We were having a discussion at the San Diego paleo meetup today and someone said cashews are legumes instead of nuts and therefore are not paleo. Suddenly I wondered why a legume that looks like a nut would be less healthy to eat than a real nut. All are seeds that do not want to be eaten and all contain phytic acid and lectin and have poor omega 3/6 profiles. So why is it that nuts are considered more paleo and legumes are considered bad? (And for the record, I checked google and see that cashews are apparently considered 'seeds' and not nuts NOR legumes)
asked byEva (20807)
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on September 18, 2010
at 05:21 AM
This is a very good question, and I've wondered this for a while. I tend to just avoid nuts and seeds altogether, but it still remains a very valid question. We want to know the reasons behind the decisions we make.
My best guess is that there is substantial evidence that humans have been consuming nuts and seeds for quite a long time, whereas legumes have only been consumed for around 10,000 years.
Now, this may not be a sufficient justification for their substantial use in the diet, however most legumes are also toxic if not cooked, whereas many nuts and seeds can be consumed raw. This is likely a large factor in it's "paleoness" as well.
Perhaps they contain differing levels of offending substances(lectins, protease inhibitors, etc), but I'm not sure. If anyone has some hard data on the subject, I'd be very interested in it.
on September 19, 2010
at 02:49 AM
Just found out something interesting. Cashew nuts have urushiol poison in the shell. That's the same stuff that gets you in poison ivy! Another interesting point, only higher primates are supposed to get poison ivy, but of course, that is on the skin. The response is actually more like an allergic autoimmune response. THe urushiol oil does not hurt you but in many people, the overactive immune response causes mass damage to the tissue. I wonder what would happen if you actually ATE some of this stuff! Maybe other animals would then be also effected?
But here is why I think this is so interesting. The cashew has considerable defenses via its hard shell covered with poison. But the nut inside is totally edible even raw! You just need get the shell off safely. Sometime in prehistory, those who lived in Brazil figured out a safe way to do this by steaming or cooking the shell to destroy the poison first. Then they could safely get at the nut. I wonder if all this defense mechanism makes it likely that cashews might have fewer and less powerful defense lectins inside the nut itself since it has so much defense incorporated into the shell?
Anyway, seems like cashews fall outside the basic paleo categories in some ways. It's like a nut but it's a seed. It can be eaten raw but you must cook it to get at it safely. You have to cook the shell only, not the nut. It is definitely a prehistorical tribal food so it could have been eaten in the paleo.
on December 08, 2010
at 06:55 PM
Very belated comment to this - Cashews are NOT legumes. The person may have confused them with peanuts, which are in the legume family of plants. Cashews are in the Anacardiaceae family related to mangoes, poison ivy and sumac (poisonous and otherwise). Some of the plants in that family include some highly toxic compounds in some parts. Cashews have to be heat treated to be edible, even the so called "raw" cashews.
Also, cashew are indeed seeds, but so are all nuts. (or at least the edible portion)
on December 29, 2010
at 12:02 PM
Heat treated cashews also contain lectins! because lectins to a large part are NOT destroyed by heat. The lectin and phytate questions are very important with respect to nuts. I do not eat nuts any more because they have a very, very negative impact on your joints. But not only this: nuts have an allergenic potential too. Look at the phytate contents: hazelnut 1.91%, walnut 0.65-2.38%, almond 1.35-3.22%, cashew 0.63-1.97%, peanuts 1.05-1.76%, peanuts toasted and salted 1.00%. Phytate is a strong acid that is detrimental to your calcium, iron and zinc metabolism. Not a recommendation to eat nuts. Lectins destroy two glycoproteins in your joints: N-Acetylglucosamine and N-Acetylneuraminic acid due to greatest affinity. Here, nuts are doing the same bad job as WGAs (wheat germ agglutinins). Consequently, no nuts, no bread.
on December 30, 2010
at 01:25 PM
The cashew is the seed of a fruit, which can be safely eaten. The difference between the cashew seed and a legume is important here. The mechanism by which the cashew seed defends itself is with the hard shell, then a skin irritant both of which are external to the seed itself. The mechanism by which legumes defend themselves are anti-nutrients which are a part of the edible portion of the food. It is not possible to separate the legume from it's poisons, where as it is trivial to separate cashews from theirs. That difference in chemical defense mechanism is what makes a legume that "looks like a nut" very dangerous, while the nut is fine.
Cashews (and the fruit attached to them) are all good to eat, just don't go crazy. The w3/w6 ratio isn't spectacular and they are particularly calorie dense, and in the case of the fruit, well it's fruit and very sugary.
on October 19, 2010
at 11:57 PM
Large-seeded legumes were part of the human diet long before the Neolithic agricultural revolution, as evident from archaeobotanical finds from the Mousterian layers of Kebara Cave, in Israel.
Efraim Lev, Mordechai E. Kislev, Ofer Bar-Yosef (March 2005). "Mousterian vegetal food in Kebara Cave, Mt. Carmel". Journal of Archaeological Science 32 (3): 475???484
on September 19, 2012
at 09:44 PM
VDawg contradicts himself. He states a selection of communities, makes the claim they live long lives, when in non-lala land plenty of meat eating communities live just as long. Why? Because they balance their diet and eat unprocessed foods. Much like the Paleo advocates.
I view the Paleo as an unprocessed foods way of life. I don't stay with their guidelines always, I drink raw milk, eat raw honey etc. But so far the Paleo has been the most convincing diet which promotes immune boosting foods and I'm talking disease reversing as well as tooth cavities vanishing. Whereas Vegan diets restrict too aggressively.
on August 04, 2011
at 02:52 PM
I think the key issue with nuts nowadays is that we can get them shelled, ground up, and otherwise processed. They may well turn out to be a less than ideal food, but our ancestors had to do some real work to get relatively few of them. I can buy them shelled and eat enough to make myself sick (ah, those early days of going paleo!). Clearly there are unpleasant chemicals in them, but our ancestors were unlikely to get dose we can manage today.
Due to the whole Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio thing, I eat fewer nuts. Under particular circumstances, like traveling, I still see the can of raw almonds as a life saver, because it helps me avoid stuff that could be contaminated with wheat or soy.
on October 19, 2010
at 01:27 PM
Wouldn't it be better to sprout nuts (almonds & pecans) to neutralizes some/most of the anti-nutrients. when sprouted the nut believes that it's going to grow into a tree and enhances it's nutritional value and sprouts. Am I wrong?
on March 29, 2013
at 09:28 PM
Would it not be reasonable to argue that all food has some kind of natural defense mechanism? I don't understand why this creates a basis for not eating it, especially when some with lesser "defense" content, as it were, can be cooked to neutralize them. And especially when we did indeed have fire in the paleolithic era.
on October 08, 2012
at 05:27 PM
You obviously have not read Loren Cordain's book. The Paleo Diet is based on research of almost 300 CURRENT DAY paleo societies...
on August 04, 2011
at 01:31 AM
Maybe it's because Paleo diet is friggin retarded and based on nonsense of trying to live like our distant ancestors. Why not live in caves and small huts too? The REALITY is that the current LONGEST LIVING (most amount of people who live into at least their 90s and most amount over 100) populations with lowest rates of all our major "Western" diseases, consume mostly plant food. The Okinawans, 7th Day Adventists of Loma Linde, CA, Sardinians of Italy, Icarians of Greece, Nicoya Peninsula, ALL eat little-to-no meat, lots of legumes, WHOLE grains, vegetables and fruits, some fish, and have a strong sense of community and purpose. Modern concepts. They live the longest and have lowest disease rates. Paleo diet is probably better than most Western based refined diets, but it is mostly based on nonsense and cherry-picking data. Most current research demonstrates that populations that live the longest AND healthiest (see above) eat with similar patterns as I have described.