Nuts and Oils: Why Coconut and Macadamia are King

imgresTaste is very personal but if you’re an almond eater and you haven’t tried macadamia nuts it’s time to give macadamia nuts a try. If you still cook with vegetable oils or olive oil it’s time to give coconut oil and macadamia nut oil a try. Here’s why…

In the world of fats we have three general classifications: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Sources of saturated fats: animal fats such as cream, cheese, butter, and ghee; suet, tallow, lard, and fatty meats; as well as certain vegetable products such as coconut oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, chocolate, and many prepared foods.

Best uses of saturated fats: Cooking
Why? Despite the fact that the majority of health officials have claimed all saturated fats are bad for you and cause heart disease, recent evaluation of the basis for this recommendation has found it to be seriously flawed, as unprocessed saturated fats are an important part of a healthy nutrition regimen and should be regularly consumed, not assiduously avoided. Saturated fats are less susceptible to oxidation and rancidity (discussed in the polyunsaturated fats section below).

0002250693451_500X500Best saturated fats for cooking: Virgin coconut oil
Why?

Coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat. While this makes it the devil according to the so-called medical authorities, we know better. In addition to being a great fuel source for the body, coconut oil has some unique properties. It is a special type of saturated fat called medium chain triglyceride (MCT). Unlike other fats, MCTs do not require bile acids for digestion. This means they are easily absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine. Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid found in mother’s milk that is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Kresser

Virgin coconut oil is relatively solid at room temperature and a better choice for cooking due to it being less susceptible to oxidation when compared to the mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Feel free to explore the many attributes and benefits of coconut oil.

Sources of polyunsaturated fats: soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, Fish: trout, herring, salmon and purified fish oil supplements.

Best uses of polyunaturated fats: As they naturally occur in fish or added without heat to meals or shakes (i.e., chia seeds or flax seeds)

Best polyunsaturated fats: Salmon and purified fish oil supplements.
Why? Salmon and purified fish oil supplements are both rich in omega-3 fats, and perhaps even more importantly, the two fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Research supports the idea that the greatest health enhancements that can be derived from omega-3 fatty acids are specifically from the DHA and EPA fatty acids. Plant-based omega-3 rich foods are not high in DHA and EPA and the body converts plant-based omega-3 fats into DHA and EPA quite poorly.

Polyunsaturated oils, including the omega-3 fats, are extremely susceptible to damage from heat, light, and oxygen. When exposed to these elements for too long, the fatty acids in the oil become oxidized, a scientific term that simply means that the oil becomes rancid.

Rancidity not only alters the flavor and smell of the oil, but it also diminishes the nutritional value. More importantly, the oxidation of fatty acids produces free radicals, which are believed to play a role in the development of cancer and other degenerative diseases. Their damage takes a toll on everything from cell membranes, to DNA/RNA strands, to blood vessels (which can then lead to plaque accumulation). The harm adds up over time in the organs and systems of the body and can cause significant impact, including premature aging and skin disease, liver damage, immune dysfunction, and even cancer.

Under most circumstances, the problem of rancidity only arises when the oils are removed from their natural food package. For example, the hard shell of the flaxseed protects the oil inside the seed from heat, light, and oxygen. Flaxseeds also contain antioxidant compounds, such as vitamin E, that provide additional protection against oxidation. But, when the seed is pressed to isolate the oil, the oil becomes vulnerable to the elements.

As a result, oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids should be stored in dark glass, tightly closed containers in the refrigerator or freezer. In addition, these oils should never be heated on the stove. So, instead of sautéing your vegetables in flaxseed or walnut oil, make a salad dressing using these oils.

Sources of monounsaturated fats: nuts, macadamia oil, olive oil, vegetable oils, canola oil, high oleic safflower oil, sunflower oil, Avocado

Best use of monounsaturated fats: Topping foods for added flavor (i.e., olive oil) or low-moderate heat cooking (i.e., baking, grilling, sauteing)

imgresBest monounsaturated fats: Macadamia nuts and oil, olive oil
Why? Macadamia nuts and oil are even higher in monounsaturated fats than olive oil. Macadamia nuts provide the lowest level of omega-6 fats of any nut (this is an excellent attribute) and the oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil. While saturated fats are best for high-temperature cooking macadamia nut oil can be used for baking, grilling, sauteing and stir frying.

Why Are Macadamia Nuts King of the Nuts?

Omega-6 essential fatty acids are found in abundance in polyunsaturated vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, grapeseed and corn. They are also high in nuts like pine, walnuts and brazil as well as seeds like sesame, sunflower and pumpkin. One problem with omega-6 fatty acids is they get converted into arachidonic acid by the body. And arachidonic acid is in turn used to generate pro-inflammatory cells and hormones.

Ideally, for health, vitality and longevity, we’ll consume about a 1:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Research indicates we consume about 15 times the omega-6 of omega-3! That’s imbalanced, unhealthy and pro-inflammatory. Therefore, one of our goals is to reduce our intake of omega-6 from all sources and increase our intake of omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught salmon and purified fish oil supplementation.

Macadamia nuts are very low in polyunsaturated fats and are therefore less susceptible to oxidation and rancidity. Of any seed or nut macadamia nuts have the lowest omega-6 concentration.

Macadamia nuts are higher in healthy monounsaturated fats than any seed or nut, even surpassing olive oil.

As far as nuts go macadamia nuts are king because they are highest in healthy monounsaturated fats and lowest in inflammatory omega-6 fats.

But there’s one more reason I believe macadamia nuts are king–cost. Macadamia nuts are more expensive than almonds and other commonly-eaten nuts. This is a good thing. I don’t normally recommend nuts for my student-clients during weight-loss action phases. This is because they are easy to overeat and are routinely overeaten. Because macadamia nuts are expensive this may dissuade overdoing it. At LL University we “do what works” so if you find you still overeat macadamia nuts? Get rid of them–period!

nuts_seeds

Conclusion

Cook with fats that are more saturated rather than unsaturated (i.e., monounsaturated or polyunsaturated). Of the saturated fats the only one I recommend is coconut oil. Due to its high incidence of allergy and proinflammatory components I recommend extremely infrequent use of any dairy products (i.e., butter, ghee).

As an alternative to cooking with coconut oil macadamia nut oil may be a good choice. We don’t always want the coconut flavor we’ll get from coconut oil. I do not recommend high-temperature cooking with olive oil or macadamia oil but, of the two, macadamia oil has a higher smoke point and less polyunsaturated fat than olive oil, thus making it a better choice for cooking over olive oil.

Because macadamia nuts are highest in monounsaturated fat, lowest in polyunsaturated fats (including the inflammatory omega-6 variety) and expensive, they win my vote as the king of nuts hands down.

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