Raw nuts are relatively hard to digest because they contain phytates and tannins (antinutrients that bind to minerals).
Soaked and cooked nuts are fairly easy to digest for most people, and only cause stomach issues like gas and bloating in those with a nut intolerance or allergy.
If you’d like more details about how hard nuts are to digest, read on.
Can Nuts Cause Digestive Problems?
There are 2 main ways that nuts can cause digestive problems.
1. Nuts Contain “Antinutrients”
All nuts contain antinutrients like phytates (e.g. phytic acid) and tannins. Peanuts are legumes, which have the same potential issue.
In particular, these bind to minerals and other essential nutrients and reduce how well they can be absorbed, which can also cause intestinal discomfort.
Antinutrients aren’t really anything to fear, but for some they can make digestion difficulties even worse.
Phytates and other nutrients can be reduced by a combination of soaking (literally just soaking raw nuts in water), sprouting, and cooking.
2. Nuts Are High in Fat
The other potential cause of digestive problems from eating nuts is their high fat content (even if they are healthy fats).
Eating a lot of fat in a short term period can lead to bloating, gas, and even diarrhea.
Nuts are usually eaten in small quantities and don’t typically cause digestive issues. However, they contain a high level of fat and antinutrients, and these can become a problem in larger servings (especially for smaller people).
Do Nuts Cause Bloating?
Bloating and gas are typically the result of a food sensitivity (i.e. intolerance).
A food intolerance is different from an allergy because there’s no immune system reaction. Instead, some component of the food is causing a physical reaction like bloating, gas, heartburn, and so on.
The most common elimination diets remove the most common triggers from people’s diets:
- Tree nuts and peanuts
The above foods account for about 90% of all food allergies.
Even if you didn’t have issues digesting nuts or peanuts in the past, it’s relatively common to develop a nut allergy or intolerance at any point.
Nuts don’t typically cause bloating in most people. However, if you have an intolerance or slight allergy to nuts, they can cause stomach issues like bloating and gas.
Does Roasting Nuts Make Them Easier to Digest?
As we’ve seen, the biggest thing that can make nuts hard to digest aside from a food allergy or intolerance is the relatively high antinutrient content – particularly phytates.
Research has shown that soaking nuts before eating them (cooked or not) is the most effective way to reduce phytic acid content.
Cooking also reduces phytates; the higher the cooking temperature, the more phytate content is reduced. This means that roasting, which is typically done at high temperatures, will make it easier to digest nuts.
Finally, consider that roasted nuts often have ingredients added to them (e.g. seasonings, sugar, etc.). Depending on your individual response to these added ingredients, it can make digestion harder as well.
Can You Eat Nuts If They Cause Issues?
If eating one or more types of nuts is giving you obvious symptoms of an allergy or intolerance, you may need to cut them out of your diet as much as possible.
In general, most people who suspect an issue should:
- See their doctor about it being a potential allergy
- Try an elimination diet if an intolerances is suspected
- Test your reaction if you soak nuts before eating them
- Test your reaction to nut milks (which are heavily diluted) to see if you still experience discomfort (likely a sign of an allergy)
- At the very least, reduce serving size significantly.
It’s very easy to eat a lot of nut butters in one sitting, which can be equivalent to several servings of nuts. Eating servings of most foods (not just nuts) will cause digestive issues in most cases.
Seeds are the best alternative to nuts in a healthy diet if you find that you need to cut out or limit your nut consumption.