It is the holidays, a time that people traditionally have nuts around. It was always that way when I was a kid. But, as an adult, I became a serious nut-eater, and I can honestly say that I eat nuts every day. I consider them a primordial food for human beings, and the research shows that they are very health-promoting and disease-preventing.

Nutritionally, nuts have some outstanding attributes, and I would like to discuss a few:

Brazil nutss are the highest source of selenium on the planet, providing more than any other food and by a wide margin. There is so much selenium in brazil nuts that it is theoretically possible to get selenium poisoning from them. Yet, I have never seen reported a single case of clinical selenosis from by eating brazil nuts. And it leads me to believe the form that the selenium occurs in brazil nuts just isn’t very toxic. We’re advised not to eat more than 2 or 3 a day because of the high selenium content, and I generally stick to that. But, a good batch of brazil nuts is pretty tempting, it's easy to keep going. But, I’ll tell you a secret: like most nuts, brazil nuts are very high in oil, which can go rancid. So, when I eat brazil nuts, I bite them in half first and before chomping any further, I look at the color of the flesh inside. If it’s white, I know it’s a fresh nut. If it’s brown, I know it’s rancid, and so I spit it out. It’s a very reliable screening process. Brazil nuts have been shown to be cardio-protective, and here’s another interesting thing: they are one of very few wild foods that are marketed commercially. Yes, with brazil nuts, you are eating a wild food. 

Pecans are one of the highest sources of zinc, and they are very digestible. And the great Dr. Walter Pierpaoli says that the decline in zinc nutrition plays a major role in causing the decrepitude of old age. Pecans are also high in monounsaturated fat and loaded with polyphenols, much like olive oil, and even though raw pecans have more to offer than olive oil, nutritionally and otherwise, olive oil gets far more attention and praise. And don’t get me wrong: I think there is a place for extra virgin olive oil in a healthy diet. But, if I had to say which is better, it’s the pecans. Pecans become available in November, and you should buy a bunch then and keep them in the freezer. The really dark shelled pecans that you commonly see in supermarkets and chain stores are old and oxidized, and they may even be rancid. A fresh pecan is more blond-colored than brown. So, buy new-crop, light-colored shelled pecans in the fall, and ideally, you should get them directly from growers or from a distributor who accesses growers. Pecans are a wonderful food, but they need to be fresh.

Almonds are very high in calcium and magnesium, the two “macro” minerals along with potassium. They are also very high in Vitamin E, including the crucial gamma tocopherol form of it. Almonds have the advantage of keeping better than other nuts because the skin of the almond “hermetically” seals it preventing oxidation and rancidity. It’s not fool-proof, and you should definitely keep them refrigerated. But, it’s definitely easier to keep almonds around for a long time than other nuts, and you don’t have to freeze almonds. Refrigeration is enough. With pecans, I would not settle for refrigerating them; I would definitely freeze them, and I do. And keep in mind that they don’t actually freeze because their oil requires a lower temperature to freeze than your freezer gets. So, you can actually eat pecans right out of the freezer. But, almonds are often called the king of nuts because they keep so well and so long, and they are nutritionally a powerhouse. 

Walnuts are uniquely high in the plant form of omega 3, which is alpha linolenic acid. And the body can convert it into EPA and DHA to some extent, although it’s limited. But, ALA has beneficial effects of its own, and walnuts have a vast array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. The common walnut is often referred to as English walnuts but it would be better to call them Persian walnuts because that’s where they come from. Walnuts have the distinction of being one of the oldest human foods, and they are believed to have changed very little over the last million years. And there has been a lot of research on walnuts demonstrating that they have a cardio-protective effect; they help to prevent heart disease. Some people find the taste of walnuts to be strong, but there is an easy way to overcome that and make them taste lighter: just add a few raisins to them.  

Pistachio nuts are also from Iran and Western Asia, and Iran still grows the best pistachio nuts in the world, as far as I’m concerned. Here in the U.S. we only get the California pistachios, which aren’t bad, but unfortunately, they are offered almost exclusively roasted and salted. And they don’t need roasting or salting. A raw pistachio has a taste that is similar to avocado except that it’s richer and more concentrated. But, when fresh they are exquisitely delicious, and they require no processing whatsoever. Again: there is a lot of clinical evidence of cardio-protection from pistachios.

Macadamias are exotically and tropically delicious and are very high in monounsaturated fat- like olive oil. And I would say the same thing that you should always eat them raw and unsalted. They are very expensive, which is a deterrent. But, I hope that occasionally you will treat yourself to some raw macadamias because they have such a distinct flavor that is very satisfying.

Are nuts going to make you fat? Well, they haven’t made me fat. I am 5’6 and I weigh 135 pounds, the same weight I weighed in high school, and I am 69 years old. I don’t know what my body fat composition is, but I’m sure it’s low, in the single digits. And I eat raw nuts every day. And when I say every day, I mean that the only days that I don’t eat raw nuts are days that I happen to be fasting.

So, I am a great believer in the nutritional and health benefits of nuts, and it’s because they have delivered great nutrition and health benefits to me over the years and decades. And I shall eat them for the rest of my life until I die.