Invaluable foods since the dawn of time is the sentence that leads off the chapter on Nuts in Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants, published in 2008 by the National Geographic Society. We noted in our book review posted seven years ago, that this nearly 400 page illustrated guide is a worthy addition to just about anyone’s collection of books. It’s a go-to reference book for this good food lover.
Edible refers to nuts, which first appeared at the end of the Cretaceous period when the dinosaurs were in decline, as Brain Food and justifies this designation convincingly:
65.5 million years ago, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, all rich in oil and omega 6 essential fatty acids (EFAs), were among the emerging flowering and seed-bearing plants. A diet that combined the omega-6 EFAs of nuts with the omega-3 group of EFAs in seafood, in the vital ratio of 1:1, enabled new placental animals to develop. The ideal environment for the new species of mammals to maintain brain size (emphasis added) while growing larger was where land and water were in close proximity.
Nearly every morning, especially in winter, cooking up a bowlful of organic oats is a start to the day for this mindful eater, and when they are in season, local strawberries and rhubarb are cooked into my oatmeal. A recipe for Five Minute Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal was shared a few years ago. But always, a handful of walnuts or almonds or hazelnuts (also known as filberts) are sprinkled on top.
Does it make a difference nutritionally what nut is used? As a habit of late, I’ve been varying the nuts. (Similarly, my most recent method for cooking up a morning bowl of hot cereal has included substituting some barley flakes, rye flakes or wheat flakes for oats.) It’s widely accepted that it’s important to choose a variety of foods from within each food group because different foods provide different types and amounts of key nutrients, as succinctly stated in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Seems logical, to apply this eating principle to grains and nuts and to vary the grains and nuts consumed.
A recent article Know Your Nut Nutrition in the February 2019 issue of Consumer Reports spotlights the benefits of mixing up the types of nuts you eat because in the words of Consumer Reports nutritionist Amy Keating, R.D., each nut has its own unique medley of nutrients. [This magazine article is incorporated into an 0n-line Consumer Reports article, Choose the Right Nuts for Your Health by Jesse Hirsch (December 23, 2018).] The nutritional value of the nuts I commonly add to my bowl of oatmeal were noted as follows: almonds are among the nuts highest in fiber and have calcium and vitamin E, walnuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3s, and hazelnuts are a good source of healthy fats, as well as an abundance of phenolic compounds, a class of antioxidants linked to heart health and lower cholesterol levels.
And two recommendations on how to buy nuts: (1) buy your nuts in bulk and (2) buy organic. The bulk food aisle at a food co-op or even in some supermarkets is the best way to buy nuts. The website Treehugger concisely states the reasons to buy food in bulk including cutting down on food waste and saving money.
The extraordinary Honest Weight Food Co-op in my hometown of Albany, NY, with its nearly 1000 bins of bulk food, offers an extraordinary variety of nuts. For example, it’s not just one choice in almonds. Rather, there are 15 bins: (1) salted sprouted almonds, (2) sprouted raw almonds, (3) whole almonds, (4) whole organic almonds, (5) dry roasted unsalted almonds, (6) roasted & unsalted organic almonds, and (7) roasted salted organic almonds (8) spicy maple almonds, (9) raw unpasteurized almonds, (10) whole, cocoa dusted almonds, (11) roasted organic almonds picante, (12) tamari roasted cajun almonds, (13) tamari roasted almonds, (14) tamari roasted organic almonds, and (15) garlic almonds. Wow.
And even though nuts are shelled or peeled before consumption and aren’t found on the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and veggies to avoid due to pesticide residues, organic nuts are not grown using chemical sprays thereby avoiding risk to farmworkers’ health and negative environmental effects, two other excellent reasons to buy organic nuts. Almonds or walnuts? Enjoy both.
(Frank W. Barrie, 2/22/19)