Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Bitter nuts (and seeds?) versus bland nuts - my subjective experience of malaise

A  personal observation. If I eat of lot of some types of nuts - such as almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts - and the same probably applies to seed mixtures e.g.pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) then it makes me feel generally rather 'off' - a bit queasy and down-spirited.

But this does not seem to apply to brazil nuts, nor to peanuts (which are technically not true 'nuts', but more like a bean).

I speculate that the difference might be related to whether the nuts have a bitter taste; and this may be causal, because bitterness is often the taste of plant toxins - leaves and seeds are often made toxic by plants to deter animals from eating them.

Nuts are seeds and would therefore be expected to be toxic; but they are sometimes edible when they are protected by a shell, because the shell makes a toxin unnecessary.

However,  it would not be surprising if some nuts were somewhat toxic- enough to have a subtle deleterious effect when a lot are consumed quickly - which is so easy to do nowadays, when nuts can be bought ready prepared for instant consumption.  

Has anyone else had a similar experience?



Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Wild almonds contain a compound which produces hydrogen cyanide when crushed or chewed. This has been (mostly?) bred out of domestic almonds, but it wouldn't be surprising to learn that even sweet almonds still produce trace amounts of cyanide and might be harmful in large doses.

I've never personally eaten nuts in large enough quantities to notice an effect, though. Always just a handful or two.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - I presume there are also individual susceptibilities, as there are for all drugs. I have always disliked marzipan, which may be telling me that even small amounts of almond oil is bad for me personally. I also find walnuts to be unpleasantly bitter; unless in small pieces and mixed with sweet stuff, like in a walnut cake.

360 Decrees said...

Cashews are expensive enough in my corner of the planet that I never had the opportunity to find out that I was allergic to the Cadillac of nuts until someone had the bright idea to sell broken bits of cashews by the one-pound bag very cheap. I began putting them away like peanuts.

When I began experiencing itchiness in an inconvenient region some days later I thought I was having a psychosomatic ailment until I remembered the change in eating habits. I stopped the cashews and the itch eventually went away.

If a nut bowl at a party includes cashews, I'll take one at a time, bite off pieces, and chew them for maximum enjoyment, no more than five nuts in the evening. Then I avoid them the rest of the time.

Bruce Charlton said...

@360 - I am not allergic to cashews; and I am not sure whether I react well or badly to large quantities of them.

I think I have only had *salted* cashews in large quantities, and a large amount of salted *anything* makes me feel bad - although, even so, I find it difficult to stop eating too much of salty snacks, when I am given the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember from chemistry classes that cyanide is supposed to smell of 'bitter almonds'.

I don't think I've ever smelt or tasted bitter almonds, and frankly I'm not keen to now. The husks are a little bitter, though presumably this is not what is being referred to.

Brazil nuts are worth attention due to the possibility of aflatoxin mould which is so toxic that Sadaam Hussein used it for biological weapons. I once made myself vomit after foolishly consuming a bitter brazil nut. (Tip: drink lots of milk first). Now I taste them carefully and keep them in a dry airtight container.

Nuts are rich and I think the brain is cautious about foods that it has not eaten in bulk before, at least until it has 'learnt' the foodstuff.

Most people would benefit from more nuts because we are apparently deficient in Magnesium.

-- Tom

Adam G. said...

There is no end to the quantity of brazil nuts that I can eat.

Pecans and cashews also seem to be eatable in quantities.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Adam - The brazil is the queen of nuts, so far as I am concerned. At present I am having a craze on a particular brand of Trail Mix with 25% brazils, coconut shavings, apricot pieces, dried banana slices and flame raisins... Yum yum.

alexi de sadesky said...

Careful gents, there is a great deal of selenium in brazil nuts.

I am nuts for nuts. Love 'em all.

Anonymous said...

What my family and I have always done is soak almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts in water for about a day, like one would with lentils. This gets rid of the trace amounts of cyanide in those nuts. Bitter nuts should not be ingested as they contain a higher amount of cyanide than regular nuts do.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anon - I can see how that might get rid of toxins, but it would also get rid of any enjoyment from eating them! I suppose it would be fine for cooking.

Nathaniel said...

Bruce - I believe after soaking, you dehydrate or roast them.

Evelyn M. said...

Interesting. In trying to get a handle on possible alternatives to chemotherapy, just in case any of us are ever encouraged to use it, I have been watching some well-done videos that describe the benefits from low levels of cyanide. Low levels of cyanide are found in bitter-tasting food that has been almost eliminated from the Western world's diet - such as watercress, lentils, millet, buckwheat, and especially the seeds of fruit contained within a hard pit (peach, apricot). Proponents of this view, starting with Ernst T. Krebs, claim that cancer in all its forms is a deficiency disease, and that eating these foods (and therefore ingesting "vitamin B-17" or "laetrile") will eliminate cancer in the same manner as ingesting vitamin C eliminates scurvy. The most pleasant-tasting items with this substance are raspberries - happily one of my favorites!