Keep whole, raw, unsalted tree nuts available throughout the day for energy and satiety. Scientific evidence touts the health benefits of tree nuts on cardiovascular and brain health. Nuts contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both types of fats can improve your cholesterol levels and, more importantly, help to reduce inflammation.
Consume between one and two ounces of tree nuts daily. Almonds and walnuts are great choices, but all nuts are beneficial. The caution on tree nuts is the method that is frequently used in their processing. Hydrogenated oils and other unhealthy fats, along with excessive sodium, may accompany them, especially in the mixed “party” versions.
How can nuts be good for weight loss, diabetes, and heart health if they’re calorically dense and loaded with fats? Nuts are indeed a high-energy (calorie) food, with their calories coming predominantly from protein and fat. Protein is a valuable contributor to fat loss, and the fats from nuts are the healthy variety, including omega-3 fatty acids.
Some “nuts” are technically legumes that grow from a plant: cashews and peanuts are good examples. Cashews and peanuts can certainly be a healthy part of the HDL-NP, but they are not Paleo, and be aware of how they are processed. Nuts were a staple of our ancestors before the advent of agriculture. Our body’s long association with nuts virtually guarantees compatibility with our digestive systems.
Magnesium and vitamin E are micronutrients that nuts provide in abundance. Magnesium is a mineral heavily implicated in healthy fat loss and is one of the minerals that we get the least of compared with the diets of our ancestors. Below is a brief look at of some of the commonly consumed tree nuts and their health benefits:
Walnuts may be the superstar of healthy nuts. They are full of antioxidants, with one study showing that they contain more than blueberries. Walnuts are also a rich source of heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids. They lower total and so-called “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, work to preserve bone, and may even slow the growth of malignant tumors of the breast and prostate. Walnuts are one of most nutrient-dense food sources of polyunsaturated fats. One ounce contains 13.4 grams!
Pistachios are known for battling bad cholesterol. Although all kinds of nuts help to lower cholesterol, pistachios reduce the amount of oxidized “bad” cholesterol, which is considered more deadly than simply elevated cholesterol because it speeds up the formation of plaque deposits in arteries. This information was reported in a Penn State University study.
Almonds are known as a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium. A study published several years ago in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that they contain levels of antioxidants comparable to those found in green and black tea and broccoli. Catechin, epicatechin, and kaempferol, the main antioxidant compounds found in almonds, offer the greatest degree of cell death protection from oxidants, researchers reported. Almonds contain 15.6 grams of total fat per ounce, and almost 10 grams of that are monounsaturated.
Pecans, in addition to their cholesterol-lowering powers, may protect the nervous system by delaying the progression of age-related motor neuron degeneration, according to a study published in Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research. Researchers suggested that vitamin E, an antioxidant found in pecans, may be the key factor. Previous studies showed that antioxidants help to fight Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Brazil nuts are a rich source of magnesium, one of the minerals that regulate blood pressure. In addition to heart health, Brazil nuts may play a role in protecting the prostate. These nuts contain another mineral, selenium, a lack of which has been linked to prostate cancer. Stanford University researchers found that men diagnosed with prostate cancer had much lower selenium levels than healthy men years before their cancer was diagnosed. High blood levels of selenium were associated with a four- to five-fold decrease in the odds of developing prostate cancer, researchers discovered. Two freshly shelled Brazil nuts provide the recommended daily amount (200 mcg) of selenium.
Nuts and dried fruits, such as cranberries and cherries, are an excellent choice for between-meal snacks to maintain or restore energy and to preserve mental acuity. So go nuts! A handful a day not only tastes great but can help you live a longer, healthier life.