Nuts are quite a versatile food item. They are not only a popular snack, but they are also used worldwide as either an ingredient in meals, components of various mixes and salads, and their derivatives are used to produce anything from paste-based creams, butter, desserts, and spreads.
A significant reason for such wide use is that the combination of a salty and sweet composition of these legumes serves as an appealing and indulging flavor additive. But deep inside the tasty interior lies a mighty nutritional powerhouse of a superfood. True, nuts are high in both calories and fat content, but the devil’s in the details. The fats are primarily monounsaturated (commonly referred to as ‘good fats’) and are ones that are natural, meaning that they do not levy the same health risks as their saturated counterparts commonly found in processed foods. Not only are monounsaturated fats in nuts not unhealthy, but they also serve to lower cholesterol, supply you with a load of essential nutrients, and have even been found to regulate blood sugar.
As far as the calorie count, that's offset by the massive protein content nuts carry per serving. Having as little as four to five handfuls of nuts per week has been correlated to a variety of health benefits. Besides being a great source of protein, fiber, magnesium, copper, and vitamin E, nuts are also rich in antioxidants, helping boost your immune system, lower bad cholesterol, and raise good cholesterol. They help to reduce heart disease and assist in weight loss. The latter is largely due to their filling nature, which means that one could eat nuts as a snack, then feel full enough to not consume a large meal, which in turn causes the body to eat away at the fat.
The support of weight loss is the primary reason for nuts being included in most popular modern diets. This includes the ketogenic diet which aims to reduce carb intake in order to shift the body’s focus on burning fat for energy, with the fatty nature of nuts being a perfect complement to the methodology. The paleolithic diet carries a great reliance on nuts to supply the body with fats and natural proteins. Nuts are also a favorite of most people who are practicing vegetarians, vegans or observe raw food diets.
There is a great variety of nuts to choose from and most carry their weight in promoting a healthy diet. Let's take a look at a few popular varieties of nuts and explore their unique nutritional values.
Almonds are one of the most popular tree nuts and are typically consumed either raw or roasted. While they taste terrific when eaten plain, almonds blend delightfully into almond butter and make great additions to most salads. They are considered a ‘superfood’ due to their rich concentration of minerals and vitamins. It is worth noting that most of the nutrients reside in the almond’s skin, so consuming them in raw and roasted fashion yields the highest health-related benefits.
While Almonds are high in calories (161 per serving), the fat content of almonds is too complex for the body to break down, so 10 to 15% of it is not absorbed by the body at all. The high protein, fiber, and fat content help prevent blood clots, and the low carb makeup gives the body less simple sugars to deal with, making almonds an ideal choice for people with diabetes.
Another aspect of almonds that is worthy of note is their high content of Vitamin E, a factor instrumental in controlling high blood pressure and mitigating the risks of heart disease while boosting endurance and energy. The energy-boosting properties allow more athletic activity which in turn promotes good health.
Along with Vitamin E, almonds are rich in manganese. In fact, almonds provide almost a third of the necessary content of both of those nutrients per day. Additionally, they have a high content of Vitamin B2, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium (which supports blood sugar control), as well as containing more calcium than any other nut. This is before even mentioning that almonds are hyper-rich with antioxidants, which are known to reduce cancer risks.
The crescent-shaped tree nuts grown in subtropical climates might be small, but they are very versatile and pack a nutritional punch. A staple in most vegetarian and vegan recipes, cashews are sweet and smooth in taste, which makes them great for raw consumption. Vegans make great use of cashews by harnessing them to produce cashew butter and even use it as a base for producing cashew cheese.
Unlike most other nuts, cashews have very low fiber content and do contain a lot of calories, but they more than make up for that in their otherwise stellar nutritional profile that includes Vitamins E, K, and B6, along with many minerals that help the body function optimally. These minerals include magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, selenium, and phosphorus.
A notable area connected to cashew-yielded benefits is improved vision. The high content of antioxidants, specifically, zeaxanthin and lutein, assist eyes in reflecting away harmful UV rays that, over time, take their toll on the macula (the center of the eye’s retina), the part of the eye that allows the eye to see objects directly in front if of it.
While commonly regarded as nuts, pistachios are botanically seeds from a pistachio tree. They can range in colors from yellow to various shades of green and are typically about half of an inch in diameter and about an inch in length. They reside inside of a hard shell that needs to be cracked open before use or consumption.
Pistachiospossess a high content of potassium and high levels of unsaturated fats, both of which are heavy in antioxidants. Pistachios help to keep blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol in check, and the high content of protein and fiber makes them filling, which not only makes the person consuming them less apt to snack more or eat bigger meals, but this particular makeup promotes optimal activity for the bacteria living in our gut, helping the digestive process.
Being nutritious and satisfying, eating more pistachios helps weight management by helping to consume less food, giving the body more time to burn its current fat content for energy. Some studies have even found that because pistachios lower the fat and sugar in the body, they promote a healthier cardiovascular system. Part of this cardiovascular optimization is the improvement of flexibility and dexterity of blood vessels.
Pistachios do have a lot of calories, but it is their high sodium content that makes them possess a level of ‘diminishing returns’ to some extent. Consuming pistachios is without a doubt great for health, but consuming too many increases the intake of sodium, which can lead to heart disease and other heart-related issues.
Walnuts are wrinkly, sphere-shaped nuts that grow on walnut trees which are native to North America, but Walnutsare grown in China and parts of the Middle East as well. They are typically sold in both raw and roasted form, as well as in a salted and unsalted variety.
Walnuts are an excellent source of copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and phosphorus. The rich unsaturated fat content and omega-3 fatty acids in addition to ample protein makeup promote heart health. The density of nutrients is slightly offset by the calorie content, but the latter is far outweighed by the beneficial properties of the former.
Walnuts have been linked to boosting cardiovascular and bone health, while reducing risks of gallbladder issues, and are even used in treating epilepsy. Unsaturated fats reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, and heart attacks by decreasing harmful cholesterol (LDL) and lowering triglyceride levels. Being a great source of the mineral copper, the deficiency of which is associated with lower bone mineral density and linked to osteoporosis is a great way in which bone health can benefit from walnut consumption.
Copper is also an important factor in the upkeep of elastin and collagen, two of the body’s major structural components, which means that their deficiency leads to weaker bone build up and can stunt the efficacy of bone repair.
Named for their origins in Brazilian, Bolivian, and Peruvian rainforests, Brazil nuts are dark on the outside with a lighter, pale center. These nuts have been a primary staple for Amazonian natives due to their health benefits, mainly in terms of hair and skin health.
While Brazil nuts are rich with Vitamins A and E, as well as loaded with antioxidants, their most standout feature is their high content of selenium. Human bodies cannot produce selenium on their own, so it needs to be acquired and absorbed through diets. Selenium is not only an antioxidant powerhouse, it also boosts metabolism, which in turn leads to easier management of weight.
The biggest beneficiary of Brazilian nutsis skin as the nutritional profile includes Vitamins A & E which generate more collagen production to help skin stay stronger, zinc to reduce skin sensitivity and redness, and omega 3 fatty acids that assist in reducing dry skin, acne, eczema, and flakiness. The nutrients also help to speed up skin cell regeneration and generate more skin cells that can help the skin be smoother and promote a natural glow. Additionally, hair that is prone to split ends can be assisted by the nutrients in Brazil nuts to stay shinier, smoother, and less brittle.
Some studies have also linked the consumption of Brazil nuts to a reduction in the chance of skin cancer. The Brazilian nutcontent is not high in fiber or protein, but neither is it as high as other nuts in terms of calories.
Consumption of nuts, at recommended servings, can be immensely beneficial to one’s health and outward appearance. Nuts can be incorporated into any diet in one form or another and can be consumed by people observing a wide array of different diets.