peanuts are not optimally primal, but they are delicious, satisfying and convenient, especially for children.

  30. I forgot to mention hickory nuts. If you can find them, they have a delicious, sweet flavored meat. A disclaimer: they are a PIA to extract from the shell. I see a lot of concern in the comments section about overconsumption of nuts and nutbutters. Bear in mind that our paleo ancestors had to invest a good deal of energy and effort to get at the edible portion of the nut, at least most varieties, so overdoing it on nuts probably wasn’t a likely scenario for them.

    1. I have a few hickory nut trees in the neighborhood. I picked up a bunch one year (had to get up early to beat the squirrels ) but had such a hard time cracking their shell I gave up on them. I did notice the squirrels had no problem. Then I happened to get a large mortar and pestle. That sucker cracks the shell easily. Hickory nuts are quite delicious, as it turns out.

      1. Good idea, Sharon! I never thought about a mortar and pestle for hickory nuts – I’ll give it a try.

  31. Hi Mark – do I have to soak the nuts or can I soak the nuts. If it is not mandatory, what benefits do I get if I do soak them?

    Thanks! Brent

  32. Seeds in general are not optimal, especially oil from seeds due to high amounts of Omega 6, which most people already over-consume. If the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 does not get too divergent, then some seed products would be ok, but there are better choices, including some of the nuts mentioned here which have other benefits to compensate for presence of Omega 6.

  33. I eat almonds as my only snack. My Dr. says almonds and walnuts are okay, but cashews are not. If trying to lose weight limit nut consumption to 1-2 ounces a day.

    I never eat roasted nut as nut oils that have been heated produce free radicals at very low temperatures from what I understand.

  34. Killer primer on nuts. I eat plenty everyday – pistachios in the shell, walnuts in the shell, and sprouted almonds. Pretty much with every meal and for snacks. I bet a third of my daily calories are nuts with the rest going to vegetables, berries, eggs, coconut oil, fish oil, coconut milk, whey protein, and sweet potatoes.

    Just like I always refused to believe the official warnings about eggs I ignored all the conflicting press about nuts. You just have to eat them for a little while to feel how good they are (unless you’re allergic).

    1. sounds pretty similar to my diet, as a primal non meat eater, nuts are important part of my diet – just an excuse! I love them. We do soak almonds and walnuts, and pecans when we can afford them (expensive in the uk), for 24 hours and then put them in the dehydrator for 24 hours. This is a bit of a process but the flavour and texture is enhanced, while reducing the phytic acid considerably. This does not work so well with denser nuts such as brazils, hazels and cashews as they never properly dry out.

      1. Yeah, not a lot of us primal oriented vegetarians (I don’t count my fish oil because I feel that its a biological necessity to get plenty of DHA an EPA and there really aren’t any potent vegetarian sources of these very important fats). It can be done and it’s pretty easy if you never cared for meat in the first place.

        But yeah, it’s a great excuse to eat lots of nuts ;). Got to get our healthy fats and calories somewhere if you’re not eating pastured beef and big slabs of salmon.

  35. I wonder if many of your readers know that macadamians are Australian bush nuts? They grew on my uncle’s farm in northern New South Wales when I was a kid and we used to smash them with a brick. Still remember their deliciousness!

  36. Excellent article. Never met a nut I didn’t like! Although I do have some faves – pecans, pistachios, almonds and macadamias, not necessarily in that order. I’m also curious about the soaking comments. Why would you soak a nut? I’ve eaten them raw, roasted, and cooked with them all my life but never heard of soaking them….

    1. Soaking them neutralized some of the chemicals that bind to minerals. So soaking (really just sprouting) increases digestibility.

      1. Hey Clay, Thank you VERY MUCH! EXCELLENT! Thanks for providing the answer in a nutshell form 😉

  37. Nuts (all of ’em) are my #1 snack and have been ever since I was a little boy. I’m thinking that they even kept me healthy before going Primal. Did they save my life? Not sure, but I’d like to think that!

  38. I have to keep my nuts at work because there is no way in hell they would survive more than a day in my house. My husband eats all kinds of nuts like other husbands drink beer or hog the blankets in bed. Almonds and cashews rock, but I’m off to Whole Paycheck (ahem Whole Foods) to pick up some Brazil nuts. Thanks for the great post!

  39. For those impossible to open Pistachios..

    If there is even the minutest opening, take a already cracked half shell, insert the pointy end into the impossible to open pistachio, and turn the key, wallla!

  40. Thanks so much for mentioning how much water it takes to produce almonds – over a gallon per individual almond. Very difficult to justify continuing to grow this crop on a large scale during the drought, given the number of communities in California (mostly poor farmworker communities) where wells have run completely dry or declining groundwater tables have concentrated contaminants and rendered the water undrinkable.

    1. Yes, great idea. Let’s eliminate all the jobs for these CA farmworkers.

    2. That sounds like a lot, but lets compare:

      According to Mother Jones, it takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond. That’s quite a bit, but not as much as it takes to grow a tomato (3.3 gallons) or a single walnut (4.9 gallons).

      Also, California grows 80% of the world’s almonds and almonds are its most lucrative crop.

      So taken in context, it doesn’t sound so shocking.

      1. @Clay. Thanks for your (always) thoughtful comments. Good to see you online here a bit more. What’s your favorite way to assist the planet in terms of clean water/ conscious use of resources?

        I’m curious about anything you’re aware of, as I also love almonds and want to do my part to offset my consumption! (Kind of like carbon footprint offsets)

  41. Dave Asprey has repeatedly insisted that brazil nuts frequently have high aflatoxin levels…can anyone confirm or deny or elaborate?

  42. I love Fage full fat greek yogurt with frozen blueberries and one or two (measured) ounces of mostly raw nuts that I mix myself. I treat it as a full meal, though, and it keeps me from binging on nuts randomly. I include the carbs and the calories in my daily plan. Weighing a serving is better than handfuls. I measured my handfuls once and got anywhere from an ounce to one-and-half ounces, so when I’m being honest my kitchen scale is in use.

  43. Often macadamia nuts come roasted and salted – is that a bad thing? do you eat them raw?

  44. Please address buying raw nuts that are rancid. A local health food store keeps all their nuts in a walk-in refrigerated cooler (they are the exception). The food coop has them at room temp in the bulk section. Who knows when they were harvested and what degrees of temps they have been exposed to. I love Brazil nuts but everytime I buy them from the coop, most seem to taste rancid. In my mind, eating a rancid nut precludes any health benefits, but sometimes you can’t tell by taste.

    1. I would not buy shelled nuts from a large bulk container kept at room temperature. Rancid nuts not only taste and smell bad, they are definitely unhealthy to eat. If you buy shelled nuts, buy only refrigerated ones. One of our local health food stores (Natural Grocers) keeps shelled nuts in sealed, refrigerated packages. I’ve always found these to be the best quality.

  45. Hi Mark, I’d love to hear your take on the concern about molds on nuts. Thanks for your great posts!

  46. I must try the Mac!
    When I last went to a local CSA, they had hazelnuts and walnuts in the fridge. I bought my first bag of hazelnuts that day and fell in love.

      1. I agree this nut post has inspired me to make a spread with filbert nuts, 85% chocolate and coconut oil. A primal Nutella knockoff so to speak.

  47. Just some more information about a cashew allergy….I am very allergic to poison ivy and, as it turns out, cashews. I am not, however allergic to mangos, as long as I cut the flesh away from the skin. I didn’t know about my cashew allergy until I went on an elimination diet and started eating a lot of cashew butter. A few days later I had a horrible, painful, unbelievably itchy rash on my privates and bum (I am female) and my palate in y mouth was raw. It then traveled to my thighs kind of under my skin. I ended up needing a steroid shot. I wasn’t sure it was the cashews, but suspected it could be. I waited two months and then had a spoonful of cashew butter. Same issues a few days later, however much more mild.

    So my point is,a cashew allergy isn’t necessarily like a peanut allergy where you go in to anaphylactic shock soon after. If you eat cashews and then mysteriously have an itchy anus a few days later, this is probably what caused it.

    After I finally made the connection, I realized when I was young I would have issues with an itchy anus quite often. Turns out it was the cashew chicken I was eating when we would get Chinese food a few times a month. Now I avoid cashews like the plague!

  48. I was also hoping to find information on pili nuts in this article. Mark, could you update this article at some point to include pili nuts?

    Thanks

  49. Macadamia nuts have surged ahead of all others for my favorite nut of late! Can’t wait for our vacation to Kauai in six weeks to get them fresh and local. Almonds, pistachios and pecans are right behind. To control binge eating any nut, I separate palm-sized servings into baggies for the day/car ride/vacations so I never have the opportunity to eat more than I should at one time.

    Favorite treat right now besides a handful of macadamia nuts is layering some Justin’s almond butter on a couple squares of dark chocolate at night. Primal Reese’s peanut butter cups!

  50. I buy bags of shelled pistachios at Costco, as that gets around Mark’s complaint on the pain of opening these nuts. I sprinkle a few pecans on a bowl of berries for desert. I do, however, have to watch out with pecans and almonds not to eat too many. Many nuts, almonds in particular, are very high in the amino acid arginine. If I eat too many almonds, combined with some other stress I’m likely to get a herpes cold sore. Justin’s almond nut butter is tasty, perhaps too much so. Last time I ate the stuff I downed about 6 tablespoons and later developed a nasty cold sore.

  51. Peanuts. Yeah, I know, I know. Other than they are a legume – which I’ve come around to think that legumes are not the toxic seeds most here think – what’s not to love? Low carb, even.

    Get them roasted in the shell, it takes longer to open and eat, one at a time. The antithesis of nut butter. Brands vary in the degree cooked, experiment. I like mine well roasted, YMMV.

    I have only one frying oil in my house, peanut oil. I don’t use much per year, but if you want to do classic frying it’s the best. The lipid profile is much closer to lard and olive oil than other grocery store oils.

    1. +1.

      There’s nothing really bad about either peanuts or other legumes. People go on about the toxins, but if you look hard enough you can find something wrong with everything edible. I think the dissing that peanuts get is mostly due to the associated allergy/digestion problems that some people experience.

      1. I never stopped eating legumes, in moderation of course because of the high carb content. They are featured in studies as being protective against cancer and this is a huge benefit in my opinion. I am neither afraid of phytic acid-Mark himself in this article has commented on its anti -cancer properties. I just make sure to have nuts or other high phytate foods mostly on their own, e.g. I never eat nuts as a dessert after a meal that contains zinc or iron but I will use a few in my salad once in a while. I also eat them as a snack if I need one.

  52. Macadamia & cashew (with a little added apricot), make the perfect snack bar!. However my favourite at the moment are brazil nuts. And totally divine with some added 85% organic chocolate!

  53. Cashews also cross react with pistacio allergies! My son is allergic to both.

    I have soaked Brazil nuts, they took FOREVER to dehydrate back to ‘crispy’ status, like 3-4 days of 10-12 hour drying sessions (I don’t run the dehydrator when I’m asleep) And then I kept them in the fridge.

  54. How about Brazil nuts being radioactive, due to them containing radium?

    1. Radioactive Brazil nuts? That would be pretty low on my list of things to worry about.

  55. Macadamia nuts have surged ahead of all others for my favorite nut of late! Can’t wait for our vacation to Kauai in six weeks to get them fresh and local. Almonds, pistachios and pecans are right behind. To control binge eating any nut, I separate palm-sized servings into baggies for the day/car ride/vacations so I never have the opportunity to eat more than I should at one time.

    Favorite treat right now besides a handful of macadamia nuts is layering some Justin’s almond butter on a couple squares of dark chocolate at night. Primal Reese’s peanut butter cups!

  56. Our nut consumption is almost entirely limited to trips. When driving all day nuts are a pretty good lunch and it doesn’t take much.

    For a three day half-way across the country trip I blanch a bunch of almonds, add some hazelnuts and pecans and call it good. Add a small package of jerky for each day, a cup of Greek yogurt for each day and one bar of dark chocolate. Crunchy veg are also a good addition to the packing list.

    All of this fits into a small cold bag and makes road food much easier to deal with.

  57. Check out Elana’s Pantry for her Paleo Pumpkin Cranberry Granola. Takes a bit of work, but it is fantastic and filling. A little goes a long way. I eat mine with home made greek yogurt and fresh blueberries, but would be equally good with whipped coconut milk and berries. Sounds like dessert…or breakfast…or snack. Love it.

  58. I never soak my nuts, usually have no problems digesting them. But nut butter gives me inflammation. I was wondering if I soaked my nuts, can I make them into homemade nut butter? Do I need to dry them and roast them first? I don’t eat a lot of nuts, not worrying about overeating at all.

    1. Hey All, I say again what is the benefit of soaking any of the nuts in the Primal diet, please? I could Google it, but it more good intel if the reasons to soak or not to soak nuts comes from like minds, maybe 😉

      B.U.D. [Bad Uncle Dave]

  59. Love nuts, Cashews and Macadamias being my favorites. Unfortunately some of us have issues with Oxalates, and nuts are in the “extremely-high oxalate content” end of the spectrum.

    I got the impression that you mentioned only in passing the concerns about PUFA content in nuts, but not really address them. I would think, that roasting would be a big factor here, where surely it would make the PUFA content more oxidized or at least unstable to light and temperature. Maybe O-6’s aren’t so bad as long as they are no oxidized? Or, emphasize that they really are to be eaten in moderation?

    Lastly, do Tiger Nuts (chufas) also qualify as nuts?

    1. Tiger nuts grow under the ground and are considered a vegetable. So no, they are not nuts.

  60. Mark, you are always a step ahead! I would have never guessed that Almonds too go through “pasteurization”. From now on I’ll make sure that I buy raw local Almonds instead of imported one from California. They also available fresh green (great in salads) during the early harvest or raw in the shell at road stands.

    Based on my personal experience, I would like to share the followings:
    Hazelnuts are great but have an earthy (dirt like) taste; and often you run into a bad one and regret eating them. Same goes wise for Brazilian nuts. And since now a days they arrive from countries other then Brazil, one can’t be sure that he get the same amount of Selenium, so it might be better to take a supplement. Pecans in my opinion succeed walnuts which are on the acidic side (soaking them over night will sweeten and make the crunchier). Pilinuts are interesting but high in Omega 6 (2129 milligrams per ounce) and most of the one sold in the States are candied (get them fresh if you are in the Philippians). One should stay clear of Pine nuts from China and opted for the one from Spain. Pistachios are also great but the one from California are bleached (mind boggling). Try them fresh and green where available (hello Californians), or opt for those imported from Turkey or Iran (non roasted). They are smaller but sweeter and addictive. And isn’t it interesting that in spit of the feud between the US and Iran (and other countries to be fair) they are allowed into the country? I have noting to add about Macadamias, except that I wish I didn’t deprive myself of them for so many years (except when offered a Mrs Fields Macadamia & chocolate cookies) as they are my favorite. So long.

  61. What about peanuts? I know they are legumes, but I wish Mark would have included them for a comparison. I love them, and try not to eat them because I’m pretty sure their nutrient profile is not as good as most real nuts.

    1. Mark’s silence is better the words if you catch my drift….. There’s a very good reason why they should be passed over…

  62. Why soak nuts, grains and seeds?
    1. To remove or reduce phytic acid.
    2. To remove or reduce tannins.
    3. To neutralize the enzyme inhibitors.
    4. To encourage the production of beneficial enzymes.
    5. To increase the amounts of vitamins, especially B vitamins.
    6. To break down gluten and make digestion easier.
    7. To make the proteins more readily available for absorption.
    8. To prevent mineral deficiencies and bone loss.
    9. To help neutralize toxins in the colon and keep the colon clean.
    10. To prevent many health diseases and conditions.

    “Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amount of many vitamins, especially B vitamins. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.”

    From: http://foodmatters.tv/articles-1/the-benefits-of-soaking-nuts-and-seeds

  63. My concern with all of the heart-, lipid profile-, and cholesterol-related benefits shown in nut-consumption studies is that it seems like they wouldn’t necessarily be transferrable to someone who’s already eating a mostly primal/paleo diet.

    If you take an average person with a mediocre to poor diet full of oxidized n-6 fats and other junk and introduce walnuts for example, the walnuts end up replacing something else from their diet and “balancing out” some of the junk, which will most likely improve the fatty-acid profile (and other metrics) of their overall diet.

    Here’s an extremely simplified example where we don’t even factor in the fact that it replaces something in your diet:

    Imagine I eat a diet that is 18 parts junk and 2 parts good. (I have a 2:18 junk-to-good ratio, meaning 10% of my diet is healthy.) If I add walnuts which are, say, 1 part junk and 1 part good, my overall diet becomes 19:3, which is a net benefit, bringing my percentage of healthy food up to 14%.

    But if I already have a good diet that’s 2 parts junk and 18 parts good (2:18 junk-to-good ratio, or 90% healthy) and add walnuts which are 1 part junk and 1 part good, then the result is a 3:19 junk-to-good ratio, bringing the percentage of healthy food down to 86%, which is worse than what I started with.

    If you factor in the fact that people have a certain caloric set point and that adding walnuts will actually tend to replace something in your current diet, the effect-size is even greater. A further confounding factor is that the average person has nutrient deficiencies and adding high-nutrient nuts may attenuate these and present as positive health outcomes that would not be transferrable to people without nutrient deficiencies.

    So, why are we taking these results at face-value? It seems like confirmation-bias is at play. Is there some reason why these are not valid concerns, especially with all the anecdotal evidence from the paleo community that nuts are some of the leading things that get in the way of people’s health-goals?

    These are the same kinds of mistakes you see made in the supplement industry all the time, so I just want to make sure we’re accounting for these kinds of confounding factors. For example, a magnesium supplement (ZMA) is commonly marketed to weight-lifters and bodybuilders as a Testosterone booster because of a study that showed that it increased Testosterone in magnesium-deficient high school football players, but it’s well-known that *excess* magnesium does NOT boost testosterone levels.

    Sure, I don’t think adding a handful of nuts a day will make anything *significantly* worse if you already have a good diet, but isn’t it entirely plausible that it *will* have a negative net effect on health?

    1. Tyler, you brought up an interesting issue.
      I just want to add to my previous post by saying that workers involved in harvesting and shelling Cashews, pay a heavy health and economic price. Purchasing fair trade Cashews would be one way to “give back”.

    2. Not sure why you call walnuts half good and half junk. It’s ALL good baby!

      And as far as blood work goes, I know my number are pretty darn good and I eat a lot of nuts.

      HDL 94, LDL 77, Triglycerides 54, VLDL 5 (scale of zero to 30 with low being the best. My TG to HDL ration is .5 (point five) and anything under 2 is considered very good.

      I know I’m just one person, but for me, nuts are obviously working well. I’m not sure I could get my numbers better. I’m kind of maxed out already. At a certain point you just say f*ck it, I’ll die when I die.

  64. I hear you saying overconsumption of nuts is bad. Can you elaborate? If on a primal fat burning course, weight gain should not be a concern right? I am pretty sure I eat more nuts than a lot of people now that I’m primal and haven’t noticed any obvious ill effects.

  65. Jed I agree w/ your comment: Macadamia nuts = Expensive! However, that’s nice device to control ones self from over consuming 🙂

  66. I try really hard not to over-consume nuts, but I have nuts pretty much every day, and so do my kids.
    I definitely bake with almond flour. I have finally perfected a basic bread recipe and banana muffins that the kids like. In an effort to keep them primal, I try to keep some compromise items like those around.
    We just try to stick to one serving of nuts a day. If you have a nut flour item, or almond butter, then you don’t get a handful of nuts for snack. Or visa versa.
    (Although honestly, on occasion we have 2 servings of nuts in a day, but we definitely stop there.)

  67. Hmmmmm. Nut butters. Definitely something I struggle with. I can, with great mindfulness, eat a little bit of nut butter off the end of the spoon. I can also, while not paying attention, eat half a jar of almond butter over the course of an afternoon.

  68. Mark,
    Some of your health/paleo/primal podcast colleagues have commented on the significant chance of mold and/or rancidity in nuts, especially Brazil nuts, cashews, and pistachios. Any thoughts?

  69. Here I thought cashews had tons of E and avoided eating them because of warfin levels. So almonds should be monitored and switch over to eating more pecans without the pie part.

  70. Somewhat of a taboo subject, but nuts, all of them, are the ONLY things that make me have a herpes breakout. So wish I could eat them. :'(

    1. Wow, I never knew that! I get the cold sore version (so did my mother), and have as long as I can remember (since I was a kid). But I went decades without an outbreak.

      The last 6 months though I feel like they come and go almost every 2 weeks. I know that I’ve been under a lot of stress, but I had no idea that diet could be a factor. I try to limit my nuts/ seeds to 2 TBSP a day, but now google tells me chocolate and wheat can be factors too.

      I’ve been changing my toothbrush, I don’t share toothpaste with my husband or kids, but maybe cutting down the stress, chocolate and nuts will do it?

    2. I know many folks that have outbreaks from nut intake. It is partly related to do with throwing off the amino acid levels (something to with arginine) and well l-lysine supplements can really help w/ herpes virus…. And all the more reason to eat primal meats w healthy amino acids….

  71. I love all nuts and they are a daily snack for me when I have the “munchies” and don’t want to eat something I shouldn’t . Pistachios in the shell work for me so I have to work at them and therefore eat them more slowly. I keep several types of nuts around and sometimes add some organic dried cranberries and make a trail mix and carry when I am out and about to avoid making unwise choices.

  72. Hmm nuts.
    Charlesworth here in Adelaide South Australia has a 3 nut mix of almonds, macadamias, and cashews. My problem is eating too many handfuls and then having a gut effect. So memo to self stop at one handful or not buy too often.

  73. Nuts are a great base for condiments and sauces. Mark did mention pesto(pine nuts, basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese). However, there are endless combinations of nuts, herbs and such that will turn a boring piece of protein like tilapia into a gourmet feast. Romesco, roasted red peppers, almonds, garlic, manchego cheese and a tin of anchovies with the olive oil. Mac nuts, shiso leaf and ume plum(awesome on calamari) Pistachio, mint leaves, and truffle oil(great with grilled eggplant). Mac nuts, Thai basil, lemongrass, Thai chili, fish sauce, lime juice(my personal favorite for seafood). Brazil nuts, coconut oil, cilantro and fire roasted Serrano chiles(I admit I have not tried that yet but it would be suitable for São Paulo wings). The list goes on. Nuts are are way more than a snack

  74. This is a great piece but a little confusing. I thought pretty much all nuts had zinc as a component and this doesn’t refelect that exactly.

  75. Cashews behave like nightshades and wheat for my skin, so I rarely eat them now, though I can tolerate a few without effect. A bigger load and my scalp dermatitis/psoriasis thingee erupts.

    1. Julia… It is likely that the cashews feed intestinal stuff u have. Just an idea — but consider doing a parasite cleanse and also most all things skin relate to needing aliver support… I learned a lot last year about this- and so when I read the symptoms u have w/ cashews – well there are 20+ strains of candida and I heard cashews feed them all….

  76. Not to suck-up to the author, but I love to toss a handful of pecans and some cinnamon into my chocolate Primal Fuel smoothie in the morning. Mmmmm.

  77. Any thoughts on whether it’s best to consume macs raw or dry roasted? I like them both ways but often the dry roasted look fresher. I am very happy to know there are low pesticide residues in non-organic macs because they are much cheaper — is the low pesticide residue due to the hard shell? I haven’t purchased them in ages because of the high cost of organic but will try some non-organic soon. Thoughts on sources in NY area?

  78. Pine mouth is no joke! I made my own pesto with pine nuts a few years ago and then spent the next few weeks hating life. I was so desperate to get that horrible taste out of my mouth! I started taking small sips of balsamic vinegar, hoping tangy would overwhelm bitter. No such luck. I avoid pine nuts like the plague now!

    A few almonds here and there are fine for me, but too many make my stomach rebel. But on the bright side, it keeps me away from almond butter! Nut butters are so dangerous to the waistline!

  79. I’m all about the pistachios. If I had one nut, that would be it.

    We have almonds, cashews and pecans with a lot of regularity too.

    Hazelnuts are also great and I totally agree with Mark on pine nuts and pesto.

    I’ve never been a huge fan of walnuts.

    Aren’t all of you thrilled to know my nut consumption preferences?

  80. Nuts mixed with seeds make a great grain free muesli. My own formula is equal parts by weight of mixed nuts, sultanas and sunflower seeds, with 1-2 tablespoons each of flax and chia seeds and half a cup of shredded coconut. Because of the carb issue I only have it a couple of times a week, but it makes a nice change for breakfast, much as I like my bacon and eggs.

  81. Sad to say that I am horribly allergic to all tree nuts! Also celiac – so this lifestyle is great. I try to use seeds and would be interested in hearing about which are the best. Typically eat pumpkin and sunflower seeds – are there others I can try? Thanks for helping the newbie!

  82. Thanks, mark, for the detailed information on nuts. It was very informative and helpful. It also cleared up a lot of confusion, except one for me. Is it necessary to soak all nuts? Or just some nuts? What about slow-roasting raw nuts instead, is that ok? Did our ancestors really soak nuts or just eat them from the shell as you suggest we do? Really interested in your answer to this. Thanks,

  83. trader joe’s rosemary marcona almonds are insane. if you have tried them, you know what i’m talking about. a bag is gone in a day if i buy them.

    besides those, i don’t eat nuts often. i do enjoy tiger nuts though!

  84. You think pine nuts are great in a pesto, but you won’t if you ha e the cricket pesto that an owner of Bog Cricket Farms made me last month at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference!

  85. Love almonds but they make my face break out. I am ok with macadamias. thank goodness they are expensive otherwise I would have a whole lot of them.

  86. I’m going to try a daily brazil nut as I have underactive thyroid.

    One quibble: the hyperlink on “selenium is hard to come by” links to the wrong page.

  87. I have only soaked almonds, and then eat with the skin off. I let my parents try some and they loved them.

    I’m curious how some of the other nuts taste after being soaked.

  88. What about acorns? They are in abundance in some areas and tasty but required a little preparation. Did any of you try them?

  89. Why can’t nuts form meal?
    My breakfast is a handful or two of nuts!

  90. So why should nuts only be consumed as a snack?
    My breakfast consists of two handful of pecan nuts- keeps me satiated for hours on end!
    .

  91. Thanks for this, Mark! Just added Brazil & Macademia nuts to my usual almond order. It’s a shame that there are at least a dozen places in a half mile radius from my house where I can get fast food, but nowhere in a dozen miles where I can find raw nuts. Eating healthy should NOT be such a challenge!

  92. So much information in this post! Nuts not only taste great, they’re incredibly good for you. I’ll have to bookmark this for later reference. Thanks so much for sharing.

  93. My favorite nut is the pecan. I like to coat them with butter and sriracha sauce and add a sprinkle of sea salt. Toast in a 350° oven for 15-20 minutes stirring very 5 minutes.

  94. Almonds saved my husbands life, literally!
    1 year ago he was diagnosed diabetic and I refused to let him take 1 smidgen of pharmaceutical crap! Spent 3 days immersed in books and changed his diet.
    Almonds were the crunch he needed to replace the chip habit and the quick snack to keep him fueled when we were not able to make him a meal. Within 90 days his blood sugar was normal, consistently between 70-80 and it has been there for 11 months! He is off blood pressure meds and cholesterol meds! Officially no longer diabetic, lost 40 lbs, is Paleo but not quite Primal but I am getting him there 🙂 I love almond butter now & then but I do get out the measuring spoon when I treat myself.

  95. Hi Mark,

    In summary, what 3 nuts would you recommend and in what form should we buy them. ie I live in Hong Kong so not easy from the website you suggested. Is there a brand etc you would recommend? Is roasted safer?

  96. Oh no, have I been eating too many nuts! Three times a week my favorite breakfast is Apple, hazelnuts(hand full),coconut,cinnamon ,honey,mulberries and splash of fresh farm cream.

  97. Sadly, I’m severely allergic to nuts. It wasn’t always this way. In fact, I used to be able to eat nuts, then about 2 years ago I started experience hives and itching in my mouth and throat, one type of nut after the other. I guess this means I have no need to worry about PUFAs or phytic acid in nuts, LOL

  98. Has anyone got any thought on bunya bunya nuts? I’m thinking they are very similar to chestnuts in terms of nutritional content.

  99. Thx for another insightful resource! Would like to just add that all candida cleanse protocols that I know of insist that case he’s and nuts are on the “do not eat” list – and glad this post and other readers noted that peanuts are not nuts… They are mold infested items.

  100. Anybody tell me how to get Macadamias out of their shell please?
    Had a lot of fun using pliers & hammers….. There must be an easier way 🙂

  101. Hey Mark. Excellent article on nuts! I’ve been making almond milk and have a question. I soak the almonds overnight and make the milk in the morning. I rinse the almonds thoroughly and then straight into the blender – should I be drying the nut first? What the deal with drying? Is it imperative that you dry the nuts? What happens if you don’t? I also eat the pulp left over after making the milk.
    Love the site and all your information – thanks

  102. Mark, Just thought I’d pass on a trick I learned from my dad. When cracking pistachios and you run into a nut that has a the slightest crack; just grab a half shell from the discard pile and use it like a lever.

    I find inserting the edge of the half shell into the crack and twisting, pops that sucker right in half no problem. No more torn fingernails trying to get them open or smashed nuts using an over sized nut cracker.

    This trick alone made pistachios one of my favorite snacks.

  103. I have found that the pistacios with the nanometer of space, open up over time. I just toss them back in the bag and eat the ones that are clearly ready to eat. Eventually they all get eaten!

  104. Hi,
    what about flax seed or sesame seed? Flax seed is very ALA rich.

  105. Mark Sisson,

    I appreciate this definitive guide to nuts. However, I love sunflower seeds. I searched the website for a definitive guide to seeds and cannot find one. What do you say? Can you help a primal BPer out and write one?

  106. Mark,

    Your mineral content per ounce for all the nuts and seeds you posted are much higher than what I see on nutritiondata.self.com.

    Could you provide your sources of obtaining the nutrition info please? I know that mineral content is dependent on various factors but it shouldn’t double or triple the amount of copper per ounce

  107. Where do you buy your macadamia nuts? I need a good resource plus do you buy the roasted salted or unsalted.

    Thank you so much for your time.

    All my best,
    Kukana

  108. What about nuts and arginine?susceptibility to feeding viruses in the body life herpes family