Aren’t nuts and seeds healthy? I don’t know about you but this is what I was always told. They can help you lose weight, protect you from cancer, and are very dense in vitamins and minerals. And, although, they’re very high in fat, it’s mostly the good unsaturated fat that can help fight heart disease and lower your cholesterol. With all of this going for nuts and seeds, it seems like we’d want to add more to our diets, right?
Maybe not. Like most things that make up a healthy diet, make sure to eat nuts and seeds in moderation. Too much of a good thing, in this case, can be bad. In this article, we’ll look at 5 effects of overindulging that range from uncomfortable to dangerous.
Many seeds have a natural defense against being digested. The nutrients we get from them can be very good for us but just like you, they’re trying to survive. So over time, they’ve developed compounds like phytic acid and tannin to make their chances of survival through an animal’s system relatively undigested giving it the best chance of sprouting. Unfortunately, this can make it somewhat uncomfortable for you as the eater.
In addition to their natural defense, seeds and nuts are loaded with fat and fiber, which can lead to diarrhea, bloating, and gas when eaten in excess. If you’re anything like me, these aren’t welcome feelings.
High Blood Pressure
How do you take your seeds and nuts? This is an important question. It can mean the difference between helping or hurting your blood pressure. For me, I have to be careful with the amount of salt I ingest. My blood pressure isn’t high but it’s on the high side of normal so adding extra salt to my diet isn’t a smart move.
Most seeds and nuts come salted to improve the taste. Let’s face it, most of us love a salty snack. But most of us are also eating too much salt. Salt, in conjunction with potassium, works to regulate fluid in our bodies. When that balance is off, it can drive up blood pressure.
If you’re going to continue to eat seeds and nuts the healthy way, it’s best to stick with the unsalted varieties. Or, if you’re very careful already with your salt intake, you can add a little salt to the unsalted package at home. That way, you’re sure to have less salt than a package that comes pre-salted. Another good tip is to add chili powder or Italian seasoning. You’ll thank me later. That way, you’ll get great taste and no added sodium.
There are quite a few studies that show eating nuts and seeds can help you lose weight. And this is true! But only in limited amounts and when balanced out by a healthy diet and exercise. Being so high in fat, nuts are a great snack while dieting because they’re filling but just like anything else, they should be eaten in moderation.
High fat also equals a high caloric load so if you eat too much, you can easily gain weight rather than lose.
If you’re going to add nuts to your diet, make sure you read the label for calories and serving sizes and keep this in mind throughout the day when planning other meals. Ultimately, reducing calories is the name of the game with most diets and a healthy snack like nuts is easy to forget.
Poor Nutrient Absorption
Phytic acid is found in plant seeds and can restrict your body’s ability to absorb nutrients in the body thus putting a strain on your digestive system. We’re unable to digest it so phytic acid is free to bind with minerals like zinc, magnesium, and iron. When this binding takes place, our bodies don’t absorb them the way we’d like. Studies suggest that we can absorb as much as 60% more of these minerals when phytic acid isn’t present in our system.
Lucky for us, the phytic acid doesn’t remove the minerals but it does prevent them from being absorbed during digestion. In other words, it won’t take away the magnesium you’ve got in your body but it will make it tougher to get the amount you need. It can also interfere with enzymes like pepsin and amylase that are used to break down foods in the gut during digestion.
Unbalances Omega-6 & Omega-3 Levels
Omega-6 and Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids but your body doesn’t have the enzymes to produce them therefore you must get them from your diet. A deficiency in these fatty acids can result in becoming sick. That’s why they’re labeled as “essential”.
Ideally, we should have a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 to stay healthy but the modern-day western diet is mostly high in omega-6 so staying balanced, is difficult. Omega-6 can be found in cooking oils, processed foods and you guessed it, nuts and seeds.
The typical American diet can have 10 to 25 times the necessary amount of omega-6. This can block our absorption of omega-3 as well as raise blood pressure and retain water.
Omega-3 is considered to be anti-inflammatory and omega-6 is considered pro-inflammatory so having a balance between the two is ideal.
Conclusion: Portion Control is Key
Moderation is key. On one hand, they’re very healthy in the proper portions but if you overindulge or eat them with added sodium, they can do more harm than good. Many of the varieties found in the snack aisle of the grocery store can be considered junk food. But at the same time, eating them unsalted can have many benefits.
How much is too much? Experts suggest no more than 1/3 cup per serving.
The best advice I can give you is to stop eating right out of the bag or container. Instead, measure out proper portions before having a snack.