The 3 Major Mistakes You're Making When Buying and Storing Nuts

Follow these simple, surprising guidelines to get a lot more life and flavor out of your favorite heart-healthy snack.

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Danielle Daly

What Makes Nuts so Good?

We know nuts are incredibly good for you. They're an excellent source of antioxidants and fiber, pack plenty of nutrient-dense monounsaturated fat, and have been shown to lower cholesterol, inflammation, and your risk of heart disease.

Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, and the lot are tasty treats in trail mix, but their uses are nearly never-ending. Fold walnuts into homemade bread dough, mix cashews into granola, or throw a handful of almonds and a pinch of salt into your food processor for some seriously delicious DIY nut butter.

Now that we're covered what we do know about nuts, read on for some of the (unexpected) mistakes many of us make when shopping for and storing them. Break these harmful habits, and we promise your nuts will stay fresher longer.

Mistake #1: Shopping the Bulk Bins

The biggest blunder is buying from the bulk bins at your grocery store. It's nearly impossible to tell how often the shop replaces these nuts, or how long they've been sitting out in the open air. According to Steve Lindsay, the Director of Quality Assurance for Diamond Nuts, oxygen is the number one enemy of any nut's shelf-life. Those sitting in bulk bins are constantly exposed to oxygen, compromising their freshness and speeding up the rancidity process. Your best bet for finding fresh nuts is to buy those sealed in a bag, which will ensure freshness and prevent oxygen from slipping through.

One final word on bulk bins: As you've probably noticed when shopping, some people stick their bare hands directly into the bins to sneak a snack. This exposes the contents to oodles of outside germs and bacteria. Just saying.


Danielle Daly

Mistake #2: Storing Them in the Pantry

Contrary to popular belief, nuts should be stored in the fridge or freezer. Why? Because nuts contain a high amount of unsaturated fat, a delicate type of oil which makes them highly prone to going rancid. Spoilage is accelerated even more by light, oxygen, and—you guessed it—heat. Storing nuts (and seeds) in the fridge or freezer limits their exposure to all three and will result in your nuts tasting less bitter and more flavorful for a longer time.

According to Lindsay, you can keep an unopened bag of shelled or in-shell nuts in the fridge or freezer for two years (!). Even if the bag's been opened, shelled nuts should last an entire year, and in-shell nuts will last about a year and a half.

If you're going to use your nuts in the immediate future, it's fine to keep them in a cool, dark spot in your pantry. Just make sure they're in an airtight container and plan to eat them within a couple of weeks.

Mistake #3: Paying Too Much Attention to Expiration Dates

Expiration dates are problematic for many reasons, primarily because they're merely suggestions or guesses, rather than hard-and-fast deadlines for edibility. The shelf life of nuts depends on three key factors: storage conditions, shelled or unshelled, and whether or not the package is opened.

A good rule of thumb is to think of nuts as produce rather than a packaged good. Just as you would with fresh spinach or a ripe tomato, give them a sniff before you eat them. As nuts age, the rancidity will give them a paint-like smell. If you get any harsh or bitter aromas, toss them—otherwise, they're probably still fair game. To further extend shelf life, Diamond of California adds a hint of rosemary extract to their products. You, too, can add this natural ingredient to help preserve your nuts.

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  1. de Souza RGM, Schincaglia RM, Pimentel GD, et al. Nuts and human health outcomes: a systematic reviewNutrients. 2017;9(12):1311. doi:10.3390/nu9121311

  2. Franklin LM, Mitchell AE. Review of the sensory and chemical characteristics of almond (Prunus dulcis) flavor. J Agric Food Chem. 2019;67(10):2743-2753. doi:10.1021/acs.jafc.8b06606

  3. Padehban L, Ansari S, Koshani R. Effect of packaging method, temperature and storage period on physicochemical and sensory properties of wild almond kernelJ Food Sci Technol. 2018;55(9):3408-3416. doi:10.1007/s13197-018-3239-2

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