On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Pistachio Benefits, Activated Charcoal

DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have been diagnosed with macular degeneration. Upon searching for help, I found that eating pistachio nuts and Brazil nuts is recommended to stave off the expected decline of my sight. Although I don't care for either of those, my question is: How much and how often should I eat these two nuts? I read that three Brazil nuts daily are recommended but have no information on the quantity of pistachios. Any information from you will be appreciated. My ophthalmologist hasn't talked to me about what to eat. -- J.G., via email

DEAR J.G.: While they can provide healthful benefits to any diet, there are no exceptional powers in pistachios or Brazil nuts per se as regards macular degeneration. However, I do have a couple of resources for you. First is an article on age-related blindness (b.link/bay43); next is a link to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation that provides material about macular degeneration, but also has information about a cookbook focused on this issue (macular.org/good-food).

DEAR DR. BLONZ: About a year ago I was introduced to Hawaiian black salt. While I am not a heavy salt user, I like the taste and texture. One of the ingredients is activated charcoal. Is it OK to eat activated charcoal? -- R.L., San Ramon, California

DEAR R.L.: Activated charcoal is specially processed to increase the size of the pores on its surface, which effectively increases the total surface area. This type of charcoal has a greater ability to bond with and hold on to certain substances on its surface. It is used commercially in water filters because it attracts and holds heavy metals and unwanted minerals and odors. The activated charcoal itself is not absorbed; it travels down the gastrointestinal tract and is eliminated. Taking in significant amounts of activated charcoal can make certain substances consumed at the same time unavailable for absorption. However, given the small amount that would be consumed in a salt, plus the issue of whether the charcoal in the salt is, indeed, “activated,” makes this less of an issue. On the cautious side, it would be prudent to not use this salt in or around the time you are taking medications. I must admit that I am skeptical that your salt has actual “activated” charcoal. One reason is that activated charcoal does not taste that great, and can affect the flavors of other items you are eating. Hawaii has amazing black-sand beaches, and I would predict that this is plain charcoal present in the regions where the salt was harvested.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.