By Fitz-George Rattray:
WE seldom stop to think about the actual benefits of nuts. Many of us will tear through a tin or bag of peanuts, cashews or mixed nuts but, as with all things, the healthy quantity is the last thing on our minds, not to mention how much good they can do for us and which ones are better than others.
“Nuts” refer to the general group of foods which includes:
• Legumes (a pod which can be split in half containing edible seeds, such as peanuts, peas, beans);
• Tree nuts, which are true/botanical nuts (fruit and seed surrounded by a permanent hard shell, such as hazelnuts, chestnuts);
• Drupes (tree nuts with fleshy fruit surrounding a hard-shelled nut such as almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews).
If you do not have peanut or tree nut allergies there is a wealth of nutrients and healing benefits to harvest from nuts.
Instead of having processed snacks, you can replace them with healthier options like easy-to-find, packable and tasty nuts.
Nuts are loaded with antioxidants, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, the amino acid arginine — which helps lower cholesterol and the risk of hypertension, and unsaturated fats that are invaluable for lowering the risk of heart disease.
According to the Journal of MBC Medicine, eating nuts daily reduces the risks of heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, and diabetes by 30 per cent, 15 per cent, 50 per cent, and 40 per cent, respectively. A serving of nuts also contains three to eight grams of protein.
Here are my top picks for healthiest nuts.
Walnuts are the all-time nutritional superstars of the nut kingdom. They contain rare, invaluable phytonutrients such as the anti-inflammatory tannin tellimagrandin and the flavanol morin. These decrease the risk of several cancers, including breast and prostate.
If that isn’t enough, they also contain high levels of magnesium — which has been identified as a depression fighter, zinc, manganese, phosphorous, and selenium. Recent studies are also showing that walnuts may contribute to brain health and guard against dementia.
Because pistachios are relatively low in calories they are a favourite of mine, giving more nuts per serving.
Almonds contain fibre for digestive health and weight management; vitamin E for skin health; and trace minerals like magnesium and phosphorus, which are critical for maintaining strong teeth and bones.
They contain riboflavin and L-carnitine, good for brain activity and the development of new neural pathways, and the boosting of immunity and energy.
These are known as the skin and hair nuts. Selenium in these nuts accelerates cell turnover and improves skin health. Vitamins A and E increase the production of collagen, opposing the effects of ageing and zinc, omega 3, and fatty acids assist with skin dryness.
Portioning is everything
Regardless of their popularity I would not recommend peanuts and cashews because they are quite energy dense and are easily overindulged, however, all nuts are beneficial to your diet in proper portions.
Nuts are truly energy dense. Each seed has enough energy stored to develop a plant with stems and leaves until it grows usable roots, so you don’t want to overdo it. A weekly serving of nuts is five one-ounce portions or 30 grams.
A one oz or 30g serving is roughly 30 pistachios, 20 almonds, 15 cashews, 20 hazelnuts, or eight walnuts. But don’t get too worked up about exact measurements, one ounce is roughly one handful and no more. Don’t go overboard, as one ounce of nuts/one handful, is roughly 160 to 190 calories.
So, enjoy having your healthy, salt-free or salt-less nuts and allow them to nurture and heal you. Just watch those portions. You can take yourself in the right direction by incorporating nuts, seeds and legumes gradually into your daily diet, easing away from the animal proteins, at least on occasion.