Nuts and seeds provide vitamins, minerals and quick energy without unhealthy fat or empty calories. Nuts are good for you—they are cholesterol-free and contain healthy, unsaturated fats which can help lower the risk of heart disease. Nuts also provide magnesium, which helps maintain bone structure; and chromium, which helps to ensure proper insulin function. They contain zinc for growth and wound healing, and manganese, which protects against free radicals. All nuts are a good source of vitamin E, an important antioxidant. Like all plant foods, they are high in fiber and phytochemicals—both of which help protect against cancer and other chronic diseases. Although the nutmeat or seed is protected by a shell or fruit, unless they are raised organically they are treated with synthetic chemicals just as other non-organic crops.
Pesticides in Nuts
Pesticides abound in the production of nuts. Some cautionary warnings on non-organic nuts:
Once harvested, nuts are often fumigated with methyl bromide, a toxic pesticide. While methyl bromide probably won’t cause any harm to you when you eat nuts or other treated crops, it is quite dangerous for the farm workers who use it. Also, it is such a large factor in ozone depletion that the countries around the world are phasing out its use.
Almonds – Many consumers want raw organic nuts and seeds. The USDA pasteurization laws require nut growers and processors to steam-heat raw almonds to pasteurize them. If you want raw organic almonds, you can still buy unpasteurized almonds in person, directly from the grower.
Cashews – Endosulfan, a pesticide that is banned in most countries but still legal in the U.S. and India, is used on non-organic cashew trees. It is highly toxic to humans and animals, and washes into waterways where it harms aquatic life. Endosulfan is a hazard to farm workers as well as people who live near farms where it is used. According to grinningplanet.com, it affects the central nervous system, and causes damage to kidneys, liver and testes. Organic cashews are grown without the use of any poisonous chemicals, including endosulfan.
Walnuts – Diazinon, well known for its turf and residential pest control applications, is also used on walnuts and is highly toxic to honey bees and birds.
Pistachios – Non-organic pistachios may be treated with phosmet, a Class II pesticide. Studies at Cornell University indicate chronic toxicity in rats from long term, small doses of phosmet. A two-year mouse study showed increased liver tumors and carcinoma, and the pesticide is considered a category C carcinogen. Safe, organic pistachios are not exposed to phosmet or any other synthetic chemicals. It is also used on apples and peaches.
Peanuts – It is particularly important that the peanuts you eat are organic and grown in New Mexico. Because they are a legume rather than a nut, they are vulnerable aflatoxin, a potent human carcinogen. Because of New Mexico’s arid climate – aflatoxin is a fungus and fungus’ grow best in humid climates – most organic peanuts are grown in New Mexico and are less likely to have aflatoxin than those grown in the humid southeast. Look for Valencia cultivars of peanuts. These cultivars were bred for New Mexico’s growing conditions, and they produce premium organic peanuts.
Warning: Corn is probably the commodity of greatest worldwide concern with regard to aflatoxins, because it is grown in climates that are likely to have perennial contamination with aflatoxins and corn is the staple food of many countries. However, procedures used in the processing of corn help to reduce contamination of the resulting food product. This is because although aflatoxin-contaminated corn and cottonseed meal in dairy rations have resulted in aflatoxin M1 contaminated milk and milk products, including non-fat dry milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Health Benefits of Peanuts
Some important health benefits of peanuts cited by Harvard School of Public Health include:
- According to a 2002 Harvard School of Public Health study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, consuming a half serving (one tablespoon) of peanut butter five or more times a week can reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 20%.
- Harvard research also showed that that substituting peanuts and nuts for saturated fat or refined carbohydrates can reduce risk of heart disease by 45 and 30 percent, respectively.
- Frank Hu, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and an author of the 2002 study, says, “Given the observed inverse association between nuts and risk of coronary heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes, it is advisable to recommend regular peanut butter and nut consumption as a replacement for refined grain products or red or processed meats, which would avoid increasing caloric intake.”
Various other studies, such as the Iowa Women’s Health Study and the Phyicians Heath Study, have also demonstrated peanut butter’s strong cardio-protective benefits.
And in a six month study conducted by Pennsylvania State University, subjects following a “peanut diet” lowered their total cholesterol by 11 percent and the bad LDL cholesterol by 14 percent. Triglycerides were also lowered but the good HDL cholesterol was maintained.
So overwhelming is the clinical evidence for these health benefits that, in 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affirmed a qualified health claim that peanuts and some other nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed regularly.
Peanuts are also a very good source of fiber, vitamin E, potassium, folate, zinc and magnesium. A Purdue University study showed that subjects with low magnesium levels in their blood improved to normal ranges when they consumed peanuts daily.
Peanuts also contain resveratrol (the substance found in red wine), flavonoids, and antioxidants, all of whose health benefits are increasingly being proven to help you prevent a wide variety of diseases.
Finally, in addition to containing over 75 percent good unsaturated fat, peanuts contain the highest amount of vegetable protein of any “nut” — vegetarians and vegans take note!
Safe Purveyors of Nuts
Reportedly safe purveyors of nuts include:
Jaffe Brothers, sells both certified organic and conventionally grown nuts, dried fruits and grains. Nuts can be purchased in-shell or shelled. They produce their own organic almond, cashew and peanut butters, which can be purchased as a nut butter sampler, three 1-pound jars for $21.70. (760) 749-1133; www.organicfruitsandnuts.com.
Premiere Organics, based in Berkeley, CA, specializes in nut butters. They are a CCOF certified processor and handler, and produce their own line of raw nut butters. Try the Walnut butter or the Pecan Butter—each are sold in an 8-ounce jar for $7.95. 1-866-237-8688
Trufflebert Farm in Oregon offers 25 pound bags of USDA-certified organic shelled hazelnuts for $7.50 per pound. (541) 686-6186, ask for Ken.
Living Tree Community sells almond butter, certified organic nuts, and dried fruits. www.livingtreecommunity.com.
Sun Ridge Farms sells conventionally grown as well as USDA-certified-organic almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts. Order on-line at www.sunridgefarms.com or use their store locator to find stores near your home.Marantha organic peanut butter is top selling brand of New Mexico nut butter recommended by SixWise.com.
Marantha peanut butter is a top selling New Mexico organic nut butter highly recommended by SixWise.