Jan 21, 2024
Nuts Really Shouldn’t Be Stored in Your Pantry—Here’s Why
Nuts might be considered a pantry staple, but to make them last as long as possible, you’re going to want to store these protein-packed snacks elsewhere. When most of us have a hankering for nuts, we
Nuts might be considered a pantry staple, but to make them last as long as possible, you’re going to want to store these protein-packed snacks elsewhere.
When most of us have a hankering for nuts, we tend to look no further than the pantry. It’s totally normal for nuts to be stored in the dark corners of our cupboards, with many taking residence there for what can turn into many months (especially if you shop in bulk). But did you know the pantry is actually not the best place to house nuts and seeds?
Instead, nuts and seeds should ideally be kept in the freezer—or at least the fridge. Let's take a look at why that is, and see just what can happen to nuts and seeds that have spent a little too long at room temperature.
Aside from the protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals they contain, one of the primary reasons health buffs love nuts (like pecans!) and seeds is that they are loaded with healthy, unsaturated fats. These fats are known to help reduce inflammation throughout the body, lower cholesterol levels, and keep our cells, skin, hair, and nails strong and vibrant.
But these healthy fats are also to blame for the relatively short shelf life of nuts and seeds. All fats are made from carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms bonded together. The difference between unsaturated and saturated fats is how “saturated” the fat molecule’s carbon atoms are with hydrogen atoms. So, the carbon atoms on a saturated fat molecule will be fully bonded with hydrogen atoms, whereas an unsaturated fat molecule won’t be.
This results in unsaturated fats being less stable molecules, and more prone to oxidation, which leads to rancidity. That's the case with nuts and seeds, which are loaded with them. Interestingly, this is why foods made with those dreaded trans fats are so shelf stable. Trans fats are manmade, using the process of hydrogenation—the addition of hydrogen atoms to an unsaturated fat—which yields a product that can last at room temperature on grocery store shelves for quite a long time.
But beyond the unsaturated fat found in nuts and seeds, these healthy snacks are also prone to growing mold and yeast. Much of the mold that can grow on nuts and seeds isn’t life-threatening. However, there have been batches that have growing harmful molds like aflatoxin, which has caused food recalls of peanut products over the years. This is why you’ll often find only a small handful of nut options allowed on low-mold and low-yeast eating regimes like the candida diet.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways you can avoid rancid, moldy nuts—and that starts with smart storage. At room temperature, nuts and seeds can start to go bad after anywhere between one and three months, though some brands will advertise longer shelf lives than that. If stored in the refrigerator, however, these healthy fat sources can last up to six months.
But the freezer is really where it’s at when it comes to storing nuts, as they can easily last up to a year in there—with some experts saying up to two years! Plus, you won’t even notice that your nuts have been frozen. They can be snacked on or added to recipes right out of the freezer, without any significant change in texture.
The less processing, the longer the shelf life when it comes to nuts and seeds. So, in-shell nuts will last the longest, whereas finely chopped and roasted options will have the shortest shelf life. (This is why many people to store their nut butters in the fridge.)
Also, while it might be a sound environmental decision, it’s best to avoid bulk bins when maintaining freshness is your top priority—it’s impossible to tell how long those nuts have been sitting out at room temperature. The best way to go is to purchase nuts in an airtight container.
It’s also a good idea to store nuts and seeds in low-light environments and air-tight containers, though light won’t be an issue at all if they’re tucked into the freezer.
Nuts are the ultimate snack, offering protein, fiber, and healthy fat to leave you feeling satisfied and energized. However, because of all the healthy fats they contain, these crunchy favorites are more at risk for spoilage than other snack options. By storing nuts in the freezer, you can get the most shelf life out of them, keeping them fresh and mold-free for an entire 365!