The Best Nut

The Best Nut
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Which type of nut has the highest antioxidant content?

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Five rounds left. Let’s get nutty. Ten different types. Pecans are the chart topper, followed by walnuts, the two healthiest nuts around. First off, though, what’s this one all the way at the other end? It’s 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? Do you think almonds are the worst? Brazil nuts? Or is it the cashew? Hazelnuts? Macadamia nuts? Peanuts? Pine nuts? Or do you think it’s the pistachio? And the losing nut is—the pine nut.

So pecans and walnuts up here; pine nuts down here. Now I would have guessed almonds would have been number three, but no, they’re down at number five. So which of these are numbers three or four? Pick a nut, and if it’s either number three or four, you get to stay in the game. So, which ones are the healthiest? Brazil nuts? Cashews? Hazelnuts? Macadamias? Peanuts? Or pistachios?

If you said peanuts, you’re wrong. If you said cashews, you’re even more wrong. Not macadamias or Brazil nuts, either. The top five healthiest nuts are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts (also called filberts), pistachios, and almonds. 

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Five rounds left. Let’s get nutty. Ten different types. Pecans are the chart topper, followed by walnuts, the two healthiest nuts around. First off, though, what’s this one all the way at the other end? It’s 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? Do you think almonds are the worst? Brazil nuts? Or is it the cashew? Hazelnuts? Macadamia nuts? Peanuts? Pine nuts? Or do you think it’s the pistachio? And the losing nut is—the pine nut.

So pecans and walnuts up here; pine nuts down here. Now I would have guessed almonds would have been number three, but no, they’re down at number five. So which of these are numbers three or four? Pick a nut, and if it’s either number three or four, you get to stay in the game. So, which ones are the healthiest? Brazil nuts? Cashews? Hazelnuts? Macadamias? Peanuts? Or pistachios?

If you said peanuts, you’re wrong. If you said cashews, you’re even more wrong. Not macadamias or Brazil nuts, either. The top five healthiest nuts are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts (also called filberts), pistachios, and almonds. 

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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

More on nuts:
Four Nuts Once a Month
Nuts May Help Prevent Death
Which Nut Fights Cancer Better?
Pistachio Nuts for Erectile Dysfunction

And check out my other videos on nuts

For more context, see out my associated blog posts: The Best Foods: test your nutrition knowledge and Amla: Indian gooseberries vs. cancer, diabetes, and cholesterol.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

67 responses to “The Best Nut

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        1. Hi Jeff! Nothing really. Dr. G recommends a number of varieties – 1/4 cup of nuts (or 2 tablespoons of nut butter) is part of our Daily Dozen. Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, pistachios, walnuts… take your pick! :)




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          1. Thanks, but that’s not what I was asking I was really responding to Kate’s comment above concerning the chart on acidity.




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  1. 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.




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    1. Omega 6 is not unhealthy! It’s a matter of where it’s coming from. All studies show that those who regularly eat nuts, actually have less inflammation, lower heart disease risk, lower risk of obesity, etc. The ratio idea is a new concept and another thing trying to isolate nutrients and define them, when all studies show that it’s the whole food package that counts. It’s the omega 6 (among other things) from refined oils (such as soy oil), refined junk foods, and animal products that we need to watch out for.

      All that being said. There are MANY health benefits of nuts besides the rankings of phytonutrients. Brazil nuts are the highest source of selenium for example. Cashews are an incredible source of copper. Almonds are an excellent source of biotin. And all of the previous mentioned and more, are rich with lots of other vitamins and minerals. Also, they are amazing at feeding our good flora! All nuts are unique and healthy and have a lot to offer, some are better sources of antioxidants, but someone may actually need a specific nutrient that works as an antioxidant, such as selenium, in which case a brazil nut might be their best choice for what their body needs at that moment. Personally, I like to eat a variety of foods. But I will definitely start buying more pecans!




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  2. 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?




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    1. I can’t answer your question in full, but I wouldn’t imagine that organic would be allowed to use this treatment (I’ve never tasted anything chemical when eating organic almonds whereas others have reported experiencing a “chemical taste” when eating almonds) and I hope I’m right, but I can’t say for sure. However I do know that those in stores can’t legally sell raw almonds unless they’re direct from the seller, so even for example, Woodstock’s “raw” almonds, are pasteurized. Terrasoul sells organic certified raw and unpasteurized almonds they get from Spain (it’s not a requirement in Spain to pasteurize almonds). I read somewhere that they started attacking almonds due to salmonella outbreak and instead of dealing with the source of contamination and cleaning up manufacturing practices, they simply slapped on a law that required them to mess with a perfect whole plant food. Gotta love our FDA…




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  3. 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?




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    1. 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




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      1. 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!




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      2. Omega 6 is an ESSENTIAL fatty acid. It isn’t omega 6 that’s bad, it’s the processed foods and animal products people GET it from that are bad. It’s this reason with the typical SAD diet (which is typically low in nut consumption) is overrun by omega 6. Eating a WFPB diet, you do not need to worry about omega 6 from nuts and seeds. Just make sure you’re getting omega-3 (I take 2 tablespoons of ground flax a day as a rule). The fat in nuts ARE healthy and essential. More important than mine or other commenters’ advice though, is to do the research, pay attention to your own body, use your own common sense, and decide for yourself.




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        1. To elaborate though, in other videos here, it shows that those who regularly eat nuts tend to be healthier in various significant ways.




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    2. In another video on here, Dr. Greger explains that roasting nuts can actually INCREASE the bioavailability of certain nutrients. It will kill some things but make some things more bioavailable. I think it’s good to eat both, though I personally favor raw.




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  4. 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?




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    1. 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.




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    2. 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???




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  5. 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?




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




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  6. 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




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  7. 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!




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  8. 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?




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    1. 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.




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  9. 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.




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    1. 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.




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    2. I share your thoughts, considering omega 3 in nuts is “useless” (its ALA instead of DHA), monounsaturated fats are key. Hazelnut and almonds are my favorite, macadamias are uberly expensive so I disregard them just for that.

      Walnuts and peanuts are an absolute nono, tons of omega 6.




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  10. 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.




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    1. 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.




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  11. 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




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  12. 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.




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    1. 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.




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  13. 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




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    1. 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!




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  14. What is the safest and healthy diet for some one that has Factor 5 a blood clotting disorder and is on coumadin? Please help, and to fight the inflammation




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  15. Would it be possible to post the antioxidant info for each nut?

    I’ve seen that Walnut oil have the highest content of vitamin E/tocopherols but would love to know what other polyphenols exist in other nuts.
    (vit.k, Palmitoleic acid (omega-7), squalene, hydroxytyrosol , tyrosol, tocotrienols (T3), tocopherols, etc).




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  16. Can anyone provide more information/research about the pine nuts? What makes these not as good? Perhaps it was just a fad but for the last few years I’ve heard so much raving about the wonders of pine nuts–and they are more expensive I’ve noticed.




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    1. In the context of this video it is simply that they have the lowest ORAC value of the nuts being compared according to the values reported from the USDA database of ORAC values. The USDA took down their database in 2012 due to concerns about the utility of ORAC values but the information remains available, for example here http://www.orac-info-portal.de/download/ORAC_R2.pdf

      For quick reference, the ‘Total ORAC’ value for some nuts from the above source –

      Pine Nuts: 720
      Brazil Nuts: 1419
      Walnuts: 13541
      Pecans: 17940

      However do remember that the nutritional virtues of nuts cannot be reduced to their ORAC content alone and for an educational read of the value of ORAC and why the USDA ceased publication, recommend this article http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Markets/ORAC-has-ongoing-value-says-expert-as-USDA-removes-online-database




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  17. I recently had shoulder surgery and my doctor recommended Brazil nuts – just two a day. I was under the impression they are one of the sole veg sources of selenium. Is that not the case? Also, where do pumpkin seeds fall in this spectrum.




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  18. Dear Dr. Greger, dear NutritionFacts.org Team,

    In several sources written by medical professionals I read about the aflatoxin and mycotoxin contamination of nuts such as cashew and peanuts and other food such as corn and soy beans. First I thought that I don’t even consider this option as I buy organic nuts from a well-known, trusted supplier and I always check the expiry date.
    However, I’ve recently read in articles (and even a medical book!) that it is advisable eliminate peanuts AND cashews from one’s diet completely because of the high hazard of toxin contamination. (They also mentioned, soy, corn, wheats, etc. that can be contaminated.)
    At the moment I consume quite a lot of these food because I am on a plant-based diet. Plus my father, who has Parkinson’s, is also on a plant-based diet and eats nuts regularly.
    Do you think aflaxotin and mycotoxin can be really an issue in Europe or the US when buying organic, good-quality products? What’s your viewpoint on this issue? I also read that it is advisable to soak ALL nuts in hydrogen-peroxide water to eradicate toxins but I find this absolutely unacceptable…

    I would really appreciate your comment on this.

    Thank you in advance,
    Anni




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