The following is an "answer" I posted on another thread, but I'm reposting it as a question because a) No one's noticing it on the other thread ( "Help! Can’t stop picking on nuts / nut butters!" ) and b) it seems like a relatively new concept among paleohackers. Here it is:
I think we are craving nuts so strongly because they provide something vital that we don't get from other things. I say this because I notice that if I eat a moderate amount of nuts/seeds in a meal, along with some proteolytic fermented foods to aid in digestion, I feel quite well, and that the nuts have "hit the spot," a spot that I can't imagine any other food hitting.
Avocados were an okay replacement for a while, but after a while, it was clear that they weren't satisfying me as much as nuts did, nor providing as much energy--provided I don't eat so many nuts that it hits my digestive system like a brick.
What do nuts provide that other foods do not? Off the top of my head, all I can think of are magnesium and a particular amino acid profile that nourishes our bodies in a unique way, perhaps providing precursors to important neurotransmitters and hormones. If I find out anything about that I'll post a comment to this "answer." (The below points 1-4)
Yes, nuts can be addicting, but in my experience there are some ways to minimize that effect without forming an abstinence/binging relationship. I have found that adding raw, fermented foods to meals (especially with nuts) aids in both digestion and enhancing satiation signals. Also, eating them slowly helps.
Are nuts bad? I don't think so. Are they a food that some find difficult to form a productive relationship with? That's what I think. I know of many people with strong digestive systems that have no problems eating nuts normally and with moderation, not requiring any amount of discipline to stop themselves. It seems to me that it is those people with compromised digestive systems (a large percentage of us paleohackers, no?) that have trouble with nuts and nut cravings. Perhaps the key here is not to avoid such an ubiquitous food at the risk of slight yet perpetual malnourishment (which has been my experience), but to find ways of safely and productively incorporating this food by enhancing our approach and digestion of said food.
1.) Almonds are unusually high in glutamic acid (L-Glutamine), which is used by the body in greater amounts when it is under stress. Of course, we are familiar with L-glutamine as a supplement, and its ability to curb "carb cravings" as well as reduce stress. I will posit that although we may temporarily benefit from this supplementation, we would do better not confusing our body with out-of-the-blue doses of vitamins, but instead getting our L-glutamine from a natural source, along with all the other amino acids and vitamins that it's "supposed" to come with.
2.) The second most predominant amino acid in almonds is l-arginine. Wikipedia says that the plant foods highest in arginine are: wheat germ and flour, buckwheat, granola, oatmeal, peanuts, nuts (coconut, pecans, cashews, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pinenuts), seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), chick peas, cooked soybeans, Phalaris canariensis (canaryseed or ALPISTE). I dunno about you guys, but this is essentially a list of the "non-paleo" foods that I crave the most. L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide and has been found to stimulate secretion of growth hormone.
3.) Stated before, I'm sure, but the calcium and magnesium (and I'm sure other vitamins and minerals) are going to have a nourishing effect on the nervous system, possibly in a way that supplementing with these separate components would not. What about the phytic acid, you say? All I have to say is that when I crave nuts, I crave roasted nuts over raw ones. (Roasting nuts breaks down much of the phytate.)
4.) High in MUFAs?
Hi. I just saw that you are 23 and underweight. Nuts are super calorie dense, so my guess is that you are just craving the calories. I also find it odd that you are fine with avocado but find nuts inflammatory and yet are not allergic to them. Seems strange that is all. I dance in ballet and I will be completely honest with you- the only men that I have who claim to be underweight beyond adolescence are men with eating disorders. Especially if you get cravings at night, you are probably restricting calories too much during the day time.
I like nuts think they're a smart inclusion to one's diet, assuming no allergies.
Just to add a bit of personal experience in relation to nuts and meat, if it's useful.
The short version is: my cravings for nuts completely disappeared when I started eating red meat and seed mix, with the rest of my diet remaining reasonably consistent.
When I started paleo 'properly' a few months ago, I was a very strict meat eater on moral grounds, only eating red meat once or twice a month.
At that time, I ate a lot of nuts - consistently 100-200g a day of cashews and/or almonds, and no seeds.
I became concerned that eating meat was more important than I gave it credit for, and made an effort to get more red meat and chicken in my diet. I started eating red meat at least once a week, and also at that time started eating seed mix (sunflower, pumpkin, linseed, sesame).
Since doing that, I don't feel like eating nuts anywhere near as much, and now eat maybe ~50-100g every few days.
The rest of my diet remained reasonably consistent.
Personally the only thing I've noticed in my nutrient tracking lacking without the incorporation of nuts is vitamin E. While egg yolks contain vitamin E, they don't pack as much in as an ounce of almonds. Just my two cents. :)
I do not think that others are intentionally ignoring you. Rather, I think that this is a not a novel idea. A lot of people here believe that cravings tend to stem from some sort of deficiency or need for a certain nutrient.
Nuts are high in magnesium, and magnesium is often lacking in other places in a paleo diet- so that could be it. Nuts are very anti-inflammatory (due in part to the MUFA, in part vitamin, but also to the nutrient composition), so they may be helpful in easing any internal inflammation. Nuts taste good. When you are an efficient fat burring machine, nuts just hit the spot, as they tend to lower the glycemic impact of meal and provide ample MUFA, which is easy to burn for energy when you are metabolically flexible (as MUFA is the primary constituent of our own body fat stores).
Let me just basically say that nuts and seeds are a fundamental part of the human diet. I think you get nothing but good things when you incorporate at least a couple handfuls into your daily regimen. I'm not gonna break them down...eat a variety...eat em often....and be healthy. I am not concerned about O6 or any other micro breakdown unless you are basically living on just nuts (would be an interesting experiment).
What should concern you is how fresh they are and how you store them though. Other than that THEY ARE AWESOME!
May be you are craving nuts for the Oleic Acid (monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid c18:1).
I notice you mention you do not eat much red meat, which is also high in oleic acid.
So may be your diet is deficient in oleic acid (by not eating a lot of red meat) and you crave another source of oleic acid?
...something to think about