Pili Nuts Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Pili Nuts

Touted as the highest fat nut on the planet, pili nuts are being promoted by ketogenic and paleo diet followers and vegans who look for natural food sources high in fat and low in carbs. But what about those who like to incorporate nuts as a part of a healthy balanced diet that is not particularly high in fat or low in carbs? Are these nuts still good for you?

Pili nuts, also known as Pacific almonds, are nuts that come from the fruit of the pili tree, native to Northern Australia, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. The majority of large scale cultivation is in the Philippines. The nuts are teardrop shaped and protected by a hard shell and an outer coating that sticks to the shell.

In addition to their high fat profile, they contain high amounts of Vitamin E, thiamin, phosphorous, manganese and magnesium compared to other nuts and unlike other nuts, contain all of the essential amino acids to be a complete protein source. They are also a source of a variety of other minerals including potassium, copper, zinc, calcium, and iron. Their high-fat content gives them a rich buttery flavor and a texture that is ideal for using as a non-dairy alternative for nut "milks" and yogurts.

Pili nuts are often sold either pre-sprouted or dry roasted and touted as being sustainably sourced. Because the pili trees are very resilient and can withstand harsh conditions and the nuts have an incredibly long shelf life, they can theoretically be an ideal source of nutrition worldwide.

The flavor of pili nuts is delicate in flavor similar to sunflower seeds when eaten raw but after roasting, becomes chewy on the outside with a rich, buttery flavor that is slightly sweet and bitter at the same time.

Pili Nut Nutrition Facts

The nutrition profile of pili nuts is similar in many ways to other tree nuts but is higher in fat and calories per serving; vitamin and mineral content is also slightly higher for some key nutrients. Portion control needs to be considered, especially for those mindful about weight management or with weight loss goals.

This nutrition information, for a 1-oz (28g) serving of roasted unsalted pili nuts was determined by gathering data aggregated from the USDA, Nuts.com, and Pili Hunters brand. 

  • Calories: 200
  • Fat: 20 g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 3g

Carbs

A 1-oz serving of roasted unsalted pili nuts contains only 1g of carbohydrates. Compared to other tree nuts, pili nuts are the lowest in carbohydrates; the majority of the carbohydrates they do contain come from fiber. These nuts can be incorporated into a balanced diet and, due to their low carbohydrate content, are particularly ideal for those on a low-carb or ketogenic diet.

Fats

While pili nuts are the lowest in carbohydrates of any tree nut, they are conversely the highest in fat. A 1-oz serving of roasted unsalted pili nuts contains 20g total fat and 8g of saturated which means over 90% of the calories come from fat and 40% of the total fat comes from saturated fat. The remaining percentage of fat comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Nearly 50% of the total fat is monounsaturated and about 10% from polyunsaturated fat. While several pili nut brands tout their high omega-3 content, research to date does not validate those claims.

Protein

Pili nuts are one of the few plant sources that are a complete source of protein, providing all of the essential amino acids the body needs through diet. Most plant foods only contain some of the essential amino acids but pili nuts, similar to quinoa and soy, contain all nine, making them an ideal food for those on a vegan diet. A 1-oz serving of roasted unsalted pili nuts provides 3g of protein, which means 5% of the calories come from protein. This is comparable to other tree nuts such as pecans, cashews, brazil nuts, walnuts, and pistachios which all contain 3-4g protein per ounce.

Vitamins and Minerals

Pili nuts contain a variety of vitamins and minerals but are notably high in Vitamin E, copper, thiamin, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous, as well as a source of zinc, iron, calcium and potassium and other B-vitamins. A 1-oz serving of roasted unsalted pili nuts provides 60-70% of the daily value for Vitamin E which is optimally absorbed by the inherent fat in the nuts.

Pili nuts also contain one of the highest amounts of magnesium of all common tree nuts. A 1-oz serving provides 85mg magnesium (19% of the daily value). Magnesium is an essential mineral for muscle and nerve function, energy production, blood sugar levels, bone health, and can help foster stable blood pressure and better sleep.

Pili nuts contain over 30% of the daily value for copper, almost 30% of the daily for manganese, over 20% the daily value for the B-vitamin thiamin, about 15% of the daily value for phosphorous and less than 10% of the daily value for zinc and iron. They also contain smaller amounts of Vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, niacin, calcium, and potassium.

Health Benefits

In addition to being a protein powerhouse, pili nuts have plenty of benefits to offer.

Supports Heart Health

Pili nuts contain high amounts of monounsaturated fats and Vitamin E, both of which are recognized for lowering the risk of heart disease. Pili nuts also contain a significant portion of saturated fat which is known to raise unhealthy LDL cholesterol but the proportion of monounsaturated fats is greater than the proportion of saturated fat. Furthermore, if the rest of one's diet is low in saturated fat (i.e. plant-based), and pili nuts are consumed in moderation, one can still reap the benefits of the healthy fats that they contain.

Stabilizes Blood Sugar

The low carb content of pili nuts makes them an ideal food to incorporate into a diet for managing diabetes or high blood sugar. The high magnesium content may also be helpful in lower fasting blood glucose and regulating blood sugar levels.

Supports Bone Health

Pili nuts contain manganese, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, and potassium—all of which are important minerals to support bone health. Magnesium is essential for calcium and Vitamin D regulation in the body. Along with calcium, manganese and phosphorous are essential for bone-building and mineralization of bones. Potassium plays an important role in reducing any potential calcium loss from your bones.

Helps Support the Immune System

The high Vitamin E content in pili nuts helps support the immune system as an antioxidant that helps fight off free radicals and reduce systemic inflammation. A little bit goes a long way: a 1-oz portion of pili nuts provides over 60% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin E.

Provides Plant-Based Source of Protein

While pili nuts are not incredibly high in protein, they still offer some (almost half as much as an egg) and provide a quality source. Unlike other nuts, they provide all of the essential amino acids so are a good source of plant-based protein for those on vegan and vegetarian diets.

Allergies

Those with allergies to tree nuts may also be allergic to pili nuts.

Adverse Effects

Those on a low-fat or low-calorie diet need to be mindful of the portion of pili nuts consumed due to their high fat content and thus, high calorie content.

Varieties

There are three pili nut cultivars in the Philippines: 'Katutubo', 'Mayon', and 'Oas'. 'Poamoho' is the only cultivar in Hawaii. The majority of pili nuts found in the US are sustainably sourced from the Philippines. Pili nut harvesting is from May to October, peaking in June to August but, similar to other nuts, are available year-round once packaged and sold.

Pili nuts can come in a variety of forms similar including dry roasted, unsalted, sprouted, and in nut butter form. Some companies make entire product lines using pili nuts such as Pili Hunters which offers snack packs of sprouted pili nuts in a variety of flavors as well as pili nut butter. Due to its high fat content, oil can also be produced from the pili nut kernel and has a similar fatty acid profile to olive oil. Pili nuts are also being manufactured into yogurt (i.e. Lavva brand) as a non-dairy alternative due to their creamy consistency.

Lastly, pili shoots from the pili tree and pulp from the pili fruit are edible; the young shoots can be used in salads and the pulp is eaten once boiled and is similar to sweet potato in texture but with the fat content similar to an avocado.

Storage and Food Safety

Pili nuts are best stored in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. For longer shelf life, store in the refrigerator. Pili nuts can safely be consumed raw as well as roasted.

Recipes

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