Nuts and Seeds Are Excellent Foods!

Nuts and seeds are a natural part of the diet of homo-sapiens. They are perfectly adapted to the taste and ability of humans to pick, dry, store, and crack. No wonder study after study shows raw nuts and seeds not only lower cholesterol, but protect against common diseases of aging. I recommend almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamias, filberts, and walnuts; and sunflower, sesame, flax, and pumpkin seeds. These delicious natural foods are high in nutrients and healthful unsaturated fats.

Nuts are an excellent natural food. Because they have hard shells and are picked off large trees with deep roots, nuts are relatively well protected from pesticides and environmental pollution. Nuts are a clean source of the healthful type of fats. They also are a good source of protein, which makes up about 15 to 25 percent of their calories.

Nuts and seeds are wonderful foods that can help ensure that your children develop healthy bodies and minds. In fact, one important key to your children's ongoing good health is to eliminate dairy products (low-nutrient foods, containing saturated fat) from their diets and make raw nuts and seeds (high-nutrient foods, containing unsaturated fat) their major source of fat.

Avoid roasted and salted nuts; they lose too many beneficial compounds. However, it is okay to place nuts in the toaster oven on low for a minute or two to enhance the crispness and flavor.

Try these nutty recipes:

Peach Ice Cream with Nut Pie Shell

16 oz. frozen sliced peaches
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup ground macadamias
1/2 cup ground pecans
4 coconut-date rolls

Make the nut crust by kneading the ground nuts with the date rolls and pressing into the bottom of a glass pie pan. Blend the frozen peaches with the soymilk and spoon into nut crust before serving.

Golden Delicious Cheese

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup raw blanched almonds
2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

Grind the cashews and almonds into a powdered meal in a VitaMix or coffee grinder, and then blend the ground nuts with the apple slices. Spread the mixture into a flat storage dish, uncovered, and store in the refrigerator until it hardens, somewhat like cheese.

Also try this recipe for Date Nut Pop 'Ems.

Going nuts looking for organic nuts? Check out Jaffe Bros. at www.organicfruitsandnuts.com.

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Comments (25) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
James - March 7, 2006 5:41 PM

Hold it. Before you buy these nuts, here are a few reminders here.

First, you have to watch what polyunsaturated fat you are taking, and make sure you balance your Omega acids. Also, limit your polyunsaturated fats and your monounsaturated fats, because too much of a good fat is bad for you. Because we are taking in too much Omega 6 fatty acids, peanuts are actually bad for you now, because of their extensive Omega 6 acids. Almonds, pecans, and a few others will upset your Omega 3 to 6 balance. So, my advice, only go with Macadania nuts or walnuts. Macadania nuts contain a similer ratio as olive oil, while walnuts contain more Omega 3 than omega 6. So, go for these mixes.

Also, I strongly encurage you to start eating coconuts. They contain saturated fats, but, uniquely, they are good for you. The short and medium chain saturated fats, while great for motor use and medicine, is good for you as your diet. I don't know why the ____ the FDA declared that saturated fat bad for your heart, but too much unsaturated fats is just as bad as too much saturated fat. My advice, BALANCE YOUR FATS! Your Monounsaturated-polyunsaturated-saturated fat should be a ratio of 5 to 1 to 4. If you have heart disease, liver disease, or an immune problem, you need to intake more medium chain saturated fatty acids in your body. They will detoxify your liver, repair your immune system, and will raise your HDL cholestrol, without raising your LDL cholestrol.

Perhaps it's time for the FDA to do more research on the unrefined saturated fats in coconuts, and even more research on good quality animal fat. Just because margarine is trans fat free, it's just isn't good for you. Good quality butter contains a special Trans Fat, which is CLA, which changes fatty tissue into muscle tissue, and yes, it's got nutrients. Margarine doesn't. And, tropical oils? USE THEM! As long as the saturated fat isn't hydronated, it's good for you. Remember, balance your fats. Too much monounsaturated fat is hard on your liver, and they are less stable. Visit Dr. Mercola's website at WWW.MERCOLA.COM. He's the expert.

Robin K - March 8, 2006 11:14 AM

HOLD IT further!! The prior responder James gives a lot of restrictive and controversial advice, tagged onto Dr. F's post. I'd like to see Dr. F or his staff respond to James. Do we REALLY need to limit our nuts to only Macademias and Walnuts--especially if we follow the E2L program and don't get excessive Omega 6s? Should we REALLY start downing coconut and coconut oil? I don't think so, but I'd love to read the OFFICIAL response from the site. Thanks.

Janice - March 8, 2006 11:41 AM

This is addressed in Eat to Live.

True, too much Omega-6 fat is not good. True, optimal health depends on the proper balance of fatty acids in the diet. With the standard American diet, people consume excess omega-6 and too little omega-3. This relative deficiency of omega-3 fats can have serious implications. Most Americans would improve their health if they consumed more omega-3 fats and less omega-6 fats. I don't know so much about the specific ratios per se, but since omega-6 fats are found in vegetable oils and animal products, if we limit those elements in our diet as Dr F. recommends and increase the sources of omega-3 fats we would be better off.

Dr. Fuhrman's general recommendation is to consume 2 grams of omega-3 fat daily. In Eat To Live, DF recommends eating more walnuts, flax seeds, soybeans and leafy greens to get more healthy omega-3 fats.

DF says the best fats are monounsaturated fats and essential fats (omega-3 and omega-6) as found in whole, natural plant foods, including avocados, olives, and raw nuts and seeds. I don't think there is a problem with the other nuts as long as you stick to raw and not roasted, salted, with oil etc.

Paul - March 8, 2006 5:05 PM

It's not true that walnuts have more Omega 3 than Omega 6. It is true they have a better ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 relative to other nuts. But walnuts still have something 4 to 5 times as much Omega 6 as Omega 3. That's close to the acceptable range of 4 to 1 (Omega 6 to Omega 3). But it's still a good idea to take some flax seed (which does have more Omega 3 than Omega 6) to help balance the two Omegas.

Joel Fuhrman - March 9, 2006 1:35 PM

Too bad this nonsense gets spread around the internet. No wonder everyone is so confused. Obviously this is someone who likely works for Dr. Mercola or is a fan of his. This is not only confusing, but wrong, but I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.

We should be eating food, (as nature intended) not oil (isolated fat). When we extract the oil from the whole food it was derived from we leave behind the lignin's, flavonoids, anti-oxidants, sterols, stanols and phytochemcials that make raw nuts and seeds so disease-protective. Raw nuts and seeds (not roasted peanut butter or coconut oil) have been linked in more than 100 scientific studies to lower risk of heart disease and lower risk of cancer. We don't even know the full symphony of natural substances that make natural foods so protective.

It is people like the comment above that attempt to fragment healthy whole foods into good and bad components that lead to the confusion and inevitable to the high-disease rates we see in America.

While Americans still think some balance of fat, carbohydrate and protein is better or worse, they missed the main point that it is not the balance of macronutrients (calorie containing nutrients) that is critical, but the lack of micronutrients (phytochemicals, antioxidants, minerals and other factors) that are the main cause of disease. We need to eat less fat, but most of the fat we do eat should be high in nutrients; we need to eat less protein, but most of the protein we do eat should be high in nutrients; and we need to eat less carbohydrate, but most of the carbohydrate we do eat should be high in nutrients. Natural foods are the answer, not juggling macronutrients. And consuming oils, which have the vast majority of their nutrients removed, is called processed foods or junk food. That means they are calorie-rich, but nutrient-poor. All oil is 120 calories per tablespoon and those calories add up fast in an overweight nation already over-consuming calories.


Almost all raw nuts and seeds are rich in micronutrients and protective food substances. They are not just a fat source, and they are also rich in plant proteins with favorable effects. We should aim to meet our requirements for both short and long-chain omega-3's, but it is healthy, not unhealthy, to get most of your fat intake from foods such as almonds and sunflower seeds which are rich in mono and polyunsaturared fats and micronutrient powerhouses, instead of extracted oils and animal products, which do not have comparable micronutrient density. This has already been well documented. It is good to consume a little ground flax seeds and walnuts daily because they are rich in those omega-3 fats that are otherwise low in the American diet that is overly rich in animal products (largely omega-6 and saturated fats).

All tropical oils (palm and coconut) are highly saturated fats. Like butter, cheese, and meat, tropical oils raise LDL cholesterol and clog arteries with plaque, increasing your risk of a heart attack. We use coconut oil (because it is so highly saturated) in animal experiments to create atherosclerotic plaque for studying heart disease in animals. There are different kinds of saturated fats with different impact on LDL cholesterol levels. One long-chain sat fat, stearic acid, has little impact on LDL cholesterol. But other long-chain saturated fatty acids, like the ones that make up most of the saturated fat in coconut and palm oils (known as tropical oils), do in fact raise LDL cholesterol considerably. These saturated fats are called palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids. They also make up most of the saturated fatty acids in meat, poultry, and dairy fats like milk and cheese. Other saturated fats that have little impact on LDL cholesterol levels include medium-chain varieties like caproic, caprylic, and capic acids. A small percentage of the saturated fat in coconut oil, about 10%, is made up of these less harmful saturated fatty acids, but virtually all the rest of coconut oil's saturated fat is made up of the long-chain varieties that raise LDL.

Coconut oil is getting promoted on the web, internet and even the health food industry, claiming its healthy because most of its fat is made up of medium chain fatty acids (MCT), which are metabolized differently. Yes, it is true that a small portion of coconut oil is MCT (C-6 to C-10 fatty acids) and these do get oxidized more quickly and have little impact on LDL-C levels. However, because the vast majority of saturated fatty acids in coconut oil are the longer chain fatty acids, C-12 to C-16 (lauric, myristic and palmitic acids) it does in fact elevate LDL-C. The idea that MCT fats will induce weight loss or detoxify the liver is an example of alternative nonsense at its highest level. Coconut oil is 92% saturated, making it more saturated than butter, beef tallow, or even lard. Palm oil, though it contain less saturated fat (50%), is full of a type of saturated fat, palmitic acid, which appears to be most conducive to heart disease.

You just can't believe everything you read on the internet. This man above (and Dr. Mercola too) has been taken in by health food industry hype, it is wrong. The coconut oil industry likes to point out that the traditional Polynesian diet - high in tropical oils like coconut - is linked with relatively low rates of heart disease. However, it's important to remember that heart disease involves multiple variables. It is not all fat. The high consumption of fruits, vegetables, fish and the low consumption of cheese and beef obviously are critical in studies of people on traditional Polynesian diets with low rates from heart disease. To attribute the benefit to consuming coconut oil is very deceptive and a clear marketing ploy. I for one am not claiming that eating coconuts is unhealthy in the context of an otherwise healthy diet or that a little saturated fat is so deadly, rather it is the low level of micronutrients eating a diet rich in processed foods such as oil and the high consumption of animal products that shifts natural plant food off our plate that are key. But anyone that claims coconut oil is a health food, or good quality butter is good for you, is clearly not someone you should trust with your health.

Robin K - March 11, 2006 12:10 AM

Thank you for taking the time, Dr. Furhman, to respond thoroughly and thoughtfully to the nonsense. As we like to say in the Vegsource Eat to Live group, ...YOU'RE THE MAN!!

Dana - March 20, 2006 4:47 PM

I can't help but ask two questions. 1) Is the coconut oil that is used to create atherosclerotic plaque in animal studies hydrogenated or not and would that produce different results?
2) Dr. Mercola's website claims that 2/3 of the saturated fat in coconut oil is medium chain triglycerides. I believe Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon's book states the same thing. Is this false? Thank you.

Joel Fuhrman - March 21, 2006 5:19 PM

No the coconut oil used in animal studies are not hydrogenated and yes, that is false. They quote each other as if it is a reference for a fact.

Joel Fuhrman - March 21, 2006 8:30 PM

I just went to www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/ our governments web analysis tool and analyzed plain coconut oil for you guys and added up the numbers including the fractions so it would be exact. 100 grams of coconut oil contains 86.5 percent (grams) of saturated fat. It contains 14.1 (percent) grams of 6-10 chain (medium chain) saturated fats and 5.8 grams of monounsaturated fat. So it is most accurate to call it about 14 percent or those less harmfull MCT saturated fats (a relatively small amount) that these greasy coconut oil sales people hype up as the magic wonder part. Of course don't forget, even though I have said this hundreds of times here already--> the extracted oil contain less than one tenth of nature's valuable nutrients than the same amount of calories obtained from the whole food (coconut). When you eat more of the whole food and less oil, you increase the nutrient density of your diet. When you substitute oil for the nut, you dilute the nutrient density of your diet. I mix whole raw nuts into dressing recipes where others might use oil and the taste is even better and you gain nutritional benefits in the process.

JiggaDigga - April 7, 2006 1:13 PM

Great reading, keep up the great posts.
Peace, JiggaDigga

Gabriel - August 26, 2006 1:35 AM

I think it might be worth mentioning that, unless I'm wrong, and I often am, fats are the most important nutrient there is for humans. Someone on a carb/protein only diet devoid of fat will starve much more quickly than someone on fat only diet. So while refined oils are lacking in micronutrients, they are nonetheless members of the family of nutrients, micro or macro, that are more important than any other nutrient. Am I wrong?

I also don't buy the saturated fat= heart disease hype. It's hype, just like the coconut oil panacea is hype. Potatoes fried in rancid soybean oil and super sized coca-colas coupled with excessive stress related cortisol levels along with several other factors not having to do with natural butter, organic animal fat, and coconut oil are probably what's causing our epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. IMO.

sam - October 5, 2006 7:49 PM

Mr. fuhrman, i dont know how you add up milligrams of fatty acids, but according to NUTRITIONData.com, 5 grams of coconut oil contains 4.5 grams of fat. 2,641 milligrams of which are medium chain saturated, and 1,773 milligrams of which are longer chained. thats about 2/3s mcfas...Now i agree u should eat the whole coconut but show me study in which non-altered saturated fats from tropical oils have contributed to health problems

sam - October 5, 2006 7:52 PM

also, medium chain includes 12-carbon fatty acids (lauric) which is the one that coconut oil has most of

Rich - October 12, 2006 5:50 PM

I've seen at least as many studies showing a positive conclusion for coconut oil as negative. And many of those with a negative conclusion were skewed when you read the details (which are usually omitted in media publishings).

A typical example, in a study they feed one group of rats "only" (high EFA) safflower oil and another group "only" (low EFA) coconut oil. Well the coconut oil only group is worse off (IMO), because the body cannot manufacture EFAs (must acquire through diet). This doesn't mean coconut oil is bad, only that a lack of EFAs is. And you don't need very much (EFAs). It's the wrong ratio of EFAs that is a problem for most people (too much omega 6 vs. omega 3). A problem exuberated by the extensive use of high omega 6 cooking oils.

Considering that isolated oils are used by "humans" most commonly for cooking purposes, coconut oil would have the advantage of being more heat stable and not turning rancid/toxic/transfat filled when exposed to heat. So I would say at "minimum" coconut oil or other highly saturated oils would be healthier for high temperature cooking. And yes the best thing would be for people to eat more fresh fruits and veggies; and less fried and over processed food. It is best to eat whole nutrient rich foods (such as nuts/seeds) vs. just oil (obviously). So some good advice there.

lauren - December 15, 2006 6:44 PM

saturated fat does not cause heart disease people! my great aunt lived to 105 on a diet very high in saturated fat ..mind u not grain fed animals.she hunted a lot and drank full fat raw milk and ate butter. she didn't touch junk food with a ten foot poll.sometimes she'd even eat the fta n throw away the meat(no joke as weird as it sounds)fast forward to her children's children..adapted to the low -fat high carb stupidity gripping the west. the result? well type 2 diabetes, heart disease etc etc u name it. it is NOT red meat and milk fat and butter that cause health problems it is teh new TRANS FAT not saturated fat which we've even forever..high grain diets messing with insulin, nutrient devoid perverted pasturized milk helping us aquire autoimmune diseaes..and SOY helping estrogen sensative women get breast cancer and compromising immune systems I found a wonderful site I recommend to u all http://www.westonaprice.org/index.html all u need to know about what is natural eating.i'm not affiliated with the site i just happen to gree with the information and have witnessed it first hand! cheers to good health!

Karl - February 24, 2007 12:15 PM

Here is a recent study that used wet process virgin coconut oil.

Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation.

PMID: 15329324

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=pubmed&cmd=Retrieve&dopt=AbstractPlus&list_uids=15329324&query_hl=2&itool=pubmed_docsum

Mike - March 8, 2007 6:24 PM

Dr. Fuhrman,

First time comment and fan.

I really like to see the research/study on this statement below:

"We use coconut oil (because it is so highly saturated) in animal experiments to create atherosclerotic plaque for studying heart disease in animals."

If this is true, it makes the most of the Dr. Mercola website very laughable. You really should make a website dedicated about the Weston Price Foundation.

You know what makes me laugh is looking at the board members diet they journaled here:

http://www.westonaprice.org/basicnutrition/boarddiets.html

I like how a lot these diet gurus their calorie intake is over 4000 calories. That's double and more then mine (I'm 5'7 150). I eat about 1500 cals a day. Doesn't lower calorie intakes associate with longer life spans?

Does anyone have bets when one of them will get a heart attack or colon cancer.

Rolf - May 6, 2007 8:05 AM

Dear Dr. Fuhrman,

Why don't you respond to Sam's very accurate assessment that coconut oil consists of about 67% medium chain fatty acids and NOT 14% as you CLAIM? Isn't it interesting that when one visits the website you mentioned where you can find the composition of the fatty acids of coconut oil, one comes clearly -with that presented data-to the result of 67% medium chain fats. But you twist the numbers and present it so they FIT YOUR OWN AGENDA. Which is ironic because you're the one putting other scientists, doctors, researchers down for NOT objectively looking at the facts because according to you they have an agenda to support. YOUR behaviour clearly shows that you have an agenda yourself! Isn't it lovely that "actions always speak louder than words"?! I'd advise everyone to look at you with a skeptical, cautious eye, and not see you as the "objective source of science without having any agenda of your own" as you more or less present yourself in your writtings. Just because you have a persuading way of writting does not make everything you say correct. I totally agree with one thing you've said...let's just look at the hard science (and not just what YOU write).

Tethya - May 10, 2007 9:19 AM

Rolf, Sam's numbers are way off. Unless they changed the values on nutritiondata.com, Sam must have copied them down wrong (and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt). Oil is pure fat--why would 5g of oil equal 4.5g of fat? I'm sure Dr. Fuhrman hasn't responded because he doesn't care to waste his time. He's a medical doctor, not a math teacher.

I don't really care to waste my time either, but it's been a slow morning, so:

For a cup (218g) of "Vegetable oil, coconut" according to Nutritiondata.com.

total fat: 218g
saturated: 189g
6:00: 1.308g
8:00: 16.350g
10:00: 13.078g
Total MC: 30.736g

30.736g/218g*100% = 14.099%

No one has been twisting numbers here except Sam.

Values for raw coconut meat are similar, although not identical.

Matthew - May 10, 2007 5:25 PM

I am trying to figure out this carbon chain length distribution of coconut oil thing. It looks as though the hang up is what constitutes a medium chain fatty acid? Dr Fuhrman says 6-10 carbons. I haven't been able to see that anywhere else online. Every other sourse seems to include fatty acids with 12 carbons a medium chain. The "12" group is the group which contains the vast majority, about 44% (regardless of the sample size) of the fat in coconut oil. Whether the 12 group falls into medium chain or long chain with have a highly influential effect on which group (medium or long chain) will house the majority of the fat.
So is a 12 carbon chain a medium chain like many websites say or is it a 1 carbon chain like Dr. Fuhrman says?

Rolf - May 18, 2007 1:01 AM

Tethya (& Matthew),

Well, medium chain fatty acids are classified as fats with 6 (or 8)-12 carbons:
"Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) commonly abbreviated MCT or MCTs, are medium-chain (6 to 12 carbons) fatty acid esters of glycerol." (wikipedia.org)

and

"Medium-chain fatty acids contain eight to twelve carbon atoms." (webMD.com)

Tethya, Sam is NOT "way off". Dr. Fuhrman is. And you. You both failed to include the medium fat with the 12 carbon chain. THAT is why YOUR numbers are "way off". And Dr. Fuhrman's.

I'm fairly certain the reason Dr. Fuhrman hasn't responded is NOT "because he doesn't care to waste his time" as you put it but BECAUSE HE'S WRONG (and does not have the courage/integrity to admit it because if he did the "credibility" he created through his "I-know-it-all-attitude" (I studied 60,000 studies) would start to crumble.

Please re-read my original post, and start THINKING FOR YOURSELF, researching for yourself. The sound science. And not simply blindly accepting what Dr. Fuhrman claims (many things are correct surely). Because it's clear he DOES have his own (not always science-based) agenda Tethya. Which SHOULD make you and anyone else cautious to accept just about everything he says. At least don't blindly accept all he claims.

Take care..

john - December 2, 2009 2:32 PM

Dr. Furman,

Below is the listing from the www.nal.usda.gov website for one tablespoon of coconut oil. It appears that at least 2/3 is MCT (6-12 carbons) oil. Any comment on this?

Fatty acids, total saturated g 11.764
4:0 g 0.000
6:0 g 0.082
8:0 g 1.020
10:0 g 0.816
12:0 g 6.066
14:0 g 2.285
16:0 g 1.115
18:0 g 0.381

Sebastian Ng - April 10, 2011 6:11 PM

Is eating all the edible parts of the coconut as a whole just as unhealthy as eating coconut oil?

Robert - September 3, 2011 10:01 AM

Questions to Dr. Fuhrman,

If coconut oil is so highly atherogenic then why aren't Sri Lankans and other cultures that use it daily dropping like flies from heart attacks?

How much of this is hype from American edible oil producers that would like to see all competition from coconut oil producers destroyed?

Rebecca - February 14, 2013 8:17 AM

Is it safe to use coconut oil on your skin? Is the saturated fat absorbed and just as harmful s eating co nut oil.

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