Are Nuts Fattening?—The Nutrient-to-Calorie Ratio*

When I mention that I eat nuts and seeds, people invariably say, “But nuts are fattening and high in cholesterol.” I respond to the cholesterol assertion by saying that cholesterol is only found in animal products. Nuts contain zero cholesterol! Here is a response to the alleged high-calorie content:

Considering only the caloric value of a food is meaningless. The food is being eaten (or should be eaten) for its nutritive value, namely, vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential fatty acids, and the energy it provides. The overweight person has become that way not from eating nutritious foods such as nuts but foods high in caloric content and low in everything else. Restricting caloric intake at the expense of vital nutrients is the last thing needed by anyone interested in improving nutrition. Instead, foods that yield high nutritive but low caloric value are required. The quantitative measure of this quality is the ratio of the nutritive value to the caloric value. Nuts and seeds then rank at the top of the list, along with non-starchy vegetables.

Nuts and seeds are very high in vitamins and minerals. Moreover, nuts and seeds—especially walnuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds—are high in essential fatty acids, which are lacking in most diets. It is possible that such a lack may play a role in birth defects, autism, learning disabilities, infertility, PMS, and other serious conditions. Of course, the valuable fat in nuts and seeds is damaged by heat, so they must be eaten raw. It should be mentioned that peanuts are not nuts. The protein in peanuts is not as complete as that in nuts and seeds, the mineral content of peanuts is more acid than that in nuts and seeds, and peanuts are usually either roasted or fried, which damages the fat and protein therein.

A definite advantage of nuts and seeds is the fact that they do not deteriorate quickly, require no preparation, and are easily portable. A small jar or plastic bag of nuts and seeds can be carried with you and be eaten instead of a meal when you are “on the go.” That way a nutritious ready-to-eat meal can displace a fast-food meal that is valueless or worse.

*From Robert Chuckrow, The Intelligent Dieter’s Guide, Rising Mist Publications, Briarcliff Manor, NY, 1997.

©Copyright 1997 by Robert Chuckrow

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