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In terms of nutrient content, nuts are among the best of the vegetable foods. Their fat content is, of course, fairly high, but it is mostly unsaturated fats, which are better for us than the saturated. The inner white meat of the dried coconut, however, is rich in saturated fats and thus more of a concern in regards to cardiovascular problems. The essential fatty acids and vitamin E are also part of the nut oils. Almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts are the best in vitamin E content. Total fat content varies, from peanuts at 50 percent to pecans (and macadamias), the richest, at 70 percent fat.

The protein content of nuts is very good, with a fairly balanced amino acid distribution, which may be why the edible part of the nuts are termed ?meats.? They are the meat of the plant world. The nuts are somewhat lower in tryptophan and methionine, so the amino acid balance becomes more balanced when nuts are combined with a grain food at meals.

Most nuts have a general cross section of the B vitamins but are not real high in any, though peanuts are pretty rich in niacin. They are, however, very well endowed with the minerals, particularly potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and other trace minerals. Nuts are very low in sodium when unsalted, and some nuts, such as almonds, Brazil nuts, and pecans, even have some selenium.

In general, nuts can be used as a protein- and energy-rich snack food as a midmorning or midafternoon treat. Eaten alone in their raw state, and not much more than a handful, they should be fairly easily digested and assimilated by our bodies.


Almonds Hazelnuts
Brazil nuts Peanuts
Cashews Pecans
Chestnuts Pistachios
Coconuts Walnuts

Almonds. Almonds are probably the best all-around nut. Their fat content is less than most, about 60 percent, and the protein concentration is nearly 20 percent. The almond nuts are the fruits of a small tree that grows nearly thirty feet tall and is abundant in many areas of the world, including Asia, the Mediterranean, and North America. Almonds which are of the soft-shell variety possess a sweeter nut than those in hard shells, which may be slightly bitter. The presence of 2?4 percent amygdalin, commonly known as laetrile, has caused almonds to be considered as a cancer-preventing nut.

Most of the fats of the almond are polyunsaturated and are high in linoleic acid, our main essential oil. Almond oil is a very stable oil used in pharmaceutical preparations, to hold scents in fragrant oils, or for massage therapy. Almonds are very high in vitamin E, and contain some B vitamins. Calcium is also found in high amounts, and almonds or homemade almond milk (see recipes in Chapter 14) can be used as a tasty calcium source. Copper, iron, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus are also present in good amounts, as are magnesium and manganese. Sodium is very low. Some selenium is present.

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About The Author
Elson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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