Are nuts really healthy?: A lot of people... - Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating
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Are nuts really healthy?


A lot of people, and I mean a lot love their nuts not just because they taste nice but also because there is a lot of promotion coming across as fact that nuts are good, good, good. Even one of my favourite sources for nutrition research goes on about nuts being healthy. Before I go on, I am not arguing for people to stop eating nuts, but rather to not accept newspaper headlines blindly, and even if you check out the research beware, be very aware that most nut studies are paid for by the nut industry.

For a very detailed sceptical report on the subject check out two long videos by


There is much in these videos, including how to be extra careful when studying research.

24 Replies

You know, my main gripe about Michael Greger is that he reckons everything is unhealthy.

A nut is just one type of seed. There's nothing extraordinary about it. Nature provides a fairly limited quantity of seeds, which is why they're so valued by animals. I'm pretty sure that eating seeds in the quantities that nature tends to deliver is neither healthy nor unhealthy. It's just food.

The problems only happen when governments subsidize excessive production of these things and tell us to base our entire diets on them, as happened with wheat and soybeans.

As for nuts not saving your life: well, of course they won't. We all end up in a box eventually.

in reply to TheAwfulToad

Except that Greger is saying nuts ARE healthy.

in reply to JAS9

Listening to them is certainly unhealthy :)

I'm afraid I couldn't sit through an hour and a half of videos to find out whether Greger thinks nuts are good or bad. Andy's precis and the title of the first video suggests that he is dismissing the nuts-as-superfood idea.

I enjoy macadamia nuts. That being said, I wouldn't listen to anything from Greger or a Harvard (Walter Willet) study.

I do try to listen to these things (sometimes) because it helps your own ideas evolve. I think I've acquired more nuanced views on nutrition by listening to people on the other side of the fence and ensuring that I can explain to myself, with reference to empirical facts or biochemistry, why they're wrong or misguided. Oftentimes the issues they raise are important and interesting, even if their conclusions are daft.

On the other hand, there's only so much Greger I can cope with.

But yeah, I'd say the most sensible reason for eating nuts is that they taste nice. I dunno why we're only allowed to eat things if some expert has proclaimed them to be "super healthy".

The dangers of closed minds. Here I was posting what in part at least is a serious and pertinent critique of Dr Greger with a view to furthering people's understanding of health issues from a balanced perspective.

Sadly several people have shown they have closed minds that prejudge based on their own prejudices. Yes, I have a high opinion of Dr Greger, but that does not mean I accept what he says without question. I try to look at life openly and in that vein I made this post. I would hope you could do the same - otherwise how can we trust what you advocate?

Please do yourselves a big favour and think critically from a position of openness to new ideas. You never know you might learn something that helps your heath.

I'm only speaking for myself here, but if you're linking to almost two hours of videos purely on the subject of nuts, you need to give us a really good reason to watch. At least give us a summary of what's being discussed.

Nuts are a minor part of the average diet. You're asking people to effectively shorten their lives by two hours in order to discover that nuts don't increase lifespan.

in reply to andyswarbs

Closed minds and blinkered is not good.

Nut are good with Halal or Kosher chicken.

Dont have to look at and listen for hours to squeamish doctor's to know that.

in reply to Hidden

Halal And Kosher ???? Both are the most inhumane disgusting means of killing any animal and are now being banned as such in countries in Europe. Both methods are a means of money making by the leaders of both religions. under the pathetic guise of religion.

in reply to bobski1

Where is halal and kosher meat banned.

What are you saying, inhuman.

Are you joking me.


in reply to Hidden

Banned in Netherlands and another couple of countries in Europe now because the method of killing the animals has been deemed as inhumane .On top of that legal side, Both methods are a means for the priests of both religions to make money from companies, so said companies can be accredited by religion . If you look at any establishment that is accredited by either Kosher or Halal, both have to pay for that accreditation.


I've listened to half of the first video, I am a bit concerned by the references to the animal studies 4 minutes in. From my understanding, the animals referred to were rabbits, which got sick when they were fed cholesterol from meat, eggs and dairy?

The one positive I will say for nuts, is that I heard they're hard to digest, and our bodies struggle to extract all the calories from them. That being the case, it would hopefully help weight loss if part of a calorie controlled diet, because we're consuming less calories than we think.

Thanks for bringing up this topic, andyswarbs. It is important to know who to trust when it comes to things like this.

I watched the first video as well as some on Greger's site and came to the conclusion that I trust Greger even more than before. Here's my theory on what's going on here: The guy who made this video really, REALLY distrusts (one could say blindly hates) all studies that could've been influenced by "the industry" (in this case the nut industry). Greger looks at each study carefully weighing the science behind it as well as potential industry influence. I've also seen him put more weight behind older studies simply because there was less industry influence on them. It's one of the reasons I like him and trust him. I don't have the time or resources to dig into each topic, so I've decided that if I go with Greger's recommendation I'm not far off. But you're also right in that we need to keep an open mind.

Now, why are some vegan doctors telling their patients that they shouldn't eat nuts and seeds? That's easy: Esselstyn and Ornish have both spent several decades helping very sick patients who are literally on death's door to reverse their heart disease (for example). To do this, Esselstyn (for example) has famously asked his patients to adhere to a very strict diet which includes 4 piles of steamed green veggies the size of a fist every day. His famous yell of "no oils!!!" is deadly serious, and if I was dying of coronary artery disease, I would be eating those piles of greens and NOT eating nuts and seeds which contain oil. His success at this is incredible (except that it is very well documented and therefore very credible). Dr Goldhamer is a similar doctor who runs the True North clinic in Santa Rosa, California, in case anyone's looking for this type of treatment. Dr Ornish is also a "food nazi" in that he also takes "end stage" patients who've been given months or weeks to live, watches everything they eat every day, and saves many lives. So his diet is also meant for very sick patients. McDougall (the other guy in the picture) has always followed a slightly different drummer by pushing starch so insistently. But he's also pushing the envelope to see what else a strict WFPB-and-then-some diet can cure, such as MS.

But I think that most vegan doctors would advise you to eat nuts and seeds in moderation, as long as you're fairly healthy and not dying of clogged arteries. That's because they're helping healthy patients to continue to live long healthy lives, as opposed to helping people who have severe coronary blockages to live at all.

If you think about it, the fact that vegan doctors disagree now and then is a good sign that they aren't being bullied by anyone; they think for themselves. I know that's the case for Dr Garth Davis and Dr Joel Fuhrman, who both recommend nuts and seeds in moderation. It might be interesting to take a poll of some of the others about seeds and nuts as well as other topics. Here's an incomplete list in case anyone wants to do more research into this: HT Colin Campbell, Michael Greger, Garth Davis, Michael Klaper, Neal Barnard, Caldwell Esselstyn, Milton Mills, Kristi Funk, Alan Goldhamer, Laurie Marbas, John McDougall, Joel Kahn, Saray Stancic, Joel Fuhrman, Michelle McMacken, Dean Ornish, Anthony Hadj, Beth Lambert, Nick Delgado.

in reply to JAS9

If i get worried about my sunkist pistachios i wil look one of them up.

in reply to JAS9

Thanks for boiling it down for us, JAS9.

On the subject of helping sick people: I'd suggest that the reason these interventions work is that virtually anything is an improvement over what people generally eat. If you tell people to stop eating junk food and start eating proper meals, you're guaranteed to get a positive result. It doesn't matter exactly what the new diet looks like. The Government Issue diet is probably the worst possible diet a human could eat. It leads to obesity, disease, and sometimes psychological issues, for well-documented reasons. Human bodies seem able to adapt to and thrive on almost anything except that.

I dislike the "it's all funded by industry!" stance. Nutrition studies from all sources are 80% utter rubbish, 19% mundane, and 1% useful, solid science. Some of those 1% are funded by industry. Any scientific paper should be taken on its individual merits, not just dismissed on principle.

To take one example: most studies on statins are funded by industry. They are often quite good studies ... as long as you (a) understand that a study that selects 40-year-old men with CVD as subjects is relevant only to 40-year-old men with CVD, and (b) can work through the statistical sleight-of-hand they always use to wrap their desired conclusions around the raw data.

in reply to TheAwfulToad

>> "On the subject of helping sick people: I'd suggest that the reason these interventions work is that virtually anything is an improvement over what people generally eat. If you tell people to stop eating junk food and start eating proper meals, you're guaranteed to get a positive result."

Yes, of course almost anything is an improvement over SAD (Standard American Diet).

>> " It doesn't matter exactly what the new diet looks like."

Of course it does. An "improvement" is not the same thing as reversing advanced coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes with diet.

What is this "government-issued diet"? Which government? Does anyone actually follow their suggestions? For many decades, they've asked people to consume less fat and sugar, yet we Americans eat more of both than ever before.

in reply to JAS9

>> An "improvement" is not the same thing as reversing advanced coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes with diet.

I disagree. Bodies are pretty good at healing themselves as long as they're not too far gone, and diabetes (not sure about heart disease) is undoubtedly a threshold thing, not a dose-response phenomenon. Bring your dietary glycemic load within the range that your body can cope with and the symptoms will most likely recede. That's not going to work for advanced cases, and low-carb protocols will work much more quickly and reliably, but I can certainly believe that low-GI plant-based diets would sometimes do the trick.

As for CVD, that's a more complicated issue. There is real physical damage involved, not just a control-loop miscalibration. So I don't know. But since diabetes and CVD have the same underlying causes, it may be that they can be addressed in similar ways.

>> What is this "government-issued diet"? Which government?

All the governments which preside over a population of ill, fat people :)

Ideas about fat and cholesterol have reached far and wide. Even the French government repeats the same old nonsense. Fortunately, French people take no notice of their government, and carry on drinking wine and eating cheese.

>> Does anyone actually follow their suggestions?

Ah, well, that's the thing, isn't it? They want to. They desperately want to. They know what's "right". And they try. And they fail. Because ...

>> For many decades, they've asked people to consume less fat and sugar, yet we Americans eat more of both than ever before.

As I mentioned to andyswarbs , there's a really simple reason for this, but everyone wants to pretend it isn't happening (or they don't bother looking in the right places - if there's one thing dieticians never do, it's seeking out scientific disproof).

You really do need to read the posts in the NHS forum for several weeks to get a true sense of the epidemiology here. The typical pattern is something like this:

1) "Hello everyone! I've read the NHS advice and I'm feeling hopeful! I've done this a few times before and always put the weight back on but I think I can do it this time!"

2) "I've reduced my fat intake and I've been counting my calories, but I feel so hungry all the time. Does anyone have any suggestions?"

3) "OMG I've fallen off the wagon. I had a good, filling meal of dandelion leaves and whole-grain quinoa and then polished off a whole bucket of Quality Street. Ah well, onwards and downwards!"

4) "I've blown it. I'm a terrible person. Why do I do this to myself? Maybe I should just accept that I'll be fat forever."

This routine plays out so often that all the posters blend into each other. They do exactly the same things, over and over.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: low-fat calorie-controlled diets do not work and cannot work. Your body will rebel; it knows what it wants, and it knows these diets are fundamentally unhealthy. The problem is that forcing your body to eat low-fat garbage does terrible things to your appetite. While it might be a reasonable survival strategy "in the wild" to gorge on whatever's available as soon as food comes into view after a period of starvation, it doesn't work well when there's a supermarket stocked with junk food on every street corner.

There's a second route to failure which converges on the first: following the advice to eat lots of carbs. I've mentioned the USDA guidelines before, which explicitly instruct people to over-eat. I think the figure is "six servings of carbohydrates per day". It might be eight. When you eat lots of carbs, you want more carbs ... especially if your body has been trained to expect zero dietary fat.

In other words, dieticians have managed to create the perfect storm - low-fat plus high-carb - that's guaranteed to mess people up. It seems to me that a failure of that magnitude soars beyond mere incompetence and achieves the status of high art. It deserves some sort of award.

in reply to TheAwfulToad

I agree with you that your 1-4 is an all-too-common approach to diet and terrible outcome. But after that, you fall off a logic cliff. You set up a false equivalency between the horrible 1-4 diet and all low-fat high-carb diets. 1-4 describes what many people do, not the diet they should follow (IMO).

Nothing you wrote has any similarity or relevance to the low-fat high-carb diet being successfully used over and over again by a relatively small (but growing) number of doctors like Neal Barnard, who have now helped many thousands of people. I refuse to indulge your attempt to attack my chosen diet by equating a terrible 1-4 diet to what I believe is the healthiest and easiest to maintain diet there is.

If you or anyone else would like to know more about the diet that has actually helped many thousands of people recover from hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and even advanced arterial sclerosis, you know where to find me. In the meantime here's a reality-based video to get you started. Although it's an hour long, just watch the first 15 minutes and it will suck you in.

in reply to JAS9

"This fat builds up inside the cell and it stops the insulin key from working."

I'm prepared to listen to people who just have a peculiar spin on things, but I don't like it when people invent untruths to support their stance. That statement is utter rubbish. Fat doesn't "build up" inside your cells, and it's certainly not the mechanism behind insulin resistance. I don't like theories which depict biochemistry as perverse or ineffective. Our bodies implement some absolutely incredible mechanisms, if you care to study them. The idea that these are dumb or faulty makes no sense to me. Faulty mechanisms would have been discarded by natural selection.

I thought we'd be in for a rough ride when he wheeled out "look at the Japanese". I'm pretty confident Barnard has never been to Japan or eaten a Japanese meal. I'll take a photo next time I go to a Japanese restaurant. Yes, Japanese people eat rice. Mostly, though, they eat lots of other things, and they eat no sweets at all. As I've mentioned before, if you want to see a population that actually does revere rice as a dietary staple, go to the Philippines. Rice, rice, bread, doughnuts, Coke, more rice, cakes, Coke. Very little fat (even gov't statistics indicate very little fat - because they can't afford it). Or vegetables. Diabetes and CVD: through the roof.

Going back to insulin resistance: I think this is much misunderstood. Each of your organs can develop resistance independently, and they do so to indicate they're at capacity. It's a distributed mechanism for assigning power flow in proportion to an organ's ability to cope with it. If your organs didn't have this mechanism, they'd be flooded with unwanted glucose, and they'd die. That would not be good.

In other words, insulin resistance is perfectly normal. The problem only happens when power-in exceeds power-out. There is no solution to this condition, not even in theory. It's hardly surprising a body caves in when that happens. Barnard, like most doctors, has no idea how adaptive systems work, or the math that underpins them. Why would he? It's not taught in medical school. Unfortunately, instead of educating himself, he's decided to just make stuff up based on observations about chewing gum.

Anyway: I think you've misunderstood my stance. I'm not attacking your diet. Nor am I promoting mine as such. If your plant-based diet works for you, then it works. I can't argue with empirical facts. What I'm attacking is Government policy which combines every possible wrong idea that you can think of into a toxic package. Barnard has missed this. It's not the cheese or the McDonalds or the HFCS. If it were this or that single feature, you'd be able to locate that common thread in every disease-ridden society, and you just can't: for example, Filipinos eat little or no cheese because there is no dairy industry. Disassemble the package and the risk of chronic disease is much reduced. Veganism works because it does that; it just happens to introduce a whole bunch of other features which aren't strictly necessary, but which the average body can adapt to.

Hi Andyswarbs,

Thanks for posting this article with videos. I haven't watched the videos, so can't comment on their content. However, I try to eat nuts as part of my diet. I eat almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, walnuts and occasionally macadamea nuts. I have had a long history of high triglycerides and high cholestrol. Four months into my diet where I write down everything I eat, my triglycerides and cholestrol are both down and in a "normal" range for the first time in over 20 years. I have a list of 20 or so "superfoods", and the only change I will make to my diet is to consciously plan to include more of those superfoods as variety in my diet. As long as the evidence base of the measurements keeps going in the right direction, I will not fear the individual contribution of any particular foodstuff to my overall results, which have improved beyond my most optimistic plans. Unlike my past life, where I may have sat and eaten an entire packet of peanuts in one sitting (150g or so), I now put the nuts in a small glass bowl with an estimated 25g to 50g serving, and never go back for seconds. Same applies to all foods in my diet. It is sometimes tough, but nothing a 250 ml glass of water won't fix. BTW, I also include 2,000 ml per day of water in my diet, and am averaging 1,800 per day for the past 12 weeks. I think that has a lot to do with the data improvement too.

Brilliant. Listening to your body.

Here is a rebuttal by Dr Fuhrman on this nut video series.

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