Going Nuts When Buying Nuts: How to Choose and Store the Right Ones

buying nuts
Dr. Geoffrey Harris, MD

Nuts are nutrition powerhouses. They’re packed with healthy oils and natural antioxidants, high in plant protein, and low in carbohydrates and starch. They contain dietary fiber and essential trace minerals, and consuming nuts has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease, lower total cholesterol, and increased good cholesterol (HDL).

Wondering how to choose and store nuts? Well, you are not alone — and fortunately, we’ve got some easy tips to help you enjoy these SuperFoods.

Buy Raw Nuts… If You Want
Some people swear by raw nuts, thinking they are better for you than the roasted variety. If you’re one of these people, but prefer the taste of roasted nuts, then try roasting the raw nuts at home in an oven at 160 to 170 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Just be sure your oven doesn’t run too hot. Use an oven thermometer if necessary.

That said, no research has specifically addressed that they are better for you than regular roasted nuts. “I don’t think processing will decrease the benefits, and it may actually improve the bioavailability of some bioactive compounds,” like flavonoids, says Rui Hai Liu, a professor of food science at Cornell University. The positive effect of processing has been shown in his laboratories for such compounds in tomatoes and sweet corn.

Buy Fresh Nuts
The oils in nuts can become rancid with prolonged exposure to air, heat, or light. The fresher the nuts, the better. Be sure to shop at a market where the produce turns over regularly.

Store Nuts Properly
Place them in airtight containers in the refrigerator. The refrigeration will prevent the healthy oils and fats from degrading and becoming rancid. Nuts should last nine to 12 months when stored this way.

Throw out nuts that have been stored longer than recommended. Freshness is important because nuts can become rancid long before they smell or taste funny. Keep the bag or make a label indicating the freshness date for the stored nuts.

Avoid Candied or Honey-Roasted Nuts
Nuts that have been processed with sugar and heat contain much lower levels of the healthy oils and antioxidants found in raw nuts and are more like candy than SuperFoods.

Avoid Salted Nuts
High sodium levels in salted nuts can raise blood pressure, and high sodium intake is associated with many chronic diseases.

Eat Smart
Nuts contain healthy fats — so you can add them to salads and vegetables to improve the absorption of carotenoids and other fat-soluble nutrients from the meal.

That said, they’re yummy, so it’s easy to overeat them, but you want to keep your serving to no more than a handful a day. Our advice? Don’t eat them out of the can, jar, or bag. Pour a 1/4 cup — your daily serving — into a dish and enjoy without overeating.

Peanut or nut butter is another great way to enjoy nuts. Look for brands that are natural and don’t have preservatives.

When possible, choose walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or pistachios. Walnuts actually contain short-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Source: The New York Times, NCBI, Prevention — mentions minute variations in nutrient values.

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