Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nuts for nuts

Heart healthy and nutrient dense, nuts pack a lot of power under a tiny shell. Eating a small handful everyday can be part of a healthy diet as well as help stave off hunger. Some people have the impression that nuts are very high in calories and fat, and may lead to weight gain. The high amount of quality nutrients makes nuts a healthy source of calories and keeping portion size to 1oz will minimize caloric intake to about 160-190 calories. Also the primary fat in nuts is unsaturated healthy fat, which has excellent health benefits.  

Numerous studies show people who eat nuts regularly can lower their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower their risk of heart disease. It appears consuming unsaturated fatty acids helps to lower bad cholesterol in the blood. Many nuts also contain ALA omega-3 fatty acids which may act as an anti-inflammatory, increase memory, reduce risk of cardiac death, reduce triglyceride levels, and improve blood pressure.
Nuts are a great source of fiber which promotes a healthy digestive tract, can help lower cholesterol, and helps you feel full longer.

Protein is abundant in nuts and can be a great combination with whole grains to make a complete protein….think almond butter on some whole grain crackers.
High in antioxidants, nuts range in the types and amounts each contain, but most are rich in vitamin E which may prevent the formation of plaque in your arteries.

Some nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts contain plant sterols. Sterols help block cholesterol absorption to reduce blood cholesterol levels up to 10%.
L-arginine is a type of amino acid found in nuts and many other protein sources. L-arginine helps blood vessels to become more flexible, more dilated to improve blood flow helps reduce the risk of blood clots. 

Weight loss can even be promoted through regular nut consumption. Several studies indicate people lost more weight eating nuts than those who did not.

When it comes to your nut selection avoid nuts roasted in oil which may contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. Instead eat them raw or dry roasted with as little added salt and sugar as possible. If it is candy coated, contains chocolate, or has lots of added ingredients, chances are it should be considered candy and not a health food. I like to recommend eating a variety of nuts to enjoy the health benefits and flavors each has to offer. Below are some facts on the most popular nuts and how they benefit your health.

Walnuts: Top rated when it comes to heart health. They are the highest in ALA omega-3 fatty acids and nearly twice the amount of antioxidants when compared to other common nuts. 1 oz is 14 shelled halves, 190 calories.

Peanuts: Technically this is a legume, like peas and beans, and is one of the highest in protein compared to other common nuts. Peanuts are also very high in folate which is very important for pregnant women. Peanuts are also high in niacin and anti-oxidants such as vitamin E, p-coumaric acid, and resveratrol (which is also found in wine). 1 oz is 28 peanuts, 170 calories.

Pistachios: One of the highest in monounsaturated fatty acids when compared to other common nuts. Buying them with the shell on may help people with portion size and hunger control. This nut is also high in vitamin E, carotenoids, antioxidants, and B-vitamins. 1 oz is 49 pistachios, 160 calories.

Almonds: Low in calories and almost equal in protein to peanuts. Almonds are high in monounsaturated fatty acids as well as vitamin E. 1 oz is 22 almonds, 160 calories.

Cashews: Least amount of fat compared to other common nuts. Cashews are high in selenium and a flavonoid called Xeaxanthin which is important for eye health. 1 oz is 16-18 cashews, 160 calories.

Macadamias and Pecans: While very tasty these nuts are higher in saturated fat, are the highest in calories, and have the lowest amount of protein when compared to other common nuts. No need to avoid these, nut having them on occasion instead of everyday would be a healthier choice.

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