Go Nuts About The Nuts!

Posted on May 25th, 2013 at 5:17 am by

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Nuts contain a unique combination of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and fibre that can help combat diseases like diabetes and even weight gain.  Food and Nutrition expert Jennifer Gran tells us which nuts to keep in the kitchen pantry.

Nuts have long been avoided by weight loss devotees due to their high-fat content.  However, few of us know that most of the fat in nuts is monounsaturated, meaning it can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels, consequently reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Dietician Jennifer Gran says contrary to what many may think, nuts help with weight loss and management and there’s research to confirm this.

A prospective study published in the research journal Obesity indicated that of the 8,865 male and female study participants, those who ate nuts two or more times a week were less likely to gain weight than those with little nut consumption, thereby revealing the nutty truth about nuts – they’re not as bad as many make them out to be.

A great benefit of nuts is their fat content also helps release satiety hormones into the digestive system, which help curb hunger, manage stress, combat obesity and diabetes.

The high fibre content of nuts also means it is likely you won’t absorb all the energy from nuts, as some of the undigested dietary fat passes through your digestive system without being stored in the body.

Very rich in vitamin E, nuts are also an excellent source of protein and are high in flavonoids, which are well known for their antioxidant activity, assisting the body in the prevention of diseases such as cancer caused by free radical damage.

There are many ways to incorporate the heart-healthy benefits of nuts in a low-fat diet.  A handful of nuts goes a long way to ensure you’re feeling full throughout the day and makes a perfect substitute for calorie-laden snacks.  Here are five nuts that will pack a nutritious punch in your pantry.

Health benefits Of Amazing Almonds

A staple in most healthconscious pantries, almonds are not only flavoursome, but abundant in nutritious goodness.  Good for the heart, the magnesium content in almonds help reduce the risk of heart attack and the presence of vitamin E also has an antioxidant function, protecting the heart from disease.  A 2001 study at the University of California in the US revealed almonds help protect against colon cancer.  Experts believe almonds can improve the movement of food through the colon, which is believed to have a cancer-preventative effect.

Rich in fibre, a 30g serving of almonds provides 10 per cent of the recommended daily fibre intake and prevents constipation.  “Almonds have also been thought to help keep our bowels healthy and regular, as research shows that almonds may have the potential to act as a prebiotic – a non-digestible carbohydrate found in food that stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut,” Reid says.  It also reduces your risk of diabetes by preventing the spike in sugar and insulin levels after meals.  Also, the monounsaturated fat contained in almonds helps prevent overeating, which is a common trait of most nuts.  “They contain protein and fibre, which helps to keep us fuller for longer, reducing our appetite so that we don’t overeat late in the day.”

Goes with yoghurt, cereal and desserts, but are even better eaten on their own.

Health benefits Of Brilliant Brazilian Nuts

File:Brazil nuts.jpgTouted as the natural vitamin of the Amazon rainforests, Brazil nuts are a good source of methionine, which helps breaks down and use dietary fats for energy.

Rich in selenium, Brazil nuts can combat thyroid problems, which can contribute to moodiness, anxiety and even depression.  “Selenium ensures the proper functioning of the thyroid, as it helps regulate the amount of thyroid hormone that is produced in the body,” Reid says.

Research indicates these nuts play a significant role in your happiness and optimal wellbeing.  Of all the nuts, Brazilian nuts are the richest source of selenium, which has been recognised by health experts to have mood-enhancing properties.  “Low levels of selenium in the body have been linked with poor mood,” Reid says. “Research shows increasing selenium intake improves mood and decreases anxiety in people with low levels of selenium in their diet”

Goes with festivities!

Many of us eat Brazil nuts during the festive season, mainly because they’re a perfect addition to fruit and nut cakes as well as other festive treats.  This doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed throughout the year.  Add Brazil nuts to your next bowl of muesli and kickstart your day with some happiness.

Health Benefits of Wonderful Walnuts

File:Wall nut.JPGWalnuts are particularly good for keeping our blood vessels healthy, especially after eating fatty foods.  Touted as ‘brain food’, the peculiar, brain-shape of walnuts distinguish them from many other nuts.  “The research is still minimal but preliminary research has found that walnut extracts appear to have anti inflammatory effects on brain cells,” Reid says. ”Walnuts are also rich in antioxidants such asellagic acid, ellagitannins and proanthocyanidins, which may enhance cognitive and motor function in ageing.”

Walnuts are particularly good for keeping our blood vessels healthy, as eating walnuts has an anti-inflammatory effect, which is important especially after eating fatty foods.

A 2004 Spanish study into the effects of a walnut-rich diet revealed that eating 40-65g of walnuts every day as part of a low-fat, plant-based diet significantly assisted in relaxing blood vessel walls, thereby preventing artery walls from thickening.  Due to the fact diabetics are twice as likely to develop heart disease, they should include walnuts in their diet to improve blood cholesterol, reduce insulin levels and relax blood vessels.

Goes with healthier cake varieties such as carrot and banana.  Walnuts can also make a tasty pine nut substitute in pesto.  Don’t forget the classic Waldorf salad, which relies on the walnut flavour for its clean and healthy taste.

Health benefits Of Marvellous Macadamias

“Of all the nuts, macadamia nuts contain the most kilojoules and fat.  However, they can still be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet.”

While they are the fattiest of nuts, the health benefits of macadamia nuts shouldn’t be dismissed.  Rich in manganese, macadamias help with bone formation as well as the breakdown of amino acids, carbohydrates and cholesterol.

Loved by Australians, macadamias are considered the most successful Australian plant food export and are grown commercially in northern New south Wales and southern Queensland.

Just like other nuts, macadamia nuts are a rich source of healthy fats and help improve blood cholesterol, also reducing your risk of heart disease.  They are also one of very few plant foods that contain alpha unolenic acid, an omega fatty acid which has important heart health benefits.

A handful of macadamias can provide up to 30 per cent of your daily Vitamin B1 requirements, which is important for extracting energy from food.

First image license: Royalty Free or iStock source: 345678

About the Author 

Jennifer Gran is a Food & Nutrition expert who writes for Nutrition Comparison Magazine.

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