Pili nuts nutrition: More than just a great keto nut!

Created by Elly McGuinness

Last Updated: May 26, 2020

CATEGORIES: Healthy Eating

I’m always excited to discover new plant-based whole foods. It astounds me what a huge range of amazing plant-based foods there are in the world. As habit-based creatures it’s easy for us to stick to similar foods week in and week out. In doing so, we potentially miss out on some of the delicious nourishing foods on offer. It’s also important to consume a wide variety of whole-foods to help cover the range of nutrients we need, not only to survive but to thrive. Pili nuts nutrition certainly caught my eye recently. It’s revered as a great keto nut, and there’s also a lot more to it.

Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of Pili nuts until quite recently. We spent a couple of months in the Philippines, where pili nuts are grown “commercially”. I knew this before I went so kept my eye out for them since I was very keen to try them. 

pili nuts nutrition - pili nuts on rustic wooden scoop

What has happened to Pili Nuts nutrition in the Philippines?

I didn’t actually find any pili nuts (whole foods style) during my stay there. What I did find were nuts that had been turned into brittle and other types of candy (with the addition of a load of sugar and margarine).

Out of the three years that we had spent slow-traveling around South East Asia, I found that the Philippines was actually the most difficult place for me to find foods that I would call ‘health’ foods. (It’s hard, even to come by a range of vegetables!).

So with a promising nutrition profile, why haven’t Pili nuts taken off as a popular ‘superfood’? I’ll share a bit about what I’ve found out about them, including pili nuts nutrition and perhaps why they’re not taking up more space on the shelves.

You’ll also find out why it could be considered as one of the best (or “the” best?) ketogenic nuts…and why carb-loving vegetarians like myself can also enjoy them!

Pili nut production

Canarium Ovatum is the scientific name for Pili nuts. Native to tropical areas, especially in Maritime South East Asia, the pili nut tree produces fruit. The fruit contains a pulp, which surrounds a very thick, hard shell. The pulp of the pili nut fruit is edible and has a similar macronutrient profile to avocado

Inside the pili nut’s tough shell is the kernel. This is the part we’re talking about in this post, and the ‘nut’ you’ll find in the health food section of some stores.

The tough outer shell may be one reason that Pili nuts are still not gracing the shelves everywhere. It’s also perhaps the reason why these nuts demand a higher price point than most.

(This post includes affiliate links for which I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase)

pili nuts nutrition - pili nuts tree

One of the hunter foods that is still gathered and cracked the old-fashioned way

The pili nut industry has tried using machines to remove the shells, only to end up crushing the kernels (i.e. the good bit!) in the middle. Therefore, the shelling is done by hand. A person who is skilled in shelling pili nuts can do so super quickly (as you can see in the 30 second video below). 

Alongside the fact that it’s still done by hand, it takes several years for a pili nut tree to get to the point where it’s producing fruit, and then the nuts are collected by hand, from the ground. For these reasons it’s easy  to understand why the pili nut industry remains relatively untapped. 

Pili nuts nutrition

Pili nuts in the Philippines are often used to produce candies, which are a far cry from the nutrition that’s packed inside a raw (or even better, an “activated”) pili nut. The kernel (which I’ll refer to as the ‘nut’) contains a higher oil content than the pulp (about 70%).

The highest percentage of fatty acids in pili nut oil comes from oleic acid. Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega 9 fatty acid, which is found in a large percentage in olive oil.

Along with monounsaturated fat, pili nuts also contain high levels of saturated fat. This is one thing that makes it a bit different from many other nuts, which are typically high in polyunsaturated fat. 

Pili nuts nutrition - shell cracked open showing nut inside

A creamy and delicious low carb keto nut

The high-fat content gives the pili nut a creaminess that has been compared to macadamia nuts. The pili nut has even been described as being more buttery tasting than the macadamia (yum!) The creaminess is due to the very high overall fat content. Since it also contains possibly the lowest level of carbohydrates in any nut, it’s a popular choice for people who follow the keto diet.

If you’re looking for low carb nuts, look no further than pili nuts. Keto enthusiasts will be excited to know that pili nuts may even be the lowest carb nut around! Depending on which pili nuts nutrition information you read, the exact figures can vary. Pili nuts have been shown to contain as little as 2% carbohydrates and as much as 93% fat!

The value of healthy fats

I won’t dwell on this section because I want to focus on pili nuts nutrition overall, as well as some of the common questions people have about them. For some people, the words “saturated fat” still scream “unhealthy”. 

The issue of whether saturated fats can be considered healthy or not is still a rather polarizing topic in nutrition. There are advocates for both extremes, but, like most topics, it’s not necessarily simplistic.

In my opinion as an experienced holistic health coach, it’s about looking at the overall picture. And I certainly recommend things like coconut oil and pili nuts. Whole foods like these are high in saturated fat. Meat and full-fat dairy also contain saturated fat and can form part of an overall healthy nutrition intake if you choose to eat them.

Overall, fat is a very important macronutrient. It’s essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and is crucial for brain health. Dietary fat can also help with weight loss since it helps regulate blood sugar levels and increase feelings of satiety. 

Pili nuts nutrition (apart from healthy fats)

Pili nuts contain a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals, which are important for optimal health. Particularly noteworthy is their mineral content, especially magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. Deficiencies in minerals are common in the general population and can weaken teeth and bones, and impact other areas of health.

Aside from their mineral content, there are other benefits when it comes to pili nuts. Health benefits may extend to their role as a powerful antioxidant since the fatty acids in pili nuts contain tocopherol. Antioxidants help to fight free radicals in the body. As a result, they can help prevent or slow down cell damage, and potentially reduce the incidence of chronic disease.

Pili nuts health benefits: polyphenols

Like many plant-based foods, Pili nuts are also high in polyphenols, which can also play an important role as an antioxidant. Polyphenols are a class of phytonutrients. (Like vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients are essentially part of the micronutrient family). 

Some of the more commonly-known polyphenol-containing foods include berries, red wine, and dark chocolate. Polyphenols can offer important benefits for health. Pili nuts have shown promise in raising the polyphenol and antioxidant status in humans

Pili nuts for sale

You can buy nuts online, and some of them have pili nuts for sale! Walmart and Amazon both stock a range of Pili nuts, including activated pili nuts and pili nut butter. If you’re looking for the best nut butter for keto, try the Pili Hunters expedition pili nut butter, which you can get in a package of 10 pouches, or in a jar.

Walmart stocks a wide range of ready-sprouted pili nuts (so you don’t need to try and activate them yourself!) They have a huge range of flavors to suit every taste.

Check out the latest prices for Pili nuts on Amazon via the product links below.

Further reading about Pili nuts nutrition

I’ve compiled a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions about Pili nuts, which you can read below. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s not only those who are on the keto diet who can enjoy pili nuts! Find out whether Pili nuts are “allowed” on other types of diets such as whole 30, AIP, and paleo.

Frequently asked questions about Pili Nuts

Where did pili nuts originate?

Pili nuts are native to Maritime South East Asia, North Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Where are pili nuts grown? Where do pili nuts grow?

Pili nuts are grown in tropical areas, especially around South East Asia. The Philippines, especially the Bicol region, is the main area that is involved in trading Pili nuts.

Are pili nuts tree nuts?

Yes, pili nuts are tree nuts. They come from the Canarium genus and their scientific name is Canarium Ovatum.

Are pili nuts the same as brazil nuts?

Pili nuts are not the same as Brazil nuts. They are both tree nuts, but they come from different trees. They both offer a very good nutrient profile, and differ in the various nutrient levels they offer.

Do pili nuts have lectins? Are pili nuts lectin free?

Lectins are found in most plant and animal-based foods, including nuts. Some nuts have higher levels of lectins than others. According to the lectin-free doctor Steven Gundry, pili nuts are “fine”. It is not clear whether Pili nuts are lectin-free. To reduce anti-nutrient content in nuts, soak and/or sprout them first.

Are pili nuts AIP (Auto-Immune Protocol) friendly?

Nuts are “not allowed” on the AIP, so no, pili nuts are not AIP friendly

Are pili nuts keto?

Nuts are an important component of the keto diet. Pili nuts are an especially keto-friendly nut. Depending on which data you look at, they have been found to be as high as a whopping 93% fat and only 2% carbs. Compare this to pecans, which are also known as being very ‘keto-friendly’. They come in at 87% fat and 8% carbs, so maybe the pili nut should take the claim for the best keto-friendly nuts!

Are pili nuts low FODMAP?

Pili nuts are not a very common or widely used nut so they don’t make all the nutritional ‘lists’ available. It’s not clear whether it’s advised to include Pili nuts on a low FODMAP diet. If you are unsure, stick to nuts that are ‘allowed’ on the low FODMAP diet, such as brazil nuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts.

Are pili nuts whole 30?

Yes, pili nuts can be eaten on the whole 30 diet. Generally, proponents of the Whole 30 recommend limiting nut and seed intake. It’s recommended to limit your intake of nuts or seeds (e.g. Pili nuts) to approximately one closed handful every second day, during the 30 days.

Are pili nuts good for you? Are pili nuts healthy for you?

The word ‘healthy’ is generally a subjective one, and nutrition is a complex issue. Most proponents for healthy eating (myself included) are likely to agree that Pili nuts are healthy. Advocates for a low fat diet are likely to disagree since the fat content in Pili nuts is high.

Pili nuts are good for you because they contain good levels of important minerals, especially magnesium. (“Activate” your nuts to absorb these nutrients more easily). They also offer a good source of polyphenols, which may offer health benefits. The high fat content can help regulate blood sugar levels and increase satiety.

Can pili nuts cause pimples?

Generally, healthy whole foods like Pili nuts (or other nuts) should not cause pimples. Some people report problems after eating foods such as nuts. This is more likely to be due to an underlying digestive issue such as “leaky gut syndrome” rather than a problem with the nut itself.

Are pili nuts safe for dogs?

Nuts are not generally recommended as a food to feed to dogs. If you have purchased some pili nuts, keep them well away from your dog. Even if they turned out to be safe for your dog to consume, they’re a rather expensive nut to let your furry friend get a hold of.

Where are pili nuts sold?

There are a number of places you can order nuts online, and a few of them even stock Pili nuts. Walmart and Amazon both stock a range of Pili nuts, including activated pili nuts and pili nut butter. 

You might have seen something about keto on Shark Tank. Pili Hunters sell Pili nuts (Shark Tank helped them to get started). Try Pili Hunter foods such as traditional fried Pili nuts or Pili nut butter spread.

You can try sprouted pili nuts in flavors such as ranch, turmeric, and even pizza! (“Plain” is also available). Glazed Pili nuts are made by Growers. Pili nuts from growers are sometimes available on Amazon.

Other nutrition articles you might like

If you enjoyed this article about Pili nuts nutrition, read about sacha inchi oil here. It’s another lesser-known “super” food you might find interesting. You might also be keen to find out about the amazing benefits of golden milk.

Otherwise check out the healthy eating category of my site for more information about holistic nutrition, plant-based eating, and healthy food habits.

As always, please join the conversation below if you have any questions or comments about pili nuts nutrition!

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMER page].

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Elly McGuinness