Nuts are a very popular food. They are tasty, convenient and can be enjoyed in all kinds of diets. Despite having high fat content, they have a number of impressive benefits for your health (and weight).
What are Nuts?
Nuts are technically considered a fruit. However, unlike most types of fruit, they are not sweet and have high fat content. They have a hard, non-edible outer shell that usually needs to break the shell to open the fruit in order to get the fruit inside. Fortunately, most “shellless” nuts can be bought in the store in such a way that it is more comfortable to eat them.
Here is a list of some of the most commonly consumed nuts:
- Brazil Nuts
- Cashew nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Pecan Nuts
Although peanuts are technically legumes such as peas and beans, they are often referred to as nuts because they have similar nutritional profiles and characteristics. Now we will review the 8 main benefits of eating nuts for health.
1. Nuts are a Great Source of Many Nutrients:
Nuts are very nutritious. An ounce (28 grams) of mixed nuts contains approximately:
- Protein:5 grams
- Fat:16 grams, including 9 grams of monounsaturated fat
- Carbohydrates:6 grams
- Fiber:3 grams
- Vitamin E:12% of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)
- Magnesium:16% of the IDR
- Phosphorus:13% of the IDR
- Copper:23% of the IDR
- Manganese: 26% of the IDR
- Selenium:56% of the IDR
Some nuts have higher amounts of certain nutrients than others. For example, only one brazil nut provides more than 100% of the selenium RDI. The carbohydrate content of nuts is very variable. Hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts have at least 2 grams of digestible carbohydrates per serving, while cashews have almost 8 digestible carbohydrates per serving. That said, nuts are generally an excellent food to eat on a low carb diet.
Summary: Nuts have high fat content, low carbohydrate content and a great source of various nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium and selenium.
2. Nuts are Loaded with Antioxidants:
Nuts are major sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants help control free radicals, which are unstable molecules produced as a normal part of the metabolism. The production of free radicals increases when you are under strong exposure to the sun, stress, pollution and other causes. Although free radicals can play a beneficial role in the immune response, having too many can lead to cell damage. When the level of free radicals is too high, the body is said to be in a state of oxidative stress, which increases the risk of disease. Antioxidants in plant foods, including polyphenols found in nuts, can combat oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals so they cannot damage your cells. CARO (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity), is a test that measures the ability of a food to fight free radicals. One study found that the CARO in nuts was greater than that of fish.
“Research has shown that the antioxidants in nuts and almonds can protect delicate fats in cells from being damaged by oxidation”.
In one study, 13 people consumed nuts, almonds or a controlled meal on three separate occasions. People who ate both meals of nuts led to higher levels of polyphenols and significantly less oxidative damage compared to people who ate controlled food. Another study found that two to eight hours after consuming whole pecans, participants experienced a 26-33% drop in their levels of LBD (low density lipoprotein) or “bad”, oxidized cholesterol, which is an important risk factor for heart disease. However, studies in older people and people with metabolic syndrome found that nuts and cashews had no major impact on antioxidant capacity, some other results showed no difference.
Summary: Nuts contain antioxidants known as polyphenols, which can protect cells and LBD cholesterol from damage.
3. Nuts Help to Lose Weight:
Although nuts are considered a high-calorie food, research suggests that nuts can actually help you lose weight. A large study called the PREDIMED study (Mediterranean Diet Prevention) evaluated the effects of the Mediterranean diet. Analysis of the data in a subgroup of the study found that those assigned to eat nuts lost an average of 5 cm (2 inches) in their waistlines, which is significantly more than those assigned to ingest olive oil. It has been shown in controlled studies that almonds promote weight loss rather than weight gain. One study found that pistachios can also be useful for weight loss. In a study of overweight women, those who consumed almonds lost almost three times more weight and experienced a significantly greater decrease in waist size compared to the control group. Moreover, although the amount of calories indicated in nuts is quite high, studies have shown that the body does not absorb all calories. This is because a portion of fat is trapped within the fibrous structure of the dried fruit during digestion. For example, nutritional data from a packet of almonds may indicate that a 1 oz (28 grams) serving has 160-170 calories, but the body only absorbs about 129 of those calories. Similarly, recent studies have found that the body absorbs about 21% less calories from nuts and 5% less calories from pistachios due to what had been explained above.
Summary: It has been shown that nuts help promote weight loss rather than contribute to weight gain. Several studies have found that the body does not absorb all the calories from nuts.
4. Nuts can Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides:
Nuts have impressive effects on cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Pistachios have been shown to tend to lower triglyceride levels more in obese and diabetic people. In a 12-week study, obese people who ate pistachios had triglycerides that were almost 33% lower than the control group. It is believed that the cholesterol-lowering power of nuts is partly due to its high content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Almonds and hazelnuts appear to reduce total cholesterol and LBD cholesterol while increasing levels of LAD (high density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol. One study found that ground, sliced or whole hazelnuts had similar beneficial effects on cholesterol. Another study found that consuming a mixture of 1 ounce (30 grams) of nuts, peanuts and pine nuts daily for six weeks significantly lowered all types of cholesterol, except LAD, in a group of women with metabolic syndrome. Several studies have shown that macadamia nuts reduce cholesterol levels; a moderate fat diet including macadamia nuts lowered cholesterol as if it were on a low fat diet.
Summary: Nuts can help lower total and LBD cholesterol and triglycerides, while also increasing HDL cholesterol levels.
5. Nuts are Beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome:
Type 2 diabetes is a common disease that affects hundreds of millions of people. Having a condition called metabolic syndrome is strongly associated with type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, nuts can be one of the best foods for people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. First, nuts are low in carbohydrates and do not increase blood sugar levels much. Substituting nuts for carbohydrate-rich foods tends to have reduced blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that eating nuts can also reduce oxidative stress, blood pressure and other health markers in people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In a 12-week controlled study, people with metabolic syndrome who ate 25 grams of pistachios twice a day experienced fasting a 9% decrease in blood sugar on average. In addition, compared to the control group, the group that ingested pistachios had greater reductions in blood pressure and in C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation related to heart disease. However, the evidence is mixed and not all studies have found a benefit of eating nuts in people with metabolic syndrome.
Summary: Several studies have shown that blood sugar; blood pressure and other health conditions improve when nuts are included in the diets of people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
6. Nuts can Help Reduce Inflammation:
Walnuts have important anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the way the body defends itself from injuries, such as bacteria and other potentially harmful pathogens. However, chronic inflammation (long-term inflammation) can cause damage to the organs and increase the risk of disease. Research suggests that eating nuts can reduce inflammation and promote healthy aging. In the large PREDIMED Mediterranean diet study, participants whose diets were supplemented by nuts experienced a 35% decrease in CRP and a 90% decrease in another inflammation marker called interleukin 6 (IL-6). Specific nuts have been found to fight inflammation in healthy people and those with serious diseases. These nuts include pistachios, brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds. However, a study on the consumption of almonds in healthy adults found that, although some inflammatory markers decreased, in general there was not much difference between the group that consumed almonds and the control group.
Summary: Research suggests that nuts may be useful for reducing inflammation, especially in people with diabetes, kidney disease and other serious health conditions.
7. Nuts have High Fiber Content:
Fiber provides many health benefits. Although the body cannot synthesize fiber, beneficial intestinal bacteria can. Many types of fiber work as prebiotics or “foods” for beneficial intestinal bacteria. Intestinal bacteria ferment the fiber and convert it into beneficial short chain fatty acids (AGCC). These AGCCs have powerful benefits, including improving intestinal health and reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity. In addition, fiber helps you feel full and reduces the amount of calories absorbed from ingested foods. One study suggests that increasing fiber intake from 18 to 36 grams daily could result in up to 130 fewer calories absorbed. Here are the nuts with the highest fiber content per ounce (28 grams):
- Almonds:5 grams
- Pistachios:9 grams
- Hazelnuts:9 grams
- Pecans:9 grams
- Peanuts:6 grams
- Macadamias:4 grams
- Brazil nuts:1 grams
Summary: Many nuts have a high fiber content, which can reduce the risk of certain diseases, help maintain satiety, decrease calorie absorption and improve intestinal health.
8. Nuts can Reduce the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke:
Nuts are extremely good for the heart. Several studies suggest that nuts help reduce heart disease and the risk of stroke due to its benefits for cholesterol levels, LBD particle size, arterial function and inflammation. Studies have found that small and dense particles of LBD can increase the risk of heart disease more than larger LBD particles. The PREDIMED study found that the group that consumed nuts had a significant decrease in the amount of small LBD particles and a larger amount of large LBD particles. Moreover, their levels of LAD (high density lipoprotein) or “good” cholesterol increased. In another study, people with normal or high cholesterol levels were randomly chosen to consume olive oil or nuts accompanied by a high-fat meal. People in the group that consumed nuts had fasting, better arterial function and less triglycerides than the olive oil group, regardless of their initial cholesterol levels.
Summary: Nuts can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. This is because nuts increase the size of LBD particles, raise the level of LAD cholesterol, also improve arterial function and have other benefits for heart health. The nuts are delicious, versatile and easy availability.
Nuts are Undeniably Tasty and Satisfying:
They can be eaten whole, in dried butters or also chopped and sprinkled on food. It is actually quite easy to make your own homemade nut butter using any combination of nuts you want. Nuts can be purchased at grocery stores or online. They are available in a wide variety of options, including salted or unsalted, seasoned or plain, raw or roasted. In general, it is healthier to eat raw nuts or toast them in the oven at a temperature below 175 º C (350 º F). Dry roasted nuts are a closer option to the best way to eat them, but try to avoid roasted nuts in vegetable or seed oils. Nuts can be kept at room temperature, which makes them ideal for snacks and travel. However, if you are going to store them for a long time then it is better to place them in a refrigerator or freezer to keep them fresh. Finally, nuts are a highly nutritious and super tasty food that can fit in the diet of almost all people. Eating nuts regularly is a very pleasant way to improve health.