Are Nuts Ketogenic-Friendly?
Nuts have been a favorite of low carb dieters for a long time and now they’re popular among ketogenic dieters. Nuts are a quick and easy snack that you can purchase even at a gas station, they provide that nice crunchy texture that many people find missing from a low carb diet, and nut flours can be used to make a variety of baked goods that can be used as bread-substitutes.
So, does that mean nuts are good to eat on a ketogenic diet?
As with any food and any diet, I think the main questions to ask are:
- What are the health benefits of this food?
- What are the health downsides to this food, even if they are just potential ones?
So, let’s take a look at nuts…even though nuts may help you stay in nutritional ketosis, should you be eating them?
What Are The Benefits Of Nuts On Keto?
1. Nuts are Low in Carbohydrates
Nuts naturally have very few carbohydrates. For example, 100 grams of dry roasted almonds have 7 grams of net carbohydrates, and 100 grams of raw macadamia nuts have 5 grams of net carbohydrates. Foods that are low in carbohydrates are crucial to a ketogenic diet since even a moderate amount of carbohydrate intake will make it very tough to get into or stay in nutritional ketosis.
2. Nuts are High in Fats
Nuts are naturally high in fats, which helps you stay fuller and also helps you stay in nutritional ketosis. 100 grams of dry roasted almonds have 53 grams of fat and 100 grams of raw macadamia nuts have 76 grams of fat! So, they’re mostly fat.
3. Nuts are Nutritious (High in Various Vitamins and Minerals)
Different nuts will have different amounts of vitamins and minerals, but many of them are excellent sources of some hard to get ones. For example, Brazil nuts are a great source of selenium and magnesium, and macadamia nuts are a great source of manganese.
Also, according to Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., “The latest scientific word on the health benefits of nuts comes from researchers at California’s Loma Linda University who found that eating nuts on a regular basis strengthens the brainwave frequencies seen on electroencephalograms (EEGs) that are linked to cognition, healing, learning, and memory.”
What Are The Problems Of Nuts On Keto?
However, it’s not all good news for nuts. They also have quite a few downsides.
1. Nuts are Easy to Overeat
One of the major issues of nuts is that they’re a bit too tasty. In particular, salted nuts are high in sodium, high in fats and they contain some carbs, and that’s a dangerous combination. You’ve probably noticed first hand how addictive salted nuts can be!
2. Nuts are High in Calories
As mentioned above, nuts are high in fat, which makes them great for ketosis. However, this fact also makes nuts high in calories. If you’re on a ketogenic diet for weight loss, then eating a lot of nuts could make it really tough for you to lose weight. For example, 100 grams of macadamia nuts contains 718 calories! While calories are not the only thing that matters for weight-loss, they do still play a part, so watching your calorie intake will be important if you’re looking to lose weight by going on a ketogenic diet.
3. Nuts are High in Polyunsaturated Fats
Nuts are high in polyunsaturated fats (often abbreviated to PUFAs). For example, 100 grams of macadamia nuts have 206 mg omega-3 fatty acids and 1296 mg omega-6 fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats can easily be damaged by heat and once those damaged fats are ingested by us, there’s a chance that it can cause oxidative damage (especially to DNA) in our bodies.
However, most nuts also contain antioxidants that protect against linoleic acid oxidation, so considering the small amount of nuts most people eat, this is probably not a huge problem for you to worry about. And if you are worried, then dehydrating soaked nuts at low temperatures can be useful in reducing the possibility of PUFA damage along with the levels of phytic acids in nuts.
4. Nuts are High in Anti-Nutrients
Registered Dietitian Kate Chury, RD, notes, “Phytate has a very good ability to bind to nutrients, particularly calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, copper and some proteins. This means that once these nutrients bind to phytate our body cannot use them.”
So all those great minerals I mentioned above that many nuts contain may be difficult for you to absorb. However, soaking and roasting nuts may reduce the phytic acid content in nuts dramatically. So, if you eat soaked, sprouted or roasted nuts, then this might not be a big problem for you. If you find nuts hard to digest, then this could be due to their high phytic acid content, and soaking nuts before eating them can help make nuts easier to digest and reduce your discomfort when eating them.
5. Nuts have a High Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio
In the past, many people have been worried about the high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats in nuts believing that we eat too much omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3 fats thereby causing inflammation, but there are now suggestions that this ratio doesn’t matter so much, especially if you eat plenty of high omega-3 foods like fish.
Dr. Emily Deans, M.D. says, “Nuts such as walnuts have a good amount of omega 3 in them, but they also tend to have a lot of omega 6, so they can be a wash or even worsen the overall balance in the diet. I wouldn’t look to them as major sources of omega 3 for this reason unless you are a strict vegetarian.”
Are Nuts Allowed On A Ketogenic Diet?
Most people implicitly think nuts are ketogenic-friendly. After all, they are high in fat and low in carbs, and are quite tasty! Therefore, nuts make it pretty easy for you to stay in ketosis.
However, nuts are not without problems, so it’s best to only eat nuts in moderation, especially if you’re on a ketogenic diet for weight-loss.
If you’re just starting a ketogenic diet or a low carb diet, then eating baked goods made with nut flour can be an easy and less painful way to adjust to not eating bread, pasta, and cakes. But, please keep in mind that over time, you should reduce your nut intake.
If you just enjoy eating nuts as a quick and easy snack, then try eating small amounts of soaked and low-temperature dehydrated nuts.
Nuts are not essential to a ketogenic diet, so if you’re finding it hard to lose weight or experiencing digestive issues (or allergies) after eating nuts, then try cutting them out.
Images: Copyright (c) Maya Kruchancova from Fotolia