Thursday, October 27, 2016
Health Benefits of Nuts
Let’s face it nuts are high in both fats & calories and it is almost impossible to eat just a few. But if you do not over indulge, nuts can definitely be part of a healthy diet. All nuts are rich in protein, antioxidant nutrients, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium , and most of the other minerals, folic acid , vitamin E, fiber, and fatty acids, (the "good fats").
Almonds, walnuts and pistachio nuts have been the most studied for health benefits. Walnuts contain the most omega -3 fatty acids. Chestnuts and soynuts are lowest in calories. Macadamia and Brazil nuts are highest in calories. Almonds are high in the amino acid tryptophan. Chestnuts, macadamia nuts and pecans have the least protein. Also try cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and peanuts. Peanuts need to be kept very fresh as they are subject to a fungus that generates poisons called aflatoxins which can also be allergenic. Peanuts and soy nuts are technically part of the legume, not nut family, but people include them when thinking of nuts, so we will too.
Seeds are also very healthy such as sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame. The whole nut or seed provides better health benefits and is less fattening than the oils. Flax seeds and Flaxseed oil are also a good source of the ALA Essential Fatty Acids. Only oil from fish contains the longer chain fatty acids EPA & DHA.
On average, one ounce of nuts provides about 3-4 grams of protein, between 100-150 calories, and about 8-10 grams of fat.
Although the health benefits of nuts are numerous, here is just a small sample:
Most nuts are rich in heart-friendly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Research has shown people who consume a small handful of nuts at least 3-4 times a week reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke by half compared to those who consumed no nuts.
Individual studies conducted by the Adventist Health Study, the Iowa Women's Health Study, the Nurses' Health Study, and the Physicians' Health Study when combined looked at hundreds of thousands of individuals and found that nuts can indeed decrease the risk of heart disease.
In July 2003, the FDA approved the heart health claim for almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts as these nuts contain less than 4g of saturated fats per 50g.
This claim can be used on package labels and states:
"Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of some nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease."
Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats. This helps decrease the low-density lipoproteins (the bad cholesterol, or LDL) from the blood, without lowering the good HDL cholesterol levels. It is the oxidized LDL that causes plaque deposits to be formed on the inside of arterial walls, leading to atherosclerosis (hardening and blockage of arteries) and ultimately to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
Lowering blood pressure;
Nuts contain a large amount of l-arginine an amino acid that enhances the production of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps relax the arteries making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots.
Reducing the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes:
Eating nuts will make you less prone to diabetes. Since nuts are very low on the glycemic index scale, including them in your daily diet is helpful for your blood sugar. Research suggests the risk of developing type 2 diabetes appears to decrease as nut eating increases from less than once a week, to eating nuts once or more per day.
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto produced findings that nuts may be a vital way to manage diabetes. Results show that nuts may improve blood lipid levels and blood sugar levels in individuals with non-insulin dependent diabetes (type 2 diabetes).
Researchers from Harvard studied more than 83,000 women for over 16 years and found that those who reported eating a handful of nuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter at least five times a week were more than 20% less likely to develop adult onset (type II) diabetes than those who rarely or never ate nuts. This is due to the fiber and magnesium in nuts helping to maintain balanced insulin and glucose levels. It is considered that the results apply to men as well as women.
Other research shows that cashews can help to reduce triglyceride levels in people with diabetes.
Studies have shown judicious nut eating is very helpful when it comes to losing weight.
Because nuts are high in vitamins, minerals, nutritious calories, healthy fats, and protein, they help decrease your appetite providing a sense of satiation. The fats in nuts take longer to digest, so you also feel full longer after eating them. The unsaturated fats found in nuts also contain the hormone adiponection which helps your body to break down fat cells.
Helps with menopausal symptoms:
A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine 2007: 167: 1060-1067 reported ½ cup of soy nuts daily for 8 weeks significantly reduced menopausal symptoms and also reduced blood pressure in those who were hypertensive
Removes free radicals:
Nuts are loaded with antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium. Selenium has been found to be beneficial in the fight against free radicals, which contributes to premature aging, among other things. Ridding your body of free radicals also reduces the risk of cancer and all kinds of age-related degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, arthritis, etc. Nuts also seem to prevent the formation of gallstones due to their high magnesium content.
Hands down, nuts offer numerous benefits. The best benefits are from raw nuts which have not been processed with oils. Organic is even better, when possible. Oil processing also adds about 10% to the calories. You can purchase dry roasted nuts, which are preferable. Cashews are always roasted, as they are toxic when raw. The higher temperature of oil roasted processed nuts containing high levels of the amino acid asparagine may increase acrylamides, a possible issue re cancer when in high levels...but this is still being researched by the FDA.
So if you prefer the taste of roasted nuts, you can roast your own at lower temperatures.
Here are the basic directions to dry roast nuts:
1. Heat your oven to 160 degrees F.
2. Spread nuts on an ungreased cookie sheet.
3. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until they are golden brown and fragrant.
4. Check to make sure that a test nut has the proper crunch when bitten into. It should taste toasted, not bitter or burnt.
Note that because of their high oil content, the nuts will continue to roast after you remove them from the oven.
With all this encouraging information, be sure not to go nuts for nuts because they are so tasty! Eat 1-2 small handfuls daily of a variety of nuts and seeds.....not a whole can or jar, so easy to do. So, I say Nuts to you!