Friday, August 2, 2013

Food Reward Friday

This week's lucky winner... salted nuts!!

Now before anyone gets in a tiff, let me say that I think salted nuts are a fairly healthy food.  After my first few FRF posts, I received several requests from people asking me to write about foods that aren't so extreme-- foods that many of us have on hand, may even consider to be healthy, but are nevertheless palatable and rewarding enough that they lead to overeating sometimes.  It's easy to laugh at monstrous pizzas with fried shrimp and mayo on them, but perhaps it's not as enlightening as turning the spotlight on our own kitchens.

Salted nuts are one of those healthy foods that people often tell me they overeat.  Here's what WHS reader Tuck had to say recently:
My suggestion [for FRF]: Salted pistachios.

I can eat a bag of these things with no problem.  For me they're worse than potato chips.  My wife recently got a bag of unsalted pistachios by mistake.  They're barely, well, palatable.  I eat a few and I've got no interest in any more.

For me these are now on a list of indulgences with ice cream and vegetable-oil fried French fries.
Personally, I'll eat salted nuts when I'm out, but I don't keep them around the house.  I eat a lot of unsalted roasted almonds, and I'll eat them exactly to the point where my appetite is gone, at which point I have no desire to eat any more.  If they're salted or flavored, I'll keep eating them past satiety, and with nuts it's easy to consume a lot of extra calories this way.  Salt is one of the key additives that food manufacturers use to mask off flavors and increase food palatability and reward-- but you don't have to be Frito-Lay to take advantage of this phenomenon.

Nuts are healthy... as long as you don't overeat them.


Robert said...

My Dad often eats half a can of salted nuts after work and then wonders why he's not losing weight. I tell him it's the half can. He says "But they're healthy." Yay, health halos. Great choice for FRF. Thanks, Dr. Guyenet.

SamAbroad said...

What do you think about the fatty acid balance implications? I know epidemiology seems to hint that even nuts high in omega 6 are healthy, but then we don't know what they are displacing in the diet.

Nuts of course come with a decent complement of vitamin E.

Do you think it would be OK to go over the fabled 4% PUFA barrier as espoused by Bill Lands, if the source of that PUFA was whole and nutritious foods?

gooley said...

Robertson Davies (Canadian novelist, then a newspaper editor and columnist) had a running gag about The Salted Nut Addiction back in 1948 in which he used past and then-current language associated with alcohol abuse. Some things don't change.

puisor said...

Indeed, salted nuts are addictive. Another way to avoid over consumption would be to buy shelled nuts.

Is there a difference between unsalted roasted/non-roasted nuts from a nutritional point of view?

Sammi said...

I do find myself over indulging on salted nuts when they are brought into the house. But honey roasted salted nuts bring it to an entirely different level.

jld said...

"vegetable-oil fried French fries."

Anathema! Anathema!
The ONLY worthwhile french fries are fried in HORSE FAT, extremely difficult to find...

Charlie Currie said...

Like you, I only eat nuts when I'm out, but I never feel well afterwards. I think the problem is, as soon as you crack a nut open, it starts to mold and turn rancid (oxidize?). Does roasting them stop this? Or does the seed oil they roast them in only make it worse? What about dry-roasted nuts?

I've tried almonds that were roasted in the shell...pretty good, and having to finish cracking and removing the shell slows down, and at least in my case, reduced consumption. But, I still felt off afterwards.

It's too bad, because salted nuts, of any variety, are really good.

Popcorn is my Achilles' heel...if it's there, I eat it...weak.


Unknown said...

I think you can eat as many nuts as you want, as long as you buy them raw and in the shell. I don't eat that many when I have to shell them myself. salted nuts are a processed food imo.

Puddleg said...

@ SamAbroad, case in point
"Conclusions This study provides evidence of protection against early AMD from regularly eating fish, greater consumption of ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and low intakes of foods rich in linoleic acid. Regular consumption of nuts may also reduce AMD risk. Joint effects from multiple factors are suggested."

jewiuqas said...

Nuts, roasted or raw, are loaded with phytic acid. I usually eat them between meals. (2 hours distance) There is no food higher in phytates than just nuts. As to fatty acid composition I would suggest peanuts or pecan nuts as the healthiest because the low PUFA ratio.

Moldy Salami said...

Hey Stephan,

what do you think of carbonated mineral water (Perrier)? is this something to avoid even though it has no calories? I love it but could this make me eat more at the next meal? I use the non-flavored (not the lemon/grapefruit ones)


Galina L. said...

I don't keep any nuts at home because they would be calling my name. A lot depends on which taste is more familiar since a childhood. In my case, I can stop eating salted nuts , but raw and unflavored ones are the problem. I can , probably, have salted nuts at home, but I really don't like it with the exception of roasted sunflower seeds. I love soaked walnuts more than roasted ones because they remind me a lot very fresh ones from the shell undried I ate as a child. Tate gets developed often early in life.

For an outsider many things sold in US taste too strong - too much sugar, salt, flavorings. For the people who are used to it, such food is very palatable, and nuts in its natural state taste like nothing.

jewiuqas said...

Just another thought. I realize that most nuts are very high in certain minerals such as magnesium, copper and manganese. Consequently they could be considered as a natural source of these minerals. I wonder to what extent the uptake of these nutrients is counteracted by the presence of phytic acid. Could you, Stephan, or someone else provide some estimate as to this point. Supposing one eats nuts on their own, between meals, will it result in a positive balance of these three minerals? Is there any trick to buffer the chelating effect of PA, for example eating some fruits high in vitamin C with the nuts?

stantongs7 said...

Salted nuts for me,is a great snack.I work out side in all types of weather,and I think that the salt from the nuts is good for me.I also have a health blog called Maintain the weight loss basics.My URL is Have a look at sometime if you want.Maybe you can give me some tips.

Unknown said...

Once in a blue moon I get selective amnesia, where I forget my past promises to never overeat on cashews or almonds again. While in this state, I ask myself why nutritionists glorify something that torments me so!

I thank you so much for articulating the evil in nuts. It's not true health if it's too much :)

Jane said...

May I offer a reply? Yes nuts are very high in Mg, Cu and Mn, and the literature suggests phytic acid does not inhibit their absorption as much as it does Fe, Zn and Ca. There are papers showing it can actually improve Cu absorption.

Binding is pH dependent, which means if your colon is acid as it's supposed to be (friendly gut bacteria like it acid, and make it so by fermenting fibre), the metals may fall off the phytic acid and be absorbed.

Anonymous said...

I'm seriously rethinking salty *anything* (but especially nuts, as those are one of my favorites) given the research that indicates it may be a cause in the spike of autoimmune disorders. My kids aren't happy about it, though.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating you should mention that. On Sunday I was sitting in a bar and must have eaten about 200 salted peanuts together with two low-carb beers. How pitiful! (Yes, I see the irony there)

But then I came home and skipped dinner. Deliberately.

I call for balance. PREDIMED strongly suggests that multiple servings of mixed nuts reduces stroke risk by about 30%, in a randomized trial design. Every day I eat a blend of 7-8 nuts/seeds in my breakfast, together with almond milk. Vegans thrive on nuts. Other than legumes, it is hard to find a better source of protein if you are a vegan.

Of course salt-drenching the nut will lead to overconsumption, as my n of 1 experiment handily demonstrated. The nuts I consume at home are raw, untoasted and unsalted. I premix them in a large container and then grind them up to eat. Nuts are very healthy; salted nuts consumed in excess are not. And snacking between meals is foolish. It leads to obesity.

devouringone3 said...

Raw nuts are BY FAR the least obesogenic food I know and eat.

Even just apples I consider are better at making visceral reserves for winter (caloric quickness and ease of absorption).

Boiled potatoes (or starch) were about 3-5 times less obesogenic for me (2 pounds of crabapples vs. 5-10 pounds of boiled SWEET potato a day; maintaining me at 160 pounds for two weeks), but also robbed me of my wake hours energy, sleep and made me feel bad: slow, tired, acidic, slightly nauseous, yet empty, unstoppably craving for something unattainable. The feeling was in polar opposition to the angelic lightness, rapid satiety, mental clarity and nighttime recovery provided by fruit (apples here).

Back to RAW, UNSALTED, NATURAL (I can't stress it enough) nuts, I just spent two week eating just that, 200 to 300 grams of sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts, as a “soup” (with water in a bowl using a spoon), and though it called for initial adaptation, I ended up feeling formidable, sporty and hydrated. Noticeably fuller and energetic than with just fruit.

I really felt fat though, or really thought I was, that was until I realized I had gone down from 160 to 145 pounds during those two weeks. My jaw dropped. Though I used to fast a lot experimentally, and tried down to lettuce diets (my usual two weeks) to drop below that weight a few times, never was it as hunger-free, and forgetting-to-eat comfortable.

Hence Raw Nuts (and large oleaginous Seeds) are by far the easiest route BMI 18.

Salt first (a monumental hunger driver), with close second even the pseudo-healthy cooking methods, for me are the strongest vectors of obesity, and will never be conducive to true health.

Those Food Reward Friday joke examples are fun, but I think nobody should eat them.

You can't eat them and not be corrupted by them, bodily but also cognitively.