Aside from those with nut allergies, who doesn’t love nuts? Squirrels can’t get enough of them, and humans love them as a satiating, calorie-dense snack. Nuts are natural, so they got to be healthy, right? Well, the answer kind of lies in a gray area. Yes, nuts do contain some health benefits. On the other hand, they can also be detrimental to your muscle-building journey.
Consider this post a primer on nut nutrition and its relationship to testosterone production. You’ll know by the end whether that small bag of Planters belong in your lunch bag.
Please bear in mind that we’re not badmouthing nuts, as they do contain various health perks. Most nuts contain a hefty source of protein. While it’s an incomplete protein source, they can be combined with other foods for acquiring complete protein. This makes nuts a good protein source for vegetarians and vegans.
Nutrients vary from one nut to another. Cashews are a good source of iron and zinc, while Brazil nuts are rich in selenium. Hazelnuts are high in folate, and raw chestnuts have a decent vitamin C content. The list goes on. There is a total of 53 edible nuts, according to one source, so no need to explain the good and bad of each and every one. All you need to know is that nuts do have their place in a healthy diet.
Okay, now onto the bad part. From a hormonal health perspective, overindulging on nuts is not a wise move. Some nut varieties – mainly almonds and walnuts – are known to increase sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) by 10% to 20%. This was verified in a 2010 study published under the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
SHBG is a glycoprotein produced by the liver. It plays a vital role in everyday health, and abnormally low SHBG levels has been linked to cardiovascular diseases in both men and women.
Here’s the problem: SHBG also binds to free testosterone, rendering them inactive. This decreases the overall level of usable testosterone. High SHBG levels has also been linked to low libido, erectile dysfunction, and infertility. When testosterone levels are low, muscle growth grinds to a halt; post-workout recovery also takes a hit.
Beyond inhibiting testosterone, too much SHBG is also known to reduce bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Omega 6 fatty acids is a form of polyunsaturated fat. There is an idea that omega 6 is a good type of fat. This is only partially true. Yes, it has its benefits. For one, it boosts the brain and aids in cognitive function. It also reduces nerve pain associated with diabetes. Other benefits include combatting rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation.
Unfortunately, the typical western diet contains far higher omega 6 fats than the body needs. Too much polyunsaturated fat lowers testosterone level and increases oxidative damage in storage tissues.
Modern westerners also consume an unbalanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3s. The ratio should, at the very least, be an even 1:1. However, according to a study from the University of Maryland Medical Center, the average American consumes 14% to 25% more omega 6 fats than omega 3s. Some estimates suggest a ratio imbalance as high as 17:1.
A ratio imbalance actually increases chronic inflammation rather than inhibiting it. It also leads to water retention, making you look “soft” and less defined.
This is another one of those “good in moderation” nutrients that hurt your gains if consumed in excess. Phytosterols is known for lowering cholesterol levels by competing for the same enzymes that cholesterol relies on for absorption. Lowering cholesterol is good, right? Well, yes, but cholesterol is also what your body uses to make testosterone.
Do these revelations mean you must forgo all nuts, including peanut butter, trail mix, and PayDay bars? No, you don’t have to take it that far. An occasional handful of nuts for a mid-afternoon snack isn’t going to kill your muscle gains.
However, we do advise you to be selective with your nut selection. Most nuts contain a mix of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. You want to stick to the ones with a higher concentration of omega 3s and less omega 6s. The former is much more beneficial and has been linked to combatting depression, improving eye health, reducing blood pressure, and reducing symptoms in metabolic syndrome. More importantly, whilst omega 6 fats increase testosterone-lowering SHBG, omega 3s lowers it.
Peanuts are a poor choice because a serving contains 32% daily allowance of omega 6 fatty acids and 0% omega 3s. Walnuts aren’t much better, containing a 4:1 ratio with 10.6 grams of omega 6 fats and just 2.5 grams of omegas 3s. Almonds and pistachios contain similar undesirable ratios.
While all the aforementioned nuts do contain some health benefits, the nutrients are also easily found in other foods. Walnuts, for instance, are high in biotin. You can also acquire this vitamin from eggs, whole grains, and dairy products.
Some better nut choices include macadamia nuts, which has high levels of healthy monounsaturated fats. This is vital for boosting testosterone levels. Polyunsaturated fats are relatively low, containing just 2% of daily recommended intake. The ratio is also superior at 1:6.
Another good choice is Brazil nuts. These are high in testosterone-boosting micronutrients, such as zinc, selenium, boron, and magnesium. It’s ratio level is just slightly higher in omega 6s than omega 3s, but this can be overlooked considering it is chock full of other nutrients vital for T production.
You can also add horse chestnuts to the “good” list. This nut contains escin. This compound has been shown to improve blood flow to the testicles. This helps deliver the nutrients required for making testosterone.
Do you go nutty for nuts? No worries if you do; you can still enjoy nuts on a daily basis. You just have to be more selective with your choices. Considering that the western diet is already loaded with omega 6 fatty acids, there is no need to consume additional amounts and throw your hormonal balance out of whack.
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