The one most common mistake I see over and over is the over-feeding of nuts in bird diets.
Yes, birds love nuts…but so do most of us! Do we live on a diet of mostly nuts? I hope not.
While it’s true that nuts are packed with loads of great nutrients, they are not the end all to total nutrition. Nuts are also high in Omega 6s, so when we are deliberately trying to bring down the total Omega 6 level in our birds’ diets adding lots of nuts as treats only raises the total level of Omega 6s back up.
Let’s take a look at the nutritional profile of some of the more common nuts many of us feed to our exotic companion birds:
Based on a 28gr serving.
From Carbohydrate 24.6
From Fat 116
From Protein 20.6
Total Omega-3 fatty acids 1.7mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids 3378mg
Vitamin A 0.3IU
Vitamin C 0.0mg
Vitamin D~ ~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 7.3mg
Vitamin K 0.0mcg
Vitamin B6 0.0mg
Vitamin B 120.0mcg
Pantothenic Acid 0.1mg
Almonds, as you can see, have a high Omega 6 to low Omega 3 content with a ratio of .0005 to 1.0. However, they are not without nutritional benefit. Almonds contain a very good calcium (Ca) to magnesium (Mg) ratio and this is one reason I like almonds so much for a good all-around nut to feed our birds. Science now indicates that living beings should take in a 1:1 calcium to magnesium ratio for calcium to be properly absorbed and metabolized. When calcium levels are much higher than magnesium, it tends to calcify arteries and all soft tissues in the body. This can potentially lead to atherosclerosis, arthritis, and all soft tissue disorders and diseases, including, but not limited to dementia and seizures. In fact, it is now believed that magnesium is just as important if not more so than Vitamin D in the overall absorption and metabolism of calcium.
Unfortunately, the phosphorus level is extremely high in almonds over 2:1 and it should be flipped the other way around. So when feeding almonds, we want to make sure we are feeding foods that help increase bioavailable calcium to cancel out the phosphorus in almonds. Not an easy task unless we are adding almost pure calcium from some other source because almost any food item we add will also contain phosphorus. Of course even then, adding calcium we must also make sure we are adding the same amount of magnesium to ensure absorption of the calcium we add. This is why almonds, like any other nut, should be offered ONLY as treats in the staple diet and not as a reliable source of overall nutrition.
Also, we see the infamous mineral known as potassium (K) here. We will almost always find a high potassium level in most plant-based foods. This is why we must be very careful in food combining. While potassium is a most wonderful mineral, we have to be careful not to overuse it. Please see my article regarding potassium here: Potassium Toxicity.
Almonds are a good source of non-heme iron, a plant-based source of iron. Because plant-based iron is not well-absorbed, we don’t need to be overly concerned with our birds absorbing too much. Developing ISD (iron storage disease) or IOD (iron overload disease) is not a concern unless we are caring for birds that are overly susceptible to these diseases such as true frugivores (fruit-loving) and nectarivorous (nectar-loving) birds. Most of the species we will be dealing with in our forum are of the Psittacine species which border on frugivore/herbivore and do not usually have problems with metabolizing iron unless they have a genetic problem or have developed serious liver disease.
From Carbohydrate 15.8
From Fat 178
From Protein 7.7
Total Omega-3 fatty acids 57.7mg
Total Omega-6 fatty acids 363mg
Vitamin A 0.0IU
Vitamin C 0.3mg
Vitamin D~ ~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.2mg
Vitamin K~ ~
Vitamin B6 0.1mg
Vitamin B12 0.0mcg
Pantothenic Acid 0.2mg
Macadamias have a better Omega 6 to Omega 3 content, .1590 to 1.0, but still not all that good considering there are foods (mango, papaya) ranking much, much higher in overall Omega 3s. Even though macadamias are much lower in total calcium and magnesium the calcium to magnesium ratio is still quite good. Also, macadamias offer higher Omega 9 (Oleic Acid) (Lipid # 18:1c) level than almonds in a ratio of macadamia nuts to almonds 1.0: .6996.
Here again, the potassium level in this plant-based food source is quite high, but not as high as in its cousin the almond.
The non-heme iron level is the same in macadamia nuts as it is for almonds.
The overall mineral levels in macadamia nuts are higher, however, making this nut an excellent source of trace minerals.
Overall nutrition levels:
Just a couple examples of nuts are all we need to see that nuts are extremely high in overall Omega 6s. While they do offer “fatty acids” those fatty acids are primarily the antagonistic fatty acids in the form of linoleic acids contributing to systemic inflammation. Yes, living creatures require a balance of all fatty acids, including Omega 6s. The problem is the sources for linoleic fatty acids (drying to the body) are so readily available, so abundant in our food sources we have to literally work at finding and adding Omega 3s, linolenic fatty acids, anti-inflammatory fatty acids.
It is widely accepted and believed that living creatures should maintain a balance of about a 1:1 ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3, but a ratio of 4:1 is acceptable. (3) Unfortunately most living creatures never reach either of those levels.
Arginine is an amino acid, otherwise known as one of the “conditionally” essential amino acids. Only fairly recently was arginine placed on the list of “conditionally” essential due to the fact it, like Omega 6 has become so abundantly available in our diets that it is no longer considered “essential” meaning that we need it supplied to provide this in our diet. Yes, living creatures must eat arginine to make it available for absorption, but arginine is so readily available it is literally in everything we consume nowadays. In other words, it’s almost impossible to eat and not ingest arginine. While we do need this protein in our diet to complete the protein profile, too much arginine in the diet, and our birds’ diets and once again we trigger systemic inflammation. Arginine is very high in nuts compared to the competing amino acid “lysine.”
In the indigenous wild, where most exotic birds come from most of the foods they would consume are naturally high in lysine, not arginine. Unfortunately, most of the foods we have been feeding our captive companion birds are extremely high in arginine. For decades, we have been unknowingly throwing the nutritional profile completely off-balance for these wild-at-heart exotic creatures. Feeding diets high in grains, legumes and other foods containing flours, pasta, wheat and more we have been feeding lots and lots of arginine not realizing these creatures’ systems have been crying out for more lysine. When we begin to know and understand the systems of exotic birds and also know and understand the indigenous foods Nature created for them to consume we will finally know not only the macro and micro nutrients those foods contain, but also the minuscule constituents we need to ensure our beloved birds receive to thrive.
To sum up this short lesson regarding “nuts”, please only feed nuts as a treat. If you are feeding BirD-elicious! Origins Wild Diet!™ (OWD) foods to your bird(s) understand that we are already adding as many nuts to your bird’s diet as we believe your bird should have on a regular basis. If you want to reserve those nuts for special times of bonding with your bird simply remove the nuts from your bird’s OWD and save them for those special times, don’t buy more nuts to feed in addition to the nuts in the OWD. *The exception to this rule would be if you have a Macaw or other species that require a higher fat diet. If you are currently feeding one of our foods not produced for specifically for a Macaw because we are not yet producing Macaw food, or you have run out of Macaw food and are substituting with another variety, then it would be perfectly fine to supplement with additional nuts to increase the fatty acids in your Macaw’s diet.However, make sure your Macaw is also receiving additional Omega 3s along with the additional nuts, such as daily doses of Krill oil at the rate of 2-3 (Blue & Gold) even 4 drops for a Greenwing Macaw, 5 drops for a Hyacinth.
Whenever possible try to feed truly raw nuts. That being said there really isn’t very many *truly raw nuts available in the United States, even when the package states they are raw, they aren’t. Almonds are about the only nut you can find, rarely, that are truly raw. Even those sources are scant.
First, allow me to explain why you want raw nuts.
Raw nuts contain the active and live digestive enzymes. Enzymes are the beginning of total and complete digestion. These enzymes help break the proteins and other nutrients down to their single-unit molecules so they are able to enter the metabolic system and get absorbed into the blood stream for total and complete metabolism. Otherwise our birds are only receiving partial nutrition; malabsorption = malnutrition = under-nourishment. This has been happening for far too long with our beloved birds and it has been showing up in the manner of cardiovascular disease, liver disease, kidney disease, seizures, feather destruction, overall auto-immune disorders and more. When we feed foods that are living and active with enzymes are birds’ systems are triggered to engage in active digestion, absorption and metabolizing of the foods they eat.
Now that we know and understand why it’s important to feed raw nuts let’s get to know which nuts are truly raw. Also why some nuts are labeled raw when actually they are not.
In an effort to pacify the sector of the public who wants raw nuts the FDA has allowed food processors to “flash” pasteurize nuts and other food products, such as juice for instance at higher temperatures for shorter amounts of time and still label those foods as “raw” when in fact they are not truly raw. “Flash pasteurization” is a process by which foods are generally pasteurized at temperatures higher than normal pasteurization. Flash pasteurization is done at about 284 degrees F for about 4-6seconds, whereas normal pasteurization is done at about 145-154 degrees F for 30 minutes. Both of these methods are too hot to retain digestive enzymes; they are destroyed at any temperature over 115 degrees F. The FDA argues that if food is “flash pasteurized” the enzymes are not exposed to heat long enough to be destroyed. Many “raw foodists” disagree and so do I. Of course this says nothing of the destruction/oxidation of Omega 3s as well.
I have, by good sources from my own suppliers have accurate information regarding the validity of truly raw nuts. My sources assure me that even though the label states “raw” on some varieties of nuts, they are not. My sources confidentially which nuts I purchase are truly raw and which nuts are not; one of the reasons I love being a food producer and “insider” in the food production business! I get to know! For instance, there is no such thing as a truly raw macadamia nut. However, there are truly raw almonds, a person just has to know their sources. Fortunately, I am able to obtain truly raw almonds from one of my suppliers.
How do we want to prep our almonds to “activate” the digestive enzymes?
We cannot just take the almonds out of the package and expect that they are already teeming with live and active digestive enzymes; it doesn’t work like that. Almonds have to be “soaked” to activate their enzymes and release the phytatesand reduce the oxalatesthey contain that bind the calcium. All of this is done by soaking for 12 to 24 hours.
Place your raw almonds in a bowl, about 1 cup and add about a 1/8thteaspoon of Himalayan salt. Add filtered or Fiji or Evian water until they are covered by about ½”. Let them sit in your refrigerator for the soaking time. Remove and rinse in filtered water, then soak for about 15-20 minutes in 3% FOOD GRADE H2O2 (You must use food grade. Non-food grade contains heavy metals.) (You can purchase food grade 35 volume H2O2 here: http://www.dfwx.com/h2o2.htm. You MUST dilute at the ratio of 1/8thcup to one gallon of filtered water.) After soaking in H2O2 rinse two more times. Now you are ready to feed to your bird(s)! Or you can dehydrate at low temperatures below 115 degrees F and save in your refrigerator in an airtight container for later use. Please do not freeze. Freezing causes the cell walls to burst and precious nutrition is lost. –If you don’t want to go to the trouble of soaking yourself we sell “Awakened Almonds” in our webstore at: http://www.thebestbirdfood.com/#!product/prd1/1707592005/almonds---raw
Or you can simply purchase your almonds raw from us too!
Please feel free to ask questions! If I don’t know the answer I will be happy to research to try to find the answer for you! Let’s all try to make this a fun experience and learn together!
Ref: (1) http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3085/2; (2) http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3123/2; (3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909.
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