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The Best Nut

Which type of nut has the highest antioxidant content?

October 8, 2008 |
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Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Transcript

Five rounds left; there’s still a chance to win Let’s get nutty. Ten different types. Pecans are the chart topper followed by walnuts, the healthiest nuts on the planet. First off, what’s this one at the end. It’ not quite in iceberg lettuce land but it should be embarrassed to call itself a nut. Which is it?

Of the remaining eight which is the least healthy? How many say almonds suck??? Brazil nuts??? Who says cashews??? Hazelnuts??? Macadamia nuts??? Peanuts??? Pinenuts??? And finally Pistachios??? And the winning loser nut is pine nuts.

So pecans and walnuts up here; pine nuts down here. I would have guessed almonds would have been three, but no, #5. So which are these? You pick a nut and if it’s either number 3 or 4 you get to stay in the game. So which is healthiest? Brazil nuts? Cashews? Hazelnuts? Macadamias? Peanuts? And Pistachios?

If you said peanuts, you’re wrong. If you said cashews you’re even wronger. Not macadamias or Brazil nuts. The top five healthiest nuts are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts—also called filberts, pistachios, and almonds. Nuts are so packed with antioxidants they’re adding nut powders to meat to keep it from spoiling longer.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on nuts. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos--please feel free to explore them as well!

For some context, please check out my associated blog post: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledge and Amla: Indian gooseberries vs. cancer, diabetes, and cholesterol

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. And check out the other videos on nuts. Also, there are 1,449 other subjects covered in the rest of my videos–please feel free to explore them as well!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/BenjaminStone/ Benjamin Stone

    Let’s not lose sight of other measures for nut health. Macadamia nuts are the only nuts that are not offensively high in omega 6 fats. For those who value maintaining a healthy ratio of n3:n6, one must eat more macadamia nuts to help keep their overall exposure to omega 6 down.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    What is ranking them as “best”? According to Joel Fuhrman’s ANDI’s score walnuts are ranked lower than almonds

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

    What is ranking them as “best”? According to Joel Fuhrman’s ANDI’s score walnuts are ranked lower than almonds

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/desavov/ desavov

    Why “best” is always calculated by antioxidant content?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mrauch/ mrauch

    I would love to learn about fumigant pasteurization of almonds. Do you have any information on the health effects of PPO and how to avoid it? Do organic almonds use this process?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/katiemgibbs/ katiemgibbs

    Is it OK to roast nuts at home? I’ve heard that roasting them can damage their healthy fats and reduce their nutritional value. Is this true? Is it OK to eat toasted nuts or should they be completely avoided?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Hello Katie,

      The only “healthy” fats found in nuts are omega 3 polyunsaturated fat and this is found primarily in walnuts. A handful of nuts per day is all we would need before too little becomes too much. The other nuts have a large amount of omega 6 fat, and when we have too much omega 6, it doesn’t allow the synthesis of omega 3. Omega 6 gets converted in arachidonic acid.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/inflammatory-remarks-about-arachidonic-acid/

      The ratio is typically 1:4 , Omega 3:Omega6

      Now as for your question about fat being destroyed under heat, people wouldn’t be eating salmon to begin with if heat destroyed omega 3. Check out the nutritional data between roasted peanuts and raw peanuts. The fat content is about equal.

      Raw Peanut: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4355/2
      Roasted Peanut:http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4448/2

      • daxrocker

        unfortunately a lot of nonsense posted here in some of the comments. why should you choose walnuts as an omega 3 source (or as a source with low omega 6 like some of the users say) when you can have flaxseeds?

        it just makes no sense. especially if you eat flaxseeds and walntus.regarding the total omega 6 intake it makes much more sense to eat for example cashew.

        you should not only look at the ratio, but also at the absolute fatty acid value. although the ratio in cashew is with 44:1 a catastrophy you end up with less omega 6 then when eating walnuts!

        here is a calculation:

        2 tbsp of flaxseeds give you 3,5 mg of omega 3 and 0,84 mg of omega 6.

        now you add 2 tbsps of walnuts and you get around 0,8 mg of omega 3 and the huge number of 4.77 – 5,23 mg of omega 6 !!!!

        in total you reach with your breakfast regarding these 2 ingredients an omega 3 to 6 ratio of

        4,4 mg (omega 3) : 6 mg (omega 6).

        if you add 2 tbsps cashew instead of walnuts you get 0,03 omega3 and ONLY 1.3 mg omega 6!

        together with the flaxseed you are then totaling:

        3.6 mg (omega 3) ::: 2.2 mg (omega 6)

        so, recommending walnuts over for example cashew because of the OMEGA 6 intake, like Toxins and Toxin do, is NONSENSE!

        and you also dont need walnuts as antioxidantians if you eat already blueberries and apples with your powerbowl, like i do.

        it makes much more sense to try to get with the 3 to 6 ratio towards 1:1 or 1:2.

        so please, dr. greger, explain more profound why you make some of the recommendations and dont let other users here spread MISLEADING INFORMATIONS like the one regarding omega 6.

        the omega 3 to 6 ratio should of course be calculated regarding the total food intake and not only as the ratios in the foods themselves!

        the absolute numbers count!

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      O and im sorry, i forgot to answer the second part of your question about roasting nuts. Yes, roasting nuts is actually more beneficial then raw!
      check it out
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/raw-food-nutrient-absorption-2/

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/katiemgibbs/ katiemgibbs

        Great, thanks for your help!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mercman40/ mercman40

    How about Almond Milk?
    Been drinking as replacement for cow milk, love the taste, etc. However, I do buy the Vanilla sweetened flavor…is that bad?
    Am I taking away from the good of it all?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Almond milk is certainly superior to calf’s milk, if only because of the lack of saturated animal fat, cholesterol, and hormones (see, for example, my videos Acne & Cancer Connection and Trans Fat, Saturated Fat, and Cholesterol: Tolerable Upper Intake of Zero), but is unflavored, unsweetened almond milk preferable to sweetened vanilla? In general, I’m in favor of cutting down on intake of empty calories whenever possible. We get only about 2,000 in the calorie bank every day–why not try to make them count? So almond milk versus almond milk with added sugar is a no-brainer decision for me, but I guess it depends on what you’re using it for. If the only way you would drink green tea is with the sweetened variety, then overall it would be healthier for you to stick with the added sugar (though your taste buds would probably adapt to the unsweetened variety, or you could try adding a harmless noncaloric sweetener such as erythritol (see A Harmless Artificial Sweetener). The vanilla question is interesting, though. Given its popularity, I was surprised there wasn’t more science published on the health effects of vanilla orchid fruit phytonutrients. There are two in vitro studies that suggest vanillin, one of the many aromatic compounds in vanilla, may be protective against colorectal and cervical cancer, but no clinical or epidemiological studies have been published to my knowledge. There was also a study showing that vanilla extract may interfere with bacterial communication, concluding vanilla “might promote human health by…preventing bacterial pathogenesis.”

      The most unusual vanilla study may be one published out of Germany in 1999. Researchers wanted to know if our olfactory memory goes back even further than our verbal memory. Do we subconsciously remember tastes and smells from our infancy before we could even put them into words? They realized that there was a time certain German infant formulas were flavored with vanilla, so they challenged a group of adults with a vanilla-containing food. But they couldn’t just use your typical vanilla flavored confection because it could introduce too many other new variables. They had to choose something that no one would have ever associated with vanilla. So they concocted… vanilla-flavored ketchup! And guess what? Two-thirds of those bottle fed with vanilla as infants preferred the vanilla ketchup, whereas two thirds of the rest were like “blech!” and chose the regular ketchup. The moral of the story is that perhaps if breastfeeding women eat lots of healthy foods, their broccoli-flavored breast milk might get remembered years down the road.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

      to mercman40 re: sweetened vanilla almond milk

      I thought I would share that of all the various “milks” out there, almond milk is also my favorite. I have found several brands that have vanilla added without the extra sweetener. For me, that extra added hint of sweet, without actual extra sugar, is just perfect for all my milk needs.

      Just thought you might be interested in knowing that there is an in-between option. You can get one with vanilla that does not have added sugar. Maybe you would like it???

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/thea/ Thea

    oops. Forgot to click “notify me of follow up comments”. That would be another great fix for this site. Please make that box be the default. Who posts a comment and then doesn’t want to know responses?

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post The Best Foods: Test Your Nutrition Knowledge!

    • Valnaples

      Have tried you link to the “Test Your Nutrition Knowledge”…keep getting white-paged…can you please verify? Thank you.

      • Valnaples

        “your link”

  • Joyce

    If I buy bags of mixed nuts, already shelled, would they be treat in anyway to keep fresh and loose nutrients?

  • http://www.facebook.com/eugene.pevzner Eugene Pevzner

    don’t we want to eat vegetables for their antioxidant scores instead of nuts?Nuts we should eat for their beneficial fats? I mean in your opinion what’s the best thing about nuts?

    • Toxins

      Nuts provide fiber, as well as antioxidants, similarly to vegetables, except that nuts are a much denser source of calories. The only 2 fats we need are omega 3 and omega 6. Considering that the current issue is that we consume too much omega 6, we should try to eat the omega 3 rich nuts, that being walnuts. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3138/2

  • lovestobevegan

    Modify your breakfast to increase life expectancy. Tasty enough to be enjoyed daily.

    Handle With Care Bowl

    – ½ cup regular rolled oats
    – 1 cup water
    – ½ tsp Ceylon cinnamon http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-safer-cinnamon/
    – ⅛ tsp each, ground cloves, ground ginger, nutmeg
    – 1 cup organic* peaches, sliced
    – 1 banana, sliced
    – 20 pecan halves
    – 2 tbsp flaxseed meal

    Bring water to a boil and cook oats with spices and fruit (only if using frozen fruit). Lower heat and simmer oats to desired consistency. Add remaining ingredients to a bowl and top with cooked oats. Stir and top with a sprinkling of uncooked oats and dash cinnamon.

    *Peaches rank 5th in the “dirty dozen: 12 foods to eat organic” so choose organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

    Bookmark my new Plant-Based Emporium Facebook page for all my latest recipes.

    ~Complements of lovestobevegan

  • Tracee

    Is is better to eat raw nuts or roasted nuts? Besides the obvious fact that roasted nuts are usually coated in salt, is there any downside to eating them instead of raw? I love raw nuts, but I’d like to get a variety sometimes and it doesn’t seem like you can get a mix of raw nuts they are always roasted. Thank you!

  • Keane

    I love nuts. I’m currently living in the northeast of Brazil for a couple months, and this is the native home of the Cashew tree and there are lots of cashews around and I have been eating them like crazy (haven’t tried the Cashew Fruit yet, but I’ve seen them everywhere too.) My questions is, how many nuts, or specifically Cashews, is too much?

    • Toxins

      One should be cautious about eating too much nuts for the primary reason that it will upset the balance between omega 3 and omega 6. Too much omega 6 and your body will not convert ALA effectively to DHA and EPA. There is a competitive enzyme involved in this reaction so getting too much omega 6, which cashews have alot of, may not be beneficial. A good ratio of omega 6:3 for a good conversion rate is 4:1 respectively. Perhaps you an incorporate them into your diet more as a condiment? Such as with salad and other foods. This way you wont overdo the cashews.

  • Roberta peck

    Your videos are awesomely informative while providing humorous interest!!!!
    However, why shouldn’t we also consider the omega 6 percentage to mono fat percentage when deciding on healthy nuts?
    After watching so many of your videos ,including the 2002 one on most desirable fat ratios as being predictor for best longevity,I would select Hazel ,Macadamia and Almonds. Regarding the loss of ORAC, I would add a bit more Barberry and Amla to a drink or two throughout the day ( thank you so much for sharing that info, those items are being delivered as I type). But according to all I have learned from you I still think Hazelnuts, Macadamias and Almonds will be best. Please respond on your site or at robertapeck@yahoo.com. Thankyou so much for all your efforts in education.

    • Toxins

      The best omega 6:3 ratio is 4:1. Walnuts, flax and chia seeds seem to satisfy this ratio the best. Including other nuts into your diet is fine, but try not to overwhelm the ratio too much towards omega 6, otherwise ALA will not be converted effectively to DHA and EPA.

  • Linnlo1

    What criteria are you using to determine the health benefits of these nuts? What role does pH play in determining the health value? Would you please identify your criteria to validate this information.

    • Toxins

      The criteria was based solely on antioxidant content. In my opinion, walnuts are the healthiest nut not only because of the high antioxidant content, but the great omega 6:3 ratio.

  • Joey

    Dr. Greger,

    I’ve been making homemade nutmilks for a few weeks. My favorite blend is 50/50 walnut/hemp. I normally try not to blend it for too long — for I fear that I’m somehow damaging the ‘good fats’. Is there any reason to think that a Vitamix can harm the nutrients?

    If so, how much does blending harm the good fats & other nutrients? Your logic with cooked broccoli suggests that you just need to eat 8 cooked pieces for every 7 raw, an insignificant tradeoff. Maybe there is some loss, but it’s insignificant? Or maybe it even ‘helps’, in the same way that grinding flax-seed makes the omega-3s more available for digestion?

    Thanks!
    Joey

  • Keith Kaback, M.D.

    Dr. Greger – You have multiple videos extolling the benefits of nuts, seeds, and peanut butter on lipid levels, oxidative markers, and endothelial function, yet Dr. Esselstyn advises avoiding seeds and nuts. I am confused as to whether to eat them or not. Your thoughts please.

    • http://robertroose.info/ Robert Roose

      A small handful (which is about an ounce), preferably with a vegetable based meal such as a salad, per day is healthy. Nuts are only bad when they come salted in packets, allowing easy over-consumption. Moderation is difficult for most people, which is why it can be better for some to avoid nuts and seeds completely. Nuts and seeds should be restricted rather than absolutely avoided.

      Unsalted pistachios in shells are great as they require shelling before eating, reducing the risk of over-consuming.

  • John Marshall

    Dr. Greger, I was interested in reading the source cited for this video – the nut with the highest antioxidant content. But in 2010 “the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) removed the USDA ORAC
    Database for Selected Foods from the NDL website due to mounting
    evidence that the values indicating antioxidant capacity have no
    relevance to the effects of specific bioactive compounds, including
    polyphenols on human health.” I appreciate your video is dated 2008, but does this mean the advice presented in the video is out of date or wrong? Thanks John

    Source – https://www.ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=15866

    • Guest

      a lot of non sense posted here in some of the comments. why should you choose walnuts as an omega 3 source (or as a source with low omega 6 like some of the users say) when you can have flaxseeds?

      it just makes no sense. especially if you eat flaxseeds and walntus. i am wondering why dr. greger is not anwsering the questions regarding what makes this ranking? regarding the total omega 6 intake it makes much more sense to eat for example cashew.

      you should not only look at the ratio, but also at the absolute fatty acid value. although the ratio in cashew is with 44:1 a catastrophy you end up with less omega 6 then when eating walnuts!

      here is a calculation:

      2 tbsp of flaxseeds give you 3,5 mg of omega 3 and 0,84 mg of omega 6.

      now you add 2 tbsps of walnuts and you get around 0,8 mg of omega 3 and the huge number of 4.77 – 5,23 mg of omega 6 !!!!

      in total you reach with your breakfast regarding these 2 ingredients an omega 3 to 6 ratio of

      4,4 mg (omega 3) : 6 mg (omega 6).

      if you add 2 tbsps cashew instead of walnuts you get 0,03 omega3 and ONLY 1.3 mg omega 6!

      together with the flaxseed you are then totaling:

      3.6 mg (omega 3) ::: 2.2 mg (omega 6)

      so, recommending walnuts over for example cashew because of the OMEGA 6 intake, like Toxins and Toxin do, is NONSENSE!

      and you also dont need walnuts as antioxidantians if you eat already blueberries and apples with your powerbowl, like i do.

      it makes much more sense to try to get with the 3 to 6 ratio towards 1:1 or 1:2.

      so please, dr. greger, explain more profound why you make some of the recommendations and dont let other users here spread MISLEADING INFORMATIONS like the one regarding omega 6.

      the omega 3 to 6 ratio should of course be calculated regarding the total food intake and not only as the ratios in the foods themselves!

      the absolute numbers count!

  • Fabio

    The source cited in this video seems to be outdated: Recently the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL) removed the USDA ORAC Database for Selected Foods from the NDL website due to mounting evidence that the values indicating antioxidant capacity have no relevance to the effects of specific bioactive compounds, including polyphenols on human health
    http://www.ars.usda.gov/services/docs.htm?docid=15866&pf=1