For the Love of Almonds (and Some Omega 3/6 Fats Talk)

Admin Fats and Oils 44 Comments

Nutty delights. I used to LOVE roasted almonds and
wouldn’t touch the raw ones, but when you know better
you can do better.

Oh, almonds! People have such a love affair with almonds. The trouble is, they’re really not something we should be eating lots of all the time. Really. Especially not if they’re straight from the bag to our mouths. That’s like a double whammy of the Omega 6 Fats (PDF, may take a moment to load) we are aware we’re consuming followed by a hit of phytic acid (a mineral absorption inhibitor) to which we may not have given much thought.

Here’s my deal with almonds (and most nuts in general): I rarely keep them in the house or snack on them anymore. And by rarely I mean I maybe eat them a couple of times a week if that, and I try to keep it to some almonds, macadamia nuts and possibly some walnuts. (PDF, may take a moment to load)

So now you’re thinking… “But I thought nuts were healthy, good for me, a super-food and… paleo?!”

As someone who admittedly hates supplements and tries very hard not to supplement with anything that I can’t chew and eat or stand outside and soak up (ie: the sun)… here’s my take: To regulate my Omega 3 to Omega 6 essential fatty acid intake, I work largely on REDUCING MY OMEGA 6 INTAKE and then eating my Omega 3s in the form of grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish and minimal amounts of flax oil or Omega 3 enriched eggs. “Omega 3 enriched,” when referring to eggs, means is that the chickens were fed flax seeds and that the Omega 3 from the flax in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is converted by the chickens to the more usable forms for us as humans of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Humans aren’t able to make the conversions from ALA to EPA and DHA as effectively which is why consuming your Omega 3s in the form of flax oil alone will likely not be sufficient for optimal health. All that said, I typically buy the Omega 3 enriched eggs only if I can’t get my regular pastured eggs.

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Reducing Omega 6 intake is best approached by eliminating vegetable oils in the diet (largely canola, corn, soybean and sunflower or safflower- all very high in linoleic acid), grains and legumes.

Nuts and seeds tend to account for a large proportion of continued Omega 6 intake for those of us who abandon grains and vegetable oils and move towards an evolutionary diet but are searching for other snacks and easy, on-the-go foods on which to munch. And I’m not the only one dishing out this advice. Check out this podcast interview of Matt Lalonde conducted by Jimmy Moore of Livin’ La Vida Low Carb. Matt is an organic chemist and a Harvard-educated PhD and is also a big advocate of reducing these types of Omega 6s in our diets. I’ve also heard Robb Wolf comment on his podcast that in order to monitor our nut consumption, actually shelling the nuts we plan on eating is a good idea. I like this concept, and if I had a goal of not over-consuming nuts on a regular basis, I’d go for that method for sure. Aside from the Omega 6 content, nuts do contain some other potential gut irritants and lectins so their consumption really should be moderated which is why they’re at the tippy top of the Paleo Pyramid.

Nesco American Harvest FD-61 Snackmaster Encore Dehydrator and Jerky Maker
This is the machine I
use, it’s less than $60!

“But I still want to eat almonds! I love them! You’ve already taken my bread away, don’t take my almonds!”

Okay, okay… I hear you! And I understand. I may need to carry some almonds with me as I’m traveling a bunch these days and like to have snacks on hand for my trips. And woman cannot live on jerky alone. Though I use the same dehydrator to make that as well and it’s fantastic.

Here’s what I recommend that you do to prepare your almonds (and other nuts – soaking time varies with the type of nut):

  • Buy raw organic almonds
  • Soak them in filtered water in glass jars overnight in a cabinet
  • Rinse them off
    (at this point you could turn them into almond milk if you wanted to)
  • Lay them on dehydrator racks or in your oven on the lowest setting to dry them out again at a low temperature (time varies but approximately 12 hours)

Once they’re soaked, you can eat them as-is, but the texture isn’t really right for me for snacking, which is why I recommend the next step of dehydrating them. If your goal is to carry almonds as snacks, give them a low and slow warm air vacation. If your goal is to make some almond milk, then give them a whir in a filtered water tornado. (A quick google search for “how to make almond milk” will turn up lots of results with videos too.) I was originally going to tell you to keep the nuts at a very low temperature to dehydrate them in order to keep their oil from oxidizing, but a quick touch-base with Matt Lalonde revealed to me that an in-tact, whole almond won’t present this problem as oxygen can’t penetrate the nut. That said, roasted nut butters and almond meal or flour that is heated (for all you almond-flour crazed bakers out there!) will cause the nut’s oils to become oxidized. We don’t want to consume oxidized oils if we can avoid it as they contribute to systemic inflammation and lipid peroxidation – both of which are damaging to our bodies and our overall health.


So why bother soaking and then dehydrating the almonds?

You may be familiar with the notion of anti-nutrients (or maybe not) and in the case of nuts, the anti-nutrient is known as phytic acid. Phytic acid present in nuts, seeds and in the bran of plants (yes, the bran is what’s in-tact when you eat those darling whole grain foods!)  that binds to minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc causing us to not be able to digest and absorb them properly from the foods that we’re eating. In general, anti-nutrients are things we should avoid in our foods as best we can, and knowing that there are ways to prepare foods to make them easier for our human digestive systems to digest works to our advantage. Soaking the nuts overnight does a decent job of reducing (though not completely removing) the phytic acid content of the nuts.

Generally speaking, the idea that a food requires such careful preparation before it’s ready for my consumption makes me a bit uncomfortable and I question whether or not it’s even really appropriate as a food.

Bergin Nut Company Almonds Whole Raw, 16-Ounce Bags (Pack of 2)
Can’t find raw, organic
almonds near you?
Here is one kind
I found on Amazon.

The thing is, at this point I can’t make my own life that complicated when it comes to wanting a handy travel snack- so I’m going for some soaked and dehydrated almonds here along with my home-made grass-fed jerky and calling it good-to-go.

What do you think? Are you willing to take these steps to be able to eat almonds in a way that is less irritating to your system? Or maybe you’ll think twice about eating so many nuts on a regular basis when you realize that this preparation is an IDEAL situation for eating them. Your call.