Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Last year everyone was talking about how good nuts are for diabetes. This year they’re just as good, and new research shows it. If you aren’t eating lots of nuts yet, I’m going to try to get you started.

Nuts are great because they are seeds and fruit combined. They are literally full of life. According to Wikipedia, while fruit seeds are separate from the fruit itself, in nuts (according to the botanical definition of the term), the seeds and fruit (which the seed will use to grow if planted) are bound up together, making them among the most nutritious foods on the planet.

New research from Louisiana State University found that people who regularly eat tree nuts — including almonds, macadamias, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews — have lower risks for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Their C-reactive protein (a major marker of inflammation) levels were lower. Their HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels were higher.

According to The Huffington Post, the study was funded by the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation. Study results often show what the funders wanted them to show, but I tend to believe this one. It appeared in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition and was based on analyzing data from NHANES, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the gold standard for this kind of study in the US.

This research confirms dozens of other studies. As Web Editor Diane Fennell wrote in 2011, “Nuts are well known for their nutritional benefits, including their high levels of heart-healthy fats, protein, antioxidants…, plant sterols (natural substances found in plants that can help lower cholesterol), fiber, and minerals.”

Nutritionist Amy Campbell explained in this article that nuts are good because they have high levels of healthy unsaturated fats, which helps lower levels of LDL “bad cholesterol.”

About pecans, she wrote, “Pecans are a good source of several minerals, including potassium, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, zinc, and iron, as well as the B vitamins.” Other nuts are too.

Unfortunately, some people are allergic to nuts, and those allergies can be severe, even fatal. If you have questions about nut allergies, see here.

Questions About Nuts
• Aren’t they too expensive? On the Raw Food Talk discussion group, a reader posted that prices for organic almonds, walnuts, and cashews ran from $13 to $16 per pound. “Just a pound!!!,” he wrote (exclamation points his.) “I eat a pound in two days.”

Readers commented on several ways to reduce costs, including buying in bulk, buying bags of broken pieces, or buying larger quantities of nuts and freezing them in sealed bags. Some suggested buying from farmers directly. Also, if you shop around, you may find that certain nuts are cheaper than others at different times of year.

• Other sites point out that you can get benefits very similar to nuts by eating seeds, like pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower seeds. If you look at the nutritional content of seeds and nuts on a site like this one, you’ll see that nuts and seeds are very similar.

• What about nut and seed butters? Are they as good as the whole nuts/seeds? People seem to disagree about this. This link takes you to a negative view on butters.

I think nut butters or seed butters are great foods. They taste good and can be added to fruits or bread and used in cooking. But they are processed, some more than others. Most likely eating whole nuts or seeds might be more nutritious, although you’ll have to check the labels.

• What about peanuts? You may know they aren’t really nuts; they’re legumes. But as I wrote here, legumes are great for you, too. Peanuts are also considered to be seeds. I don’t really see much difference with between peanuts and tree nuts.

• One thing to note: Some nuts and nut butters are roasted, salted, and processed in other ways. Some believe that raw nuts are far better than roasted nuts, which are what is mostly available in stores.

Holistic health advocate Jared Six wrote,

When you take something like almonds and you roast them at 350 degrees and then you dip them in salt, you have taken one of the healthiest foods on the planet and reduced it to a junk food!

Perhaps Six is overstating the case, but there may be something to this. To me, eating nuts is like taking in pure life force, so it might be best to eat them raw (raw butter is still raw to me.)

In promoting raw seeds and nuts, Six wrote,

Some seeds are so tough and resilient that you could literally take a hand full of them and throw them off the top of a skyscraper to the concrete road below, then run over them with a school bus, and then sweep them up and throw them off a bridge into a river below. When they hit the water they will simply float to the next shore and sprout and grow once they get there!

Do you want some of that energy in your body? I do. So are you eating nuts yet?

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Comments
  1. One of the best things for my diabetes I have done is buy a Vitamix machine. I have increased my vegetable and fruit consumption greatly since getting it. Which has also allowed my meat consumption to decrease greatly too. Weight comes down, cholesterol is better. Can’t say enough good stuff. But the main point here is you can make homemade nut butters in this machine which are much better than the processed kind from the store. See vitamix.com

    Posted by Valerie |
  2. Calories! Nuts have a lot of calories! Diabetics are supposed to keep weight down and adding a high calorie food like nuts as a major part of one’s diet seems very counter-productive.

    Posted by Pat Weiser |
  3. I have been on an alternitive med diet called the alkaline/acid diet which advocates almonds and seeds! I have learned to use them to control the spikes I used to get after meals high in starches and carbs. I use 8 (1/3 serving) almonds after breakfast and dinner to help prevent spikes in my BGlucose! Works wonders just adding a few nuts or pumpkin,seseme seeds etc.
    Peanut bueetr (natural) is also good but my diet does not reccomend it as peanuts are acid forming when consumed! To each his own though. I just know how nuts helps me. Insidently, my last A1C was 5.8 and my colest. was 145 with the ldl being well below limits! The A1c was 7.1 in Nov. 2011 when I started!

    Posted by Dan Kashefska |
  4. Pat, the emphasis on “keeping weight down” by reducing calories is, I think, very wrong. Weight gained by eating starches and sugars, or by not exercising is bad. Nuts and seeds are good. But you do need to move your body as well, not sit watching TV and gulping peanuts.

    Posted by David Spero RN |
  5. I love nuts of almost any kind and ate them all the time until a few months ago when I had a super painful episode of diverticulitis after eating—well, more than a few pecans. I have been told to eat no nuts or seeds by my doctor so I quit. Now I can’t even eat popcorn without suffering. Diverticulitis could lead to hospitilization and/or surgery. So with such serious consequenquenses of eating nuts or seeds, what am I to do? I eat some peanut butter and been thinking about trying Nutella. I know these are processed so would they help me with my Type 2 diabetes?

    Posted by Linda Martin |
  6. I always ate nuts & seeds as part of my snacks and on my morning cereal.
    My Dr. suggested eating a handful after my lunch to help reduce my postprandial spike and help my early afternoon energy levels and it worked for me. Most evenings I eat some nuts to help with BG levels at night.
    I do eat raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.

    Posted by sunburst |
  7. Linda, Nutella is quite high in sugar. Probably better to increase intake of peanut butter or other nut butters — but many commercial butters have a lot of sugar added, too. Check labels carefully.

    Posted by David Spero RN |

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Nutrition & Meal Planning
Brain Training: How You Can Learn to Like Healthy Foods (09/08/14)
Low-Carb Diet Benefits Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Health, Studies Show (09/03/14)
Nutrition for Neuropathy (09/02/14)
Foods Gone Bad: How to Know If Your Food Is Safe to Eat (08/08/14)

 

 

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