A nut is simply a dry fruit with one or more seeds. Examples of nuts include: walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, chestnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pistachio nuts and pine nuts. Additionally, the term ‘nut’ can also be applied to seeds that aren’t true nuts in a botanical sense, for instance chia, caraway, cape seed, flaxseed, passion fruit, linseed, poppy seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seeds and sesame seed. Albeit, the peanut is a legume, its nutritional composition is similar to that of tree nuts.
Nutritional Value of Nuts
Nuts, just like other plant foods, do provide a myriad of nutrients, including healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and moderate protein quantity. In addition, nuts are an incredible source of dietary fiber and the B complex vitamins and trace elements like iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium and antioxidant minerals like copper and selenium. Nuts also contain certain compounds called phytochemicals like flavonoids and plant sterols.
Nuts are often included in the same food group as fish, meat and poultry since they have almost the same protein content.
Nuts and your Heart Health
Due to the high composition of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and the subsequent low proportion of saturated fats, makes nuts the ideal foods to consume if you want to have a healthy heart and overall cardiovascular system. Additionally, nuts contain the amino acid Arginine that maintain the elasticity of blood vessels and helps prevent atherosclerosis. Nuts also contain naturally low sodium and high potassium levels which function to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Nuts and risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Albeit, more research is needed, nuts may play a crucial role in preventing the development of type 2 diabetes. Nuts are usually recommended to individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes, since they reduce the glycemic index of the body. Nuts, when added to carbohydrate rich meals, slow the digestion of the meal and significantly reduce blood glucose levels that naturally spike following the meal. Additionally, the nut skin phytochemicals also slow carbohydrate digestion.
Nuts and Weight Gain
A handful of nuts every day is not often associated with a weight gain, in fact, nuts help reduce the risk of obesity. Nuts enable you to control your appetite, since the fiber and healthy fats present in nuts make you feel full.
A significant number of people suffer from nut allergies, and as such nut allergies are a major health concern. The nuts that tend to elicit allergic reactions include:
- Some tree nuts (i.e. almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachio nuts, pine, macadamia, chest nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and pecans)
- Peanuts only
- Sometimes both tree nuts and peanuts
Other Important health benefits of nuts
Albeit further research is needed, preliminary studies on the health benefits of nuts have indicated that they play a critical role in:
- Reducing the risk of developing gall stones
- Slowing brain cells aging
- Reducing age-related macular degeneration that often leads to blindness
- Maintaining bone health and density
- Reducing the risk of developing cancer
Nuts are simply ‘grenades’ filled with nutrients that are essential in or bodies, from essential oils to trace elements. Including nuts in your daily diet will work wonders for you and recommend nuts as a snack instead of the usual sugary treats. I think it’s time we all went nuts for nuts.
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