As most of you may already know, I am a self-confessed nut lover! The reason for this is quite simple: nuts taste great, they are a very versatile food, and they possess many positive health attributes. There are many different types of nuts, and some can be a bit different regarding the individual nutrient content, but you shouldn’t let that stop you from enjoying one of the best foods out there!
Nuts are an excellent source of dietary fat. Even though nuts are approximately 80% fat by calories, the fats they contain are considered quite healthy. Nuts contain a lot of fat, that’s true, and this fact accounts for their great taste, but we need to look a little deeper to realize the health benefits of nuts. The fat contained in nuts is mostly unsaturated fat—and not the harmful saturated type, the consumption of which has been attributed to the increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
There are two types of fat in nuts which make them quite healthy. Firstly, nuts contain monounsaturated omega-9 fats and polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fats. These types of fats are considered desirable, because diets which contain higher amounts of nuts are associated with lower rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome (or pre-diabetes).
There’s another reason why you should add nuts to a healthy diet: consuming the fat from nuts decreases blood cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and triglyceride levels. It also decreases blood clotting and the degree of inflammation within your arteries.
There are more health benefits of nuts: the regular consumption of nuts is also directly associated with less weight gain and improved insulin sensitivity. Although nuts are high in fat, they are also high in other nutrients like vitamin E, selenium, magnesium, copper, protein, bioflavonoids, and fiber. Since nuts are very rich and high in fat, you don’t need to eat too many at a time to get the health benefits. I recommend eating one to one-and-a-half ounces of raw nuts per day as a snack, in a salad, in your muffins, or as a garnish. Nuts are definitely a large part of my healthy diet plan.
As nuts go, I really don’t have a personal favorite, but I normally use almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts as a welcome addition to my oatmeal or cottage cheese. As a snack, I prefer to enjoy mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, cashews) or, as a rare treat, I’ll eat pistachios and macadamia nuts! I eat nuts raw which are dry-roasted without salt.
There is an overwhelming degree of scientific evidence which demonstrates the health benefits of nuts, and how the addition of these small “nutritional gems” to your diet on a daily basis can have a huge influence upon your health!
|Nuts (One Ounce Serving)||Nutritional Information|
|Almonds||1 gram of saturated fat
12 grams of unsaturated fat
|Walnuts||1.7 grams of saturate fat
18 grams of unsaturated fat
|Hazelnuts||1.3 grams of saturated fat
15.6 grams of unsaturated fat
“Nuts and your heart,” Mayo Clinic web site; http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nuts/HB00085/NSECTIONGROUP=2, last accessed May 22, 2013.
Ibarrola-Jurado, N., et al., “Cross-sectional assessment of nut consumption and obesity, metabolic syndrome and other cardiometabolic risk factors: the PREDIMED study,” PLoS One. 2013; 8(2): e57367.
Estruch, R., et al., “Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet,” N Engl J Med. April 4, 2013; 368(14): 1279-90.
Pan, A., et al., “Walnut consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women,” J Nutr. April 2013; 143(4): 512-8.
Orem, A., “Hazelnut-enriched diet improves cardiovascular risk biomarkers beyond a lipid-lowering effect in hypercholesterolemic subjects,” J Clin Lipidol. March-April 2013; 7(2): 123-31.