Are Baruka Nuts the Healthiest Nut?

Are Baruka Nuts the Healthiest Nut?
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How do barukas, also known as baru almonds, compare with other nuts?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

There is a new nut on the market called baru almonds, branded as “barukas,” or just baru nuts. Technically, it isn’t a nut, but a seed native to the Brazilian Savannah, known as the Cerrado, which is sadly now among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Over the last 30 years, extensive cattle ranching and feed crop production to fatten said cattle have destroyed much of this ecosystem. So, hey, if we can make it profitable not to cut down the native trees by selling baru nuts, for example, then that could be good for the ecosystem’s health. But what about our health?

Although baru nuts are popular and widely consumed, few studies report on their biological properties. They do have a lot of polyphenol phytonutrients, presumably accounting for their high antioxidant activity, where 90 percent of the phytonutrients are present in the peel. So, are they nutritious? Sure. But do they have any special health benefits (and not just for the treatment of chubby mice)?

Groups fed baru nuts showed lower cholesterol, supposedly indicating that they have a great potential for dietary use in preventing and controlling cholesterol problems. But the groups were rats, and that was compared to lard. Basically anything lowers your cholesterol compared to eating lard. Nevertheless, there haven’t been any reports about the effect of baru almond consumption on human health, until this study. A randomized, controlled study of humans found that eating less than an ounce a day for six weeks led to a 9 percent drop in LDL cholesterol. Twenty grams would be about 15 nuts or a palmful.

Like many other nut studies, even though the research subjects were told to add nuts to their regular diets, there was no weight gain, presumably because nuts are so filling you inadvertently cut down on other foods throughout the day. How good is a 9.4 percent drop in LDL? Well, that’s the kind of drop you can get from regular almonds, though macadamias and pistachios may work even better––but those were at much higher doses. So, it appeared that 20 grams of baru nuts worked as well as 73 grams of almonds, and so, on a per-serving basis, or a per-calorie basis, baru nuts really did seem to be special.

Now there are lower dose nut studies showing similar or even better results. Here people were given 25 grams of almonds for just four weeks, and got about a 6 percent drop. And in this study, people were given just 10 grams of almonds a day––I mean we’re talkin’ just seven individual almonds a day––and got more like a 30 percent drop in the same time frame as the baru nuts. Three times better at half the dose with regular almonds.

But the biggest reason we’re more confident in regular almonds is that studies have been done over and over––more than a dozen randomized controlled trials, whereas in the only other cholesterol trial of baru nuts, there was no significant benefit at all for LDL cholesterol, even at the same 20-gram dose given for even longer—a period of eight weeks. That’s a bummer.

The primary reason I would suggest choosing other nuts instead, though, is that you can’t get baru nuts raw. They contain certain compounds that have to be inactivated by heat before human consumption. So, the reason raw nuts are preferable is because of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), so-called glycotoxins, which are known to contribute to increased oxidative stress and inflammation.

Glycotoxins are naturally present in uncooked animal-derived foods, but then dry-heat cooking, like grilling, can make things worse. The three highest levels recorded are bacon, broiled hot dogs, and roasted barbequed chicken skin (nothing comes close to that.) Chicken McNuggets come in here, but, anyway, any foods high in fat and protein can create AGEs at high enough temperatures; so, although plant foods tend to contain relatively few AGEs, even after cooking, there are some high-fat, high-protein plant foods.

For example, boiled tofu, like in a soup, is down here, but the same serving size of broiled tofu is up here. Now again, with most plant foods. it’s not at all a problem. Like here’s a raw apple, and here’s a baked apple. It doesn’t really matter, since it’s not high fat or high protein. I was surprised that veggie burgers were so low, even when baked or fried. But nuts and seeds are up in tofu territory, especially when roasted, which is why I would recommend raw nuts and seeds and nut and seed butters whenever you have a choice.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

There is a new nut on the market called baru almonds, branded as “barukas,” or just baru nuts. Technically, it isn’t a nut, but a seed native to the Brazilian Savannah, known as the Cerrado, which is sadly now among the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Over the last 30 years, extensive cattle ranching and feed crop production to fatten said cattle have destroyed much of this ecosystem. So, hey, if we can make it profitable not to cut down the native trees by selling baru nuts, for example, then that could be good for the ecosystem’s health. But what about our health?

Although baru nuts are popular and widely consumed, few studies report on their biological properties. They do have a lot of polyphenol phytonutrients, presumably accounting for their high antioxidant activity, where 90 percent of the phytonutrients are present in the peel. So, are they nutritious? Sure. But do they have any special health benefits (and not just for the treatment of chubby mice)?

Groups fed baru nuts showed lower cholesterol, supposedly indicating that they have a great potential for dietary use in preventing and controlling cholesterol problems. But the groups were rats, and that was compared to lard. Basically anything lowers your cholesterol compared to eating lard. Nevertheless, there haven’t been any reports about the effect of baru almond consumption on human health, until this study. A randomized, controlled study of humans found that eating less than an ounce a day for six weeks led to a 9 percent drop in LDL cholesterol. Twenty grams would be about 15 nuts or a palmful.

Like many other nut studies, even though the research subjects were told to add nuts to their regular diets, there was no weight gain, presumably because nuts are so filling you inadvertently cut down on other foods throughout the day. How good is a 9.4 percent drop in LDL? Well, that’s the kind of drop you can get from regular almonds, though macadamias and pistachios may work even better––but those were at much higher doses. So, it appeared that 20 grams of baru nuts worked as well as 73 grams of almonds, and so, on a per-serving basis, or a per-calorie basis, baru nuts really did seem to be special.

Now there are lower dose nut studies showing similar or even better results. Here people were given 25 grams of almonds for just four weeks, and got about a 6 percent drop. And in this study, people were given just 10 grams of almonds a day––I mean we’re talkin’ just seven individual almonds a day––and got more like a 30 percent drop in the same time frame as the baru nuts. Three times better at half the dose with regular almonds.

But the biggest reason we’re more confident in regular almonds is that studies have been done over and over––more than a dozen randomized controlled trials, whereas in the only other cholesterol trial of baru nuts, there was no significant benefit at all for LDL cholesterol, even at the same 20-gram dose given for even longer—a period of eight weeks. That’s a bummer.

The primary reason I would suggest choosing other nuts instead, though, is that you can’t get baru nuts raw. They contain certain compounds that have to be inactivated by heat before human consumption. So, the reason raw nuts are preferable is because of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), so-called glycotoxins, which are known to contribute to increased oxidative stress and inflammation.

Glycotoxins are naturally present in uncooked animal-derived foods, but then dry-heat cooking, like grilling, can make things worse. The three highest levels recorded are bacon, broiled hot dogs, and roasted barbequed chicken skin (nothing comes close to that.) Chicken McNuggets come in here, but, anyway, any foods high in fat and protein can create AGEs at high enough temperatures; so, although plant foods tend to contain relatively few AGEs, even after cooking, there are some high-fat, high-protein plant foods.

For example, boiled tofu, like in a soup, is down here, but the same serving size of broiled tofu is up here. Now again, with most plant foods. it’s not at all a problem. Like here’s a raw apple, and here’s a baked apple. It doesn’t really matter, since it’s not high fat or high protein. I was surprised that veggie burgers were so low, even when baked or fried. But nuts and seeds are up in tofu territory, especially when roasted, which is why I would recommend raw nuts and seeds and nut and seed butters whenever you have a choice.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

In my Daily Dozen checklist, I recommend eating a quarter cup of nuts or seeds or two tablespoons of nut or seed butter each day. Why? See:

For those unfamiliar with Advanced Glycation End-Products (AGEs), check out the first two videos I did on them way back when: Glycotoxins and Avoiding a Sugary Grave.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and to my audio podcast here (subscribe by clicking on your mobile device’s icon). 

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