The Nut War Ensues
- Created on Wednesday, 06 February 2019 07:27
There is a Jeff Nelson who is very active in the vegan community. He is not a doctor, but he is closely associated with some of the leading vegan doctors. He recently did some videos to disparage nuts and nut studies and doctors who recommend nuts. I must say that he is amazingly sure of himself.
The gist of his argument is that since nut studies are generally funded by the nut industry, they aren’t reliable, and they aren’t even scientific, that it’s just marketing. And, the irony is that I get the impression that he has been involved in marketing his whole life.
Certainly, it is wise to be cautious in situations like this, whether it’s pharmaceutical companies funding research on drugs, or the nut industry funding research on nuts. However, it’s a mistake to take the skepticism too far.
If nut companies don’t fund the research on nuts, who is going to do it? Research is expensive. And even if you think the government should do it, remember that government is all about “politics.” So, that would provide no guarantee of objectivity either. And since all studies need to be scrutinized carefully regardless of who funded them, (can you think of any exceptions?) the fact that the California Walnut Commission funded a study on the health effects of walnuts, troubles me a lot less than it does Jeff Nelson.
Then, he makes another argument that has some truth in it, but also some spin. He tries to claim that the alleged health benefits reported from eating nuts are due to other things, such as: a healthier diet, in general, which nut-eaters are more likely to eat. Plus, there is the idea that if nuts are added to the diet in place of other foods- bad foods- that the health benefits may come from not eating the bad foods or eating less of them. And yes, that’s true, but it applies to everything. Take, for instance, the foods that Jeff champions, which are starches: starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. You could make the same argument, that studies that claim to show benefits from those foods are really due to the generally healthier lifestyle or to the avoidance of bad foods that those foods replaced. It would work the same way. But, when has Jeff Nelson ever disputed the studies claiming that whole grains and legumes have health benefits?
Now, I will be forthcoming and tell you that I am VERY much in favor of nuts, and I eat them EVERY day. And I have been doing that since I was 18 years old, and I am now 68, so 50 years. Whatever days I didn’t eat nuts over that half century were probably days that I fasted because I really do mean it that I eat nuts every day.
And the result from that half century of nut eating is that I weigh the same now as I did when I was 18: 135 pounds.
I also want to say that, in general, I think the published research on nuts is impressive. And I am referring to the totality of it. I am not going to start getting into individual studies because there are so many of them. In fact, there are so many of them, it’s hard for me to believe that they are all funded by the nut industry. I just did a search for “nuts and health” on PubMed, and it brought up 2,177 studies. And I’m sure that if I used other search terms, such as “nuts and heart disease” that it would bring up additional studies, and so on. And many of these studies do say that they “adjust for covariates.”
Another thing that Jeff Nelson brought up was the demon of saturated fat, and the fact that nuts do have some. They have much less proportionately than human breast milk, which is the exclusive diet of an infant for many months, or, in some cases, a whole year or longer. So, why is there so much saturated fat in breast milk? Because babies need it- and so does every person who is alive. While it is true that the body can make its own saturated fat, that does not automatically mean that dietary saturated fat is bad.
Then, Jeff made a ridiculous comparison between nuts and vegetables, claiming that the latter are far more nutritious because equal caloric portions favor the vegetables, for instance, when you compare walnuts to broccoli. But, you have to be practical about it because broccoli is so low in calories that you’d have to eat a ton of it to match the calories in a small handful of walnuts. So, a more fair comparison would be to compare a typical serving of broccoli to a typical serving of walnuts.
And keep in mind that I am not against broccoli. I’m all for it. I know it is one of the best vegetables out there. What I am against is biased and highly prejudicial thinking from a zealot who thinks he knows more than he does.
I am very much in favor of nuts, but only if they are eaten raw and unsalted. The exception is chestnuts which have to be roasted since they are highly starchy. Also, peanuts, which are a legume, need to be roasted because they are a legume and contains lectins, hemagluttins, trypsin inhibitors, etc., as all legumes do when raw. But, tree nuts do not require cooking and are only hurt by it. And when you eat nuts raw, salting doesn’t even apply. I have never heard of anyone salting a raw nut. Have you?
Another issue that applies to nuts in a big way is the freshness of them. Because they are high in oil, they can become rancid. Almonds hold up quite well, probably because of the tough skin which “hermetically” seals them. But pecans, for instance, go rancid easily, and here in Texas where I live, it’s common for people to store their pecans in the freezer.
But, If you do those things: eat them raw, unsalted, and make sure they aren’t rancid, nuts are very good foods. And when eating a plant-based diet, including nuts in it makes it far more satisfying and sustainable. So, would I include nuts even if the person was known to have heart disease? Yes, I would.