If you were smart, you would go nuts! Why these nutritional nuggets should form part of a healthy diet
If you shun nuts, your most likely reason for doing so, apart from a possible allergy, is your concern for weight gain.
One thing is for sure: nuts do contain a lot of calories. For example, about 16 cashews deliver 200 calories. But here is the surprise: People who consume nuts regularly do not weigh more than people who do not eat nuts. How is this possible?
The reason is to be found in the fact that nuts are very dense in all kinds of beneficial nutrients: proteins, mono- and polyunsaturated (including omega 3) fats, fibre, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients all help curb food cravings by keeping you satisfied. Thus, people who eat nuts automatically tend to eat less of other foods. Some studies even suggest that nuts help boost your metabolic rate, thus actually helping you to reduce weight.
Given that there is no empirical evidence that suggests that people who eat nuts are heavier than those who never or rarely eat nuts, are there any health reasons for eating them?
Nuts help reduce your risk of heart disease
The greatest benefit that can be directly attributed to the consumption of nuts comes in the form of reduced risk for heart disease. Numerous studies have shown that regular consumption of nuts reduces the risk of heart disease by 30-35 percent and of heart attacks by as much as 50 percent. The prime reason why this occurs is that the healthy fats in nuts have a very favourable impact on blood cholesterol levels. Nuts significantly reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol; some studies even suggest that they help raise HDL (good) cholesterol.
Nuts are storehouses of health-promoting nutrients
- An ounce of almonds can supply 35 percent of your daily vitamin E need.
- One Brazil nut a day can provide 100 percent of your daily selenium requirement. Selenium is thought to reduce the risk of some cancers, for example, of prostate.
- An ounce of cashews can supply 30 percent of your daily copper need.
- Peanuts, although strictly not nuts, contain resveratrol, a phytochemical that is known to retard ageing. Peanuts are also rich in arginine, an amino acid which can boost immunity, reduce blood pressure, and help remedy erectile dysfunction.
- Nuts are also rich in plant sterols, which help lower cholesterol.
- While nuts offer considerable health benefits, eat them moderately. An ounce or two is all you need. Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and flax seeds, are nutritionally similar to nuts and offer similar benefits. If you eat seeds reduce your intake of nuts to stay within your daily quota of 1 to 2 ounces.
- Use nuts as a substitute for unhealthy snacks such as cookies, potato chips, and other junk foods.
- Use walnuts, pecans, or pine nuts to make tasty salads.
- Add peanuts, almonds, or cashews to chicken dishes for a delectable treat.