Don’t be scared of eating nuts! (Well, unless you are allergic).

I’ve become aware of more of my clients being surprised when I tell them to eat more nuts, and the reaction I get.  ‘But aren’t they really calorific?!’ and I have begun to realise that people are scared of eating nuts and over the weekend I had an epiphany as to why.  The traffic light system that the government has implemented to help the general public make ‘better’ choices.  The reason I say ‘better’ is because the traffic light system doesn’t look at things which I think are important for health and making decisions about what you eat. 

The traffic light system only takes into consideration macronutrients which are fat, protein and carbohydrates that foods are made up of in varying degrees.  These are important to health and should be in the daily diet.  From what I have seen, the traffic light system only looks at two of the macronutrients; fats and carbohydrates (sugars), leaving out protein, and it also looks at salt.  Another thing this system doesn’t do is differentiate between table salt which is a synthetic copy of salt and bad for the body, and unrefined sea salt which is good for you and benefits the body because of its mineral content.  It also doesn’t take into consideration the micronutrients in foods which are far more important; the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Is it these in my opinion that the focus should be on because getting enough of these is crucial to good health.  It also looks at the percentage of calorie intake you need a day which worries people, and unless you are obese and need to be on a calorie-controlled diet to quickly shift weight, counting calories does you no good and can make you deficient in essential nutrients.  We don’t metabolise food in the way calories are calculated and they don’t take into consideration nutritionally nil calories vs nutrient-dense calories.

So the reason that I have picked nuts, and in particularly pecans, with the traffic light system, is because at the weekend I was looking at a packet of plain pecans and actually paid attention to what was written on it.  And got very angry.  For starters, it said they are great sprinkled over ice-cream with maple syrup, which is true and sends out HUGE CALORIE INTAKE signals immediately.  However.  They are also great on salads, in smoothies, with plain full-fat yoghurt and fruit, or on their own. Which was not mentioned.   Another thing that upset me is that they had 2 red boxes (meaning bad) on the front for fat and saturated fat.  This will send people running down the low-fat aisle for a low -fat (but full of sugar and god knows what else) alternatives.  And this makes me a mixture of angry and sad.  Angry because this is not good nutrition advice and no wonder that obesity and poor health is such an epidemic in this country, and sad because it means people make food decisions that they think are good and better for them when they aren’t.  I also then looked at the traffic light system on a pot of ice-cream and got rage as it only had one red box (saturated fat), two yellow (fat and sugars) and one green (salt).  The nuts had two red (fats and saturated fats) and two green (salt and sugars) so people will probably go for the ice-cream thinking it’s a better choice because it only had one red. The ice cream is basically nutritionally void and full of sugar, whilst the nuts are FULL of essential nutrients.

The nuts were also whole and unprocessed other than being shelled whilst the milk, cream and fruit in the strawberry, raspberry and rhubarb in the ice-cream will have gone through god knows how many processes and had stabilisers added to it.

The table below shows some of what 100g (which is actually a challenge to eat without feeling very sick) of pecans contain (taken from nutritionavalue.org which has taken its info from the USDA nutritional Nutrient database):

Nutrients – 100g Pecans Amount – g Daily value (the minimum we need to be healthy)
Total Fat 71.97g 111%
Saturated Fatty Acids (the ‘bad’ fat) 6.180g 31%
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (the good fat) 40.801g Doesn’t say
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (the good fat) 21.614g Doesn’t say
B1 (thiamine) 1.167mg 6%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 0.863mg 9%
B1 (Thiamin) 0.660mg 44%
B6 (Pyridoxine) 0.210mg 10%
Vitamin E 1.40mg 5%
Vitamin K 3.5mcg 4%
Calcium 70mg 7%
Copper 1.200mg 60%
Iron 2.53 mg 14%
Magnesium 121mg 30%
Manganese 4.500mg 225%
Zinc 4.53mg 30%

 

On a fat note, we have been misfed information about fat and to be scared of it especially with saturated fat.  Our cell walls, brain, and hormones are made from fat.  We need saturated fat to be healthy and to function. We also make 70-80% of our cholesterol regardless of what we eat because it’s so vital. It’s the quality and quantity that impact on us and can be negative, rather than it being something bad to be avoided at all cost.  And as you can see from the above, the good fats far outweigh the bad, and the nuts are also are FULL of other important nutrients. Having a small handful of plain, unsalted, unroasted nuts every day will actually be of huge benefit to your body, so please, please PLEASE, don’t be scared of nuts, the fat and calorie content.  Eat them in moderation and enjoy.  (Also eat ice-cream in moderation and enjoy.  Just be aware of what you are eating!).

I have also written before on fat and calories, so click on the word to go to that blog.

If you have any nutrition queries and want some help and advice, book in so I can help you.  In person in London or over the phone.

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