Paleo Dos: Nuts and seeds

Nuts are really good source of vitamins and minerals, but they are also very calorie dense little packages.  That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t eat them, but that we should be conscious of how we are eating them.  Before we get started, we want to make sure we talk about the one nut that is in many things that isn’t on the list: peanuts.

Peanuts, as it turns out, aren’t nuts at all.  They are actually a legume, or bean, and as we will see all beans are to be avoided on Paleo diets.  The hows and the whys they say to avoid them I will get into at that time, but the important thing for now is to not include peanuts in the list of things you are eating on your Paleo diet.  The rest are all fair game.

My personal favorite nuts to eat are almonds.  I can eat almonds by the handful without even thinking about them.   Again, just be careful since a few handfuls of nuts are a few hundred calories.  Try to eat raw nuts if possible, or roasted nuts that aren’t salted.  As with other foods when you add salt to them, you are triggering that perfect mix of fat and salt triggers in the brain that says, “Eat as much as you can while we are in feast period so we can be ready for the famine period.”  Yet, the famine period of course never arrives in the modern era.  I also tend to eat lots of pecans, cashews and coconut.

Nut butters and nut flours are also on the table during a paleo diet.  Almond butter is a great substitute for peanut butter, if that is your fix.  It’s great for use in recipes that call for peanuts as well.  Nut milks like almond, cashew and coconut milk are also good too.  Nut flours are big for people that are avoiding gluten, and you will find countless dessert recipes that use nut flours over traditional flour.  The important thing to remember when it comes to these recipes is they are treats, just like any desserts would be, and should be treated accordingly.  If nut-flour scones, muffins, cakes and other baked goods are making up a substantial part of your diet you aren’t eating a whole foods Paleo diet, you are just eating a processed diet that is made up of other foods.

While nut flours can make for a good substitute, I do think that you want to be a little careful about overdoing it even if you aren’t doing some junk food binge on the stuff.  One of the podcasters I listen to is Balanced Bites by Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe. As Diane mentioned a little while back, while she has always had a walnut allergy she never had a problem with any other nuts.  As she mentions to the intro to this Paleo friendly Chicken Parm Recipe over the time she’s been using nut flours in foods however she has slowly started having a problem with them as well.  Was this brought on by eating too much nut flour over time?  Is it only a problem for people that have other nut allergies?  I don’t know.  I do know that if we are trying to eat a more whole foods Paleo diet that we should try to avoid processing as much as possible.

With that in mind I’m going to try tweaking my use of almond butter.  Where I can replace almond butter with almonds I’m going to do that.  The most specific example of that is going to be my morning shakes, which are Paleo friendly and too convenient for me to give up at this time.  Rather than using a tablespoon of almond butter I’ll throw in a handful of almonds.  I’ll still be using the coconut milk, but maybe I’ll look into replacing the coconut milk with coconut flesh too.  The more directly natural the better, right?