There is no doubt that nuts pack a healthy punch. Researches indicate that they bring a host of health benefits and are not really as fattening as most tend to believe. Also, nuts, like all plant products, are cholesterol-free.
Experts agree that for a healthy eating pattern, nuts should be among the variety of protein food that we should partake of. Hence, unless you’re allergic to nuts, you are a nut if you don’t include nuts in your diet.
What are nuts and what are they good for?
Nuts are seeds. They are usually encased in a hard outer shell and grow on shrubs or trees. Peanuts, the most popular finger food in the Philippines, however, are really not nuts. They are legumes that grow not on trees but in the ground. Since the amount of nutrition per serving of peanuts resembles that of tree nuts, however, they can appropriately be considered as nuts.
In the Philippines, aside from peanuts, other popular native nuts include cashew and pili. Also abundant albeit a bit expensive in our country are imported nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, and chestnuts.
Numerous studies have concluded that incorporating nuts in our diet can protect us from cancer and heart disease. One of these, a 2016 analysis of 29 studies that involved more than 819,000 people, showed that a handful (20 grams) of nuts a day can cut people’s risk of heart disease by nearly 30 percent, of cancer by 15 percent, and of premature death by 22 percent. The study included all kinds of tree nuts and peanuts. Some scientific evidence also suggests that eating nuts every day in place of carbohydrates can help control type 2 diabetes.
What’s in nuts that make them beneficial?
Nuts are rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, and dietary fibers. Although they are also high on fats, most of their fats are of the monosaturated and polyunsaturated varieties, which are heart-friendly—they lower bad cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. LDL plays a major role in the development of plaque that builds up in blood vessels.
Nuts also abound in omega-3 fatty acids, which aside from being powerful antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation has been linked to heart disease. It is the culprit in arthritis.
The dietary fibers in nuts help lower blood cholesterol and prevent type 2 diabetes. They also help maintain our desirable body weight by making us eat less because they make us feel full easily.
The vitamins and sterols that nuts have in abundance serve as powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the cells of the body from getting damaged by free radicals that injure cells and contribute to such disorders as cancer, heart disease, and certain conditions associated with aging.
Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
It probably doesn’t. Most nuts appear to possess essentially the same beneficial substances, although the actual contents vary in amounts. For example, walnuts contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acid while macadamia nuts have more calories than other nuts.
How much nuts should you eat?
Before you go nuts on nuts, however, be mindful that nuts have one drawback—they are high in calories. As much as 80 percent of a nut is fat. Even though most of this fat is healthy fat, it’s still a lot of calories (about 160 to 200 calories for every ounce or 28.4 grams). That’s why you should not feast on nuts, a handful (about 20 grams) a day should be enough.
To keep the calories in nuts low, eat them raw, boiled, baked, or roasted instead of cooked in oil. Likewise, avoid nuts that are sweetened, salted, or dipped in chocolate.
A great way to consume nuts without adding calories to your diet is to substitute your unhealthy fat-filled snacks like pastries, chips, or fried snacks with a handful of nuts.
source: Manila Bulletin