While there are many areas of nutrition and diet rife with controversy there are certain foods that just about any dietary approach agrees are highly beneficial. One of these foods is nuts!
Nuts come in many varieties and if properly prepared are a good fit for any dietary approach regardless if it is low carb, high carb, or any other variation. Of course nuts are NOT a good idea for those with food allergies to nuts!
In a review of 29 published studies, scientists recently revealed that, in comparison with people who don’t eat many nuts, those who eat just 20 grams — as little as a handful a day — lower their risk of several serious conditions by astounding percentages:
Heart Disease – 29%
Cardiovascular Disease – 21%
Cancer – 15%
Respiratory Disease – 52%
Diabetes – 39%
Infectious Disease – 75%
The ideal amount to eat is an average of about two dozen almonds or 15 pecan halves per day; and there was not any increased benefit from eating more than that.
What is a nut anyway?
As per Spice Inc.:
“A true nut, botanically speaking, is a hard-shelled pod that contains both the fruit and seed of the plant, where the fruit does not open to release the seed to the world. Some examples of botanical nuts are chestnuts, hazelnuts and acorns.”
Peanuts are actually a legume. Drupes are a type of fruit with an outer part and a single seed inside, like a peach or cherry, but almonds, pecans and walnuts also drupes. The difference is, the seed is eaten rather than the outside.
Culinary nuts can be fruits, seeds or actual botanical nuts, used as a stand-alone snack or in a recipe.
Gymnosperm and angiosperm seeds are also nuts. Gymnosperm seeds are unprotected by an outer shell — such as ginkgo and pine nuts. Examples of an angiosperm are Brazil and Macadamia nuts.
The Research is Clear: Nut Consumption can Increase Lifespan
In a study looking at 819,000 participants from different regions, sexes and backgrounds, and with different risk factors, nut consumption proved to reduce their disease risk in most cases. The researchers concluded:
“In 2013, an estimated 4.4 million deaths may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day in North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Western Pacific. These findings support dietary recommendations to increase nut consumption to reduce chronic disease risk and mortality.”
Nuts – High in Beneficial Fats and Fiber
Although there is still disagreement about whether certain fats are “good” or “bad” there is a high consensus that the fats is nuts may improve overall health.
The exact nutrients in nuts vary considerably. An ounce of almonds contains 3.4 grams of fiber, while cashews have only 0.9 grams. Almonds have the most protein with 6 grams, while macadamias have 2.2 grams.
Cashews contain 157 calories and 8.6 grams of carbohydrates, while the same amount of macadamia nuts have 204 calories and 3.9 grams of carbs; Brazil nuts have the least number of carbs at 3.5 grams.
Most of the fat in nuts is monounsaturated fat, including omega-6s and omega-3s. Macadamia nuts have the highest amount of monounsaturated fats — 16.7 grams — compared to 2.5 grams in walnuts, and Brazil nuts contain the most saturated fat with 4.3 grams.
For the record the myth that eating saturated fats is bad for you and will cause heart problems, as so many health professionals keep saying, is not true and has been soundly disproven.
More Benefits of Nut Consumption
People who eat a lot of nuts don’t tend to experience significant weight gain, or weight loss, either, according to another meta-analysis of 33 studies done in 2013.
Other studies show that eating more nuts may decrease your risk of other chronic conditions and diseases including high blood sugar, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Micronutrient Content of Nuts
• Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E as well as riboflavin, magnesium and manganese, and are high in fiber.
Eating a handful a day may help to improve your health; help people who are overweight achieve their weight loss goals and lower blood pressure; and can help people with Diabetes.
• Pistachios also contain high amounts of fiber (3 grams per ounce), and they are also a good source of vitamin E and magnesium. Besides helping to optimize your cholesterol, they can help improve several aspects of heart health.
• Brazil nuts are a fantastic source of selenium which is critical for the production of key anti-oxidants and supports detoxification and is directly linked with 24% reduction in cancers of all types with even more potent protection for certain cancers including breast, colon, prostate, and thyroid cancer. In addition, as many as 1 billion people worldwide may be deficient.
• Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, making them beneficial for the prevention of coronary heart disease. They help improve blood flow, and are also linked to increased deductive reasoning.
• Peanuts, being a legume, may come with large amounts of extra oils that are not good for you. This is particularly true in peanut butter, with the unnecessary addition of sugar or worse, so always make sure your nuts and nut butters are free of these.
How to Prepare and Eat Nuts
While nuts can help improve your health the key is not to overeat them – you only need a small amount — say one-third cup per day. Also, it is important to see what is added to nuts and how they are prepared.
Try to avoid added oils which is often the case with nuts – in most cases these decrease the benefits of the naturally occurring fats in nuts. Added sugars such as honey (honey roasted) also decrease the benefits.
If you like roasted vs raw the best option is to roast them yourself, but if that is out of the question stick with “dry-roasted” to avoid those extra added fats. To roast your own pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and place the nuts on a sheet and bake for 5 – 10 minutes then allow them to cool.
As with ALL foods organic is always the best choice to minimize your exposure to pesticides, chemicals and other toxins.