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  1. Zeta

    Nuts: which are best?

    Hi everyone, I've been meaning to make a couple posts about nuts for a long time now. I keep waiting until the archives are up so I can reference an older discussion about the virtues of various nuts, but I keep missing the archives' uptime. So I'll just fire away now. I think I'm going to break up the nut-related posts into three or so. The first, this one, is about which nuts (and I'm including two seeds, and a few other items) are "good" -- scare quotes because after a lot of digging around, I've concluded that all nuts, and most (maybe all?) seeds, have something good about them. (2nd post: how eat/prepare; 3rd: how/where buy.) (Another prefatory note: I'm on the very steep part of my learning curve, actually now coming off it a bit, with Microsoft Excel, and am almost tempted to start over with a new, more complete dump of data from CRON-O-Meter for the creation of the spreadsheet referenced below. We'll see. For now, I'll post what I have written, and upload the spreadsheet in its current incarnation. But it might be worth starting over, and, in particular, not rearranging the order of the nutrients from a CRON-O-Meter dump, so that adding new food items later would be easier. 2015-09-27. Edit: I am going to start over.) Background: after going off my lowish-fat diet via massive quantities of avocado and olive oil, I finally decided upping my nut intake instead might be a wiser way to get my dietary fat percentage to where I want it. (Though after the investigations outlined here I've upped my avocado intake again, but not olive oil.) I created a fake daily entry in CRON-O-Meter with 250 calorie portions of a bunch of nuts, and a couple seeds, that I rotate among, as well a few other fatty items, and then some vegetables, as well, for comparison. Then I downloaded the data and created an Excel spreadsheet. I also added data on a few items from the USDA database that CRON-O-Meter doesn't track (some individual fatty acids), and I made copies of a few columns (nutrients) and pasted them near the beginning (the left), to make it easy to survey the most important nutrients. I'm still learning Excel (I became such a sophisticated user of Word's Visual Basic I never felt I needed to learn Excel, but I see now how powerful it is!), but I was able to do some basic sorting, and I saw some helpful things. First, the file: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-jAMGxHPyw7UmJYZGRYc3JqQVU/view?usp=sharing The CR Society also agreed to host a version of the same file that Google Docs converted to its own (Google) format: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1VZTZe2mu40Z9UCsnMsn8MIFZfkp-Lsng3VRA97CQ40M/edit?usp=sharing Edit, 2015-10-05: All nut-related files, including an explanatory note about them, will be in this directory: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B-jAMGxHPyw7NTc4RTdTUlY3aGs&usp=sharing Perhaps we could manipulate/add to that Google version. Otherwise, feel free to download the original Excel version (2015-10-26: which now is being updated periodically, so it's not really "original" anymore, though the CR Society will, for now, keep all older versions here) and play around with it. The basics in Microsoft Excel (2003 is the version I use): hit ctrl-A (or the Apple/Linux, etc. equivalent) twice, to select everything, then click Data, then Sort, select "Header Row", and then the column by which you want to sort. I did this for several nutrients, and created a couple ratios based on simple formulas (for example ω-6:3), marking bad numbers as red, good as blue (really good or bad, also bolded). There are some inconsistencies in the color-coding, apparent and real (laziness, desire to post this instead of waiting for perfection, etc.), especially relating to ω-3 and -6 values ("bad" ratio doesn't matter if absolute amount of ω-6 is low). I entered some zeros in blank areas (sometimes "0.001" to avoid divide-by-zero errors), and colored them brown to remember it's not a real number. Then one can just read from left to right for a particular item and get a quick sense of its virtues and vices -- well, I can, according to my criteria. To do: add more individual fatty acids (if one added palmitoleic acid -- the ω-7 FA macadamias are rich in -- macadamias would appear even better than they do), add more food items (flax seeds would be important to others, for ex. -- I hate the taste of them). Non-nut related things that stand out: basic, non-stellar vegetables ("stellar" = arugula, various brassica, etc.) are stellar compared with nuts and seeds in most ways; also: sardines are great! Now, some conclusions about the nuts/seeds/etc., taking items in decreasing order of goodness, according to criteria that matter to me: Chia seeds. Amazing. Lots of ω-3; lots of minerals; lots of B vitamins; lots of fiber. Downsides: some people worry about PUFAs and oxidation; Mn isn't very low; I don't love the taste. See also Chia seed post. How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: it wouldn't (aside from the concerns in the post about chia seeds, which I'm completely unconvinced by -- but need to investigate; could be a big "aside"). Walnuts. Very good. Lots of ω-3; low SFA; good amount of lots of minerals; lots of fiber; various phytochemicals that are likely healthy (not shown in CRON-O-Meter). Tasty. Downsides: Some people (sort of including me) worry about PUFAs and oxidation; not a tiny amount of ω-6; Mn isn't very low; really hard to find good quality (see coming post about purchasing). How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: If I could be certain about quality, and, to a lesser degree, if I thought Mn didn't matter much, I'd eat tons of these. TONS! Pistachios. Very good. Not so high SFA, low Mn; decent overall "B-score" ("B" as in B vitamins); curiously high amounts of phytochemicals (not in spreadsheet) and even carotenoids (not all in spreadsheet or CRON-O-Meter). Downsides: zero ω-3; middling levels of ω-6; Mn isn't very low. Cost per calorie highest of nuts/seeds/oils (if that matters). How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: If they were cheaper, and I thought Mn didn't matter much, I'd probably put up with the bad ω-6:3 ratio and eat more of these. Avocados. Good. Decent "B-score". Lots of MUFA. Lots of E. Low Mn, low Cu. Very cheap per calorie. Tasty! Downsides: Like olive oil, fairly high SFA (and, also like olive oil, the vast majority as 16:0!). How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: If I thought the 16:0, while high compared to most nuts, is still low enough not to cause problems, I'd eat lots of avocados. Almonds. Good. OK "B-score". Low SFA. Lots of MUFA. Lots of E. Very cheap per calorie. Fairly tasty. Downsides: zero ω-3; non-tiny (though not huge) amount of ω-6. How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: If I thought Mn didn't matter much, I'd probably put up with the bad ω-6:3 ratio and eat more of these. (Eating a fair amount as it is.) Hazelnuts. Not so great (mostly because of the Mn). Low-fat, very low SFA, fair amount of MUFA, but that's it. Downsides: Low B-score; really high levels of Mn. How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: If I thought Mn didn't matter much, I'd eat more of these. Olive oil. Lots of MUFA, polyphenols. Very cheap per calorie. Tasty. Downsides: Do I really want to be scarfing down tons of refined oil? The "it's not natural" isn't a completely brainless argument, esp. in light of the weakness of observational studies. Like avocados, fairly high SFA (and, also like avocados, the vast majority as 16:0!). How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: ? My plan is to get the massively high polyphenol olive oil and have 15-20 g day. Macadamias. Lots of B1 (though not other Bs); tons of oleic; lots of ω-7. Really tasty. Downsides: Middling levels of Mn; high SFA, for a nut. How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: If I thought the SFA didn't matter so much, and, to some degree, that dietary Mn didn't matter much, I'd eat tons of these. I love them. Sesame seeds. Lots of possibly good plant sterols. Decent B1 (though not other Bs). Good Ca, lots of gamma-tocopherol. Really tasty. Downsides: Tons of ω-6, low B-score (aside from B1). Lots of Cu, not so low Mn. High SFA, for a nut. How criteria adjustment would affect ranking: If I thought the Ca were fairly absorbable, and important to get via food instead of supplements, and if Cu concerns really can be "Zn-supplemented away", would eat more, almost entirely because of the taste. The others. Unsure. More research needed. Cashews? Lost of Cu, lots of SFA, but as 18:0, not 16:0. Salmon and sardines: good! Occurs to me a wiki or a Google Doc, that can be updated and manipulated by lots of people, would be good here, since discussion will lead to frequent tweakings of the above list and criteria. Questions. Does dietary Mn matter? If not, or not much, I'd greatly increase my hazelnut consumption, and generally eat more nuts with less worry! Does saturated fatty acid (mostly palmitic) matter, at the levels seen in nuts/etc. (compare goat cheese!)? If not, or not much, I'd increase my macadamia consumption (greatly, if Mn also doesn't matter much) -- and would also increase avocado consumption. Zeta