Raw Food: Know Your Nuts

by Susan on November 4, 2009

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Whether you are new to raw food preparation, or have been eating this way for a while, you have probably noticed that nuts are used in many raw food recipes to replace traditional ingredients such as cheese and other dairy products. Dairy contains unhealthy animal fat and other substances you may want to avoid. Nuts provide protein, “healthy” fat, fiber,  vitamins and minerals. We used to think that nuts just made us fat. Now we know that they can help fight heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more. Remember, Soaking nuts is an important part of making them digestible and eliminating enzyme inhibitors so that your body can get the most nutrition from them.

Before we start discussing all of the incredible benefits of nuts, one thing should be cleared up. It involves the pasteurization of nuts. Because of legislation in the U.S., most of the nuts we buy are not truly raw. If they have been shelled, they have most likely seen steam, and many nuts are dried with heat in order to reduce moisture. They are not sprout-able. You can find truly raw nuts, you just have to look. On-line is a good place to start. That being said, nuts are still powerful foods that become a great compliment to your raw diet.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most used nuts and what they provide:

Walnuts: Now considered a “super food”, walnuts are one of the nutritious nuts. They are high in alpha-linolenic acid and omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help reduce the potential for heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and clinical depression. Studies have shown that eating walnuts can reduce LDL (bad) chlosterol, and also help with diabetes. Good in salads, pates and flat breads.

Almonds: High in protein, zinc and calcium, almonds are also a great source of vitamin E magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Another nut that can help reduce bad cholesterol. Many uses including pates, milks, and crusts.

Brazil Nuts: Extremely high in selenium which is a powerful antioxidant. It also improves mood and mental performance. They are also high in minerals such as zinc, copper, iron, and magnesium. Makes a very rich nut milk and are great in spreads.

Cashews:Like the other nuts, cashews are a good source of protein and fiber. They are also a good source of potassium, B vitamin, foliate, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium and copper. Extremely versatile in raw food recipes. Spreads, “cheeses”, cheese cakes, ice creams, dips, etc.

Pecans: Zinc, vitamin E, vitamin A are only a part of what these tasty nuts provide. They also have been proven increase the results of a diet designed to lower cholesterol. Makes an interesting milk, great in salads and also a good addition to raw desserts.

Hazel Nuts: Once again, a great resource for lowering cholesterol. In addition to protein, fiber and iron, hazel nuts also bring vitamin C, and the B vitamins to the table. Great in raw desserts and breads.

Pine Nuts: Good for your cardiovascular system, and filled with calcium, vitamins D, C and A. Pine nuts can be good for your eyes and immune system. Great as a substitute for Parmesan cheese and adding a salty zip to many dishes.

Macadamia Nuts: One of the few nuts that have palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid. It is said to help reduce stored body fat by increasing metabolism. They are also rich in omega 3’s and  vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. Wonderful in desserts, spreads, salads, pates.

We once used to think of nuts as just fat laden treats that we should stay away from. Now, they are becoming an important element for health. They are nutrient dense and also satisfying. Remember, a little goes a long way!

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

pure2raw twins November 4, 2009 at 2:59 pm

It is so sad that US has to pasteurize everything!! I love all nuts except for pine nuts… for some reason they do not sit well with me.

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Susan November 6, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Have you tried soaking them? It would be interesting to see if it made a difference.

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Eating Raw Foods Info November 4, 2009 at 5:02 pm

It’s been hard for me to adjust my thinking that it’s ok to eat nuts almost daily. As you mentioned, I have always thought of them as “fats.”

I have been incorporating more almonds and cashews into my diet. I have a recipe for “cheese” made from nuts which is delicious.

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Christine November 5, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Changing my view on nuts has been a challenge too, I always avoided them due to the fat content and calories, but have embraced them in more recipes and have a pantry full of them now.

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laxmi November 5, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I agree nuts are the best healthy alternative and so easily accessible! Thanks for sharing the valuable information.

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Elizabeth March 3, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Hi Susan,
What do you know about how they process cashews? Are they really raw?
Thanks.

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Susan March 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Most “raw” cashews that you buy have been steam treated to get the shells off. (see above). You can find true raw cashews if you look online.

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Zoe V. April 6, 2010 at 10:42 am

Susan, I incorporate all the nuts you have stated above into my diet. Generally, I soak them overnight to release more nutrients and make them more digestible. However, I notice that I’m being more gassy after eating dishes involving nuts. I don’t know if they are the contributor or something else. Can you tell me from your experience what foods create most gas and how to reduce/avoid that problem. I’ll appreciate it. :-)

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Susan April 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I am a total believer in Biochemical Individuality. I think you need to figure out what happens in your body. Do a little test….no nuts for a while then introduce them and see what happens. We are all so different. And at different times, we are different. Sometimes I thrive on nuts, other times they don’t seem to like me at all. I think it is a matter of finding out what your body likes.

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Kristen Magno June 28, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Where do you buy your nuts? I get mine at whole foods and they say “raw” ~ how can they be labled raw if they truly aren’t? They are rediculously expensive and I’m going to have words with wf for paying high prices for nuts that aren’t really raw…also doesn’t heating fats create toxic chemicals? So wouldn’t the steam be creating this chemical that raw foodists are trying to avoid? thanks!

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Twyla January 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Do you have ideas for alternatives to nuts? I am very allergic to almonds & get severe headaches with walnuts, cashews, and pine nuts – so, I’ve now given up all forms of nuts. I realize that all yogurts & milks will always be out for me and I really don’t care about desserts… it’s the cheeses & pates etc that I long for.
Pumpkin & Sunflower seeds seem to be my only alternatives? Can you make yogurt out of rice milk? Will a Bonsai live in my old fry pan?
I’m going to be going raw as soon as I’m done with my cleanse. I’ve been reading (your site is amazing!) every link I can find. I haven’t run into anything about – if allergic, try this.
Thank you for any help!

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Lotus February 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Twyla, sunflower seeds are amazing for pates & cheeses. Soak ‘em, and I swear they double in size! They’re really tasty. Here’s a good link to some nutritional benefits/facts about sunflower seeds: http://www.ehow.com/facts_4865583_sunflower-seed-nutrition-facts.html

Yogurt can be made out of ricemilk or soymilk sure. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a raw vegan yogurt, but to make a raw pudding (which is kinda close) w/o using nuts or seeds, try coconut! Try blending fresh coconut meat with coconut water, some sweetener like soaked dates or agave nectar, and a dash of vanilla bean (or be cheap like me & use some vanilla extract lol). This hits the spot when you crave something pudding-y or yogurt-y! Hope this helps!

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Michele February 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I hope no one gasps too strongly at this lol, but I am wondering if we use nuts that we bought at the store (like Planters or something) do we still need to soak them? I am a widow with four young children and I cannot afford everything organic or raw. But I”m still trying with as much fresh and whole as possible. Going to try and make “cheese”, but the only cashews I can afford (which is still a stretch) are the ones from the local grocery store. Do I still need to soak them? Or should I just use them the way they come? I love this site by the way! So practical!

Michele

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Dianne May 12, 2011 at 8:24 am

Make sure the nuts are not rancid because your good intentions may be in vain as eating rancid food is very bad for one’s health. Also beware of the salt content of these processed nuts and seeds!

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Susan May 12, 2011 at 8:26 am

There shouldn’t be any salt in the nuts and seeds that you are using. You should be using raw nuts and seeds, not processed.

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Joseph January 4, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Cashews aren’t steamed to remove their shells – they are roasted to do so. Plus, they are usually dried in a furnace. Some are sun-dried, but – again – after being roasted in their shells.

http://practicalaction.org/docs/technical_information_service/cashew_nut_processing.pdf

Seems like all the nuts listed above are off limits for a true raw diet.

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Susan January 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Some cashews are roasted, some are steamed and yes, you can buy raw cashews. Navatis Naturals is one place to check. Do a quick search on steamed cashews and you will find that it a process that is used frequently.

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lesley January 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Hi
I bought some raw almonds (and cashews and brazils). I soaked a handful of them all for 24hrs. The brazils tasted fresh and very different to brazils I’ve tasted before. I ground the cashews with some springwater, lemon, honey and sea salt – delicious!!!! The almonds – well here is my concern, some were delicious but some tasted very much of marzipan – I spat these out as a caution …. Whilst I like marzipan I was concered wether these were safe to eat, as I have read on the internet that ‘bitter almonds where mazipan flavouring comes from’ can cross polinate sweet almond trees, and that the bitter almon contains cyanide!!!! I didn’t want to take a risk with my life in my quest for health….
Can anyone advise on this matter please. Also how long would it take for almonds, brazils and cashews to ‘sprout’ as I’m keen to try this to get as much nourishment from my nuts as possible (they cost a small fortune!!).

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Susan January 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I would make sure you find a trusted source for your almonds and ask the producers if you are concerned. If you are going to sprout the nuts you need to make sure you get truly raw nuts. Soak them for 12-24 hours then rinse.

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Danielea June 1, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Hi: I am enjoying your site. I’d like to know if you know a substitute for pine nuts re: flavour. I don’t digest them well, however I have yet to try soaking them.
Thankyou

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LARRY October 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Maybe it’s time to use more raw hemp seed. It’s made from commercial hemp that doesn’t have any chemicals that make you high and has a complete amino acid profile. It tastes very close to pine nuts

Stupid California is completely broke then undermines the organic raw almond industry and loses even more businesses!

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Susan October 21, 2012 at 11:00 pm

It isn’t California. It is a federal law. You can actually buy truly raw almonds in California. It is legal if bought from the growers.

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Char March 19, 2013 at 12:19 am

I live in a 3rd world country and cannot get raw nuts that often. If they are not raw do I still need to soak them? When I travel to the U.S. I buy raw but often times I run out a few months before heading back again.

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Theresa October 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Hi Susan, Lesley, above, has made a comment close to what I want to ask you about for a while. I was dismayed when I turned to raw food to discover that nuts were not raw. I used to eat a lot of almonds and have since been making sure I buy organic almonds which are raw. My experience is similar to Lesley’s and I’m surprised to find it very hard to get information about it. Every handful of almonds would produce a couple of almonds which I would have to spit out owing to the really concentrated almond or mazipan taste. It’s got to the stage where I no longer eat almonds. A couple of times I’ve made almond butter but have had to throw it out because the taste was so strong as to be inedible. I am not a faddy eater. I have no hesitation in eating less that perfect food, so something has to be pretty awful for me to throw it out. I did soak and dehydrate some almonds and the taste wasn’t as apparent. My organic almonds come from a whole food distributor who supplies the whole country and from whom I have been buying my food for years. I would be grateful for any advice or information you have on this issue. Thanks.

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