How much nuts is too much nuts?

by 1510 · June 14, 2013 4:33 PM

I'm always seeing warnings against eating too many nuts while on Paleo, since they are high in calories, addictive, and not a substitute for eat lean meats and fish. But I've always been terrible with the vague concept of moderation, so I'd love to get some numbers on this. Would 1/3 a cup per day be alright or is that already excessive?

Right now, I'm eating about one handful of raw nuts per day at breakfast, which is probably 1/3 cup, with some raw veggies. My reasoning for this breakfast is that I'm allergic to eggs, I've found that eating fruit or any kind of starchy veggie causes me to be anxious and unfocused and experience cravings all day long, and I wanted something a bit different from dinner and lunch, which is veggies and meat/fish.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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783 · October 05, 2010 1:36 PM

I have been thinking about this myself. When paleo people talk nuts you usually hear concerns about:

  • Omega6 ratio. I am not the expert here but perhaps there is a difference between grain fed sedentary animals (and certainly processed vegetable oils) and nuts that fall from a tree in a natural state. There are different types of cholesterol; could there be more harmful and even beneficial omega6 fats?

  • Calories. OK sure nuts are calorie dense and if trying to lose weight obviously counter-productive. 2 Tb almond butter has nearly 200 calories which is 1.5 cans of tuna! A few days ago made some almond butter from scratch. It took a lot of nuts to make a small amount of almond butter. If there is a jar of almond butter around I can eat a couple spoons, but if eating the whole nuts I would never eat that many. Nut butters are the paleo pastry, ie processed like white flour. Eating them whole or perhaps even better immediately after shelling it is much harder to overdo.

That said I think there are some benefits. As NastyBrutishandShort mentioned, there are some positive studies. Here is a quote from a recent one:

"Our findings confirm the results of epidemiological studies showing that nut consumption lowers coronary heart disease risk and support the inclusion of nuts in therapeutic dietary interventions for improving blood lipid levels and lipoproteins and for lowering coronary heart disease risk," write lead investigator Dr Joan Sabaté (Loma Linda University, CA) and colleagues in the May 11, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine."

Dr Al Sears is not often cited in the paleo scene but he has been recommending a paleo-like diet for many years (in addition to interval exercise) and he recommends them. Most nuts contain very high levels of magesium which seems to be a very important mineral and one of the few things that a lot of paleo people are willing to take as a supplement.

Native Americans ate hazelnuts, walnuts, hickory nuts, pine nuts, pecans; Aboriginal people ate macademias; almonds are native to the middle east but any gatherers would have feasted on them. Lastly, even when meat was plentiful most hunter-gatherers still ate a lot of food from plants and surely this would have included nuts. I think this is an interesting point. OK yes you can survive on meat alone and certainly couldn't on nuts alone, but still this suggests optimal is meat + plant foods including some nuts.

Bottom line a handful as snack or with meal seems like a good idea if you aren't trying to lose weight.

4813 · October 04, 2010 5:44 PM

I have the same problem, or at least similar. I know when I ate too much, but can't control it, I love macadamias too much! But if I have a very strong cravings for them, I would eat a lot over two-three days and then not have any for weeks. I think that can work as well. I am allergic to most other nuts, so it's not an issue to me.

3747 · October 04, 2010 3:16 PM

What kind of nuts?

10 · June 14, 2013 4:33 PM

I'm with you Sarah. I eat at least a cup a day between Almonds (.5 cup), Pecans (1/4 cup) and Walnuts (1/4 cup), with a break from each type of nut of about 2 days a week where I don't eat that type of nut at all. I mix them in with my veggie shake and just as a snack before I eat my berries. And I just had an MRI done and my inflammatory factors came in low, so the hell with it.

20469 · October 05, 2010 3:33 AM

I think the main problem is we don't know. So we are vague. My gut instinct is one handful a day is probably an OK amount but not much more. If it helps you be happier and satiated, there is also something to be said for that. On the flip side, for foods we are not sure of, it's probably better not to eat tons of it. I don't really trust epidemiological studies that much.

2762 · October 04, 2010 4:01 PM

No more than the amount that helps you attain your health goals. Unfortunately, vague is the order of the day when narrowing down general principles to specific quantities for a particular person.

I'd go with the Mark's Daily Apple link that Ben recommended and add that you should probably get unheated (not roasted, toasted, boiled, fried, etc.) to reduce the amount of rancid nut oils you consume. Better yet, get them as fresh as you can and shell them yourself.

118 · October 04, 2010 4:01 PM

Primal Toad also has some really good info about the nutritional breakdown of different types of nuts:

http://www.primaltoad.com/nuts-nutrition-1/ http://www.primaltoad.com/nuts-nutrition-2/

0 · June 14, 2013 at 11:09 AM

I'm eating almonds like they are going out of fashion nom nom too nice but screw it - they are full of good fats , I train hard and I need them )

0 · June 20, 2012 7:22 AM

Oh man.... I am screwed. I just read through the thread and I am eating waaaaaay too much nuts. I have made a "paleo trail mix" which consists of spanish almonds, sunflower seeds, dehydrated blueberries, dried cranberries, dried pears (not much) and dried cherries.... I must of had 10 handfuls today alone.... ugh!

630 · January 27, 2012 3:05 PM

Just "fit day"ed my nuts for the am an it says over 800 calories. Roughly 4 servings of 3T worth of mix cashews, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries.... then I had 6 brussel sprouts and 1/2 ground beef.

I'm tracking not for the caloric intake but rather the carbs. So I should be ok for the day.... calories just thru me.

so far here is my intake (so far) for the day..... Total 1,413 fats 111.1 carbs 60.0 protein 65.3

Food for the rest of the day is planned to be 2 fried eggs with 1/2 sautéed spinach, strawberries, and steak for dinner with salad.

Daily total 2,230 F 160.3 C 73.0 P 144

Actually that looks pretty good. Heading to a hot yoga session now.

1633 · October 05, 2010 at 12:51 PM

Nuts are a great snack or as a topping to other foods. I enjoyed a stir fry for dinner on Sunday night and added some sliced almonds. I personally do not eat nuts often. But, when one is struggling financially then they can be a good way to consume healthy calories.

I believe macadamias are the healthiest since they have by far the least amount of omega 6's at only .36 grams per serving. I LOVE macadamia butter.

I would say 1/3 C of nuts a day is ok but quality meat is definitely more optimal.

0 · October 04, 2010 6:27 PM

I'm addicted to macadamias! I eat about 100gr every day.

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