If you have plans to follow a more healthy diet, adding a daily dose of nuts to your diet should be an essential part of a healthy eating plan.
Nuts are good sources of fat, fiber, and protein. Most of the fat in nuts is monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat.
Research has shown that people who eat about 20 grams of nuts per day can cut the risk of heart disease by almost 30%, cancer by 15%, and premature death by at least 20%.
This study was initiated by researchers at the Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and technology.
The results indicated that there is a definite relationship between eating nuts and various beneficial health outcomes. The study included all kinds of tree nuts and also peanuts – which is classified as a legume.
The carbohydrate, fat, fiber, and antioxidant contents also only vary slightly. However, some nuts contain different vitamins and mineral contents to others, and some appear to offer some extra, more specific health benefits.
All nuts are high in fat, which could add to your waistline if you overeat. Therefore, you should ration your portions to about a handful serving of nuts a day.
Here is a list of the 10 healthiest nuts for you to choose from.
Almonds are native to Iran but are also cultivated elsewhere. These nuts contain more fiber and vitamin E than any other nuts and are an excellent source of the essential minerals magnesium and manganese.
Magnesium is essential for proper bone structure of the body, while manganese helps with the digestion of protein and amino acids, and is a great support for the liver. (1)
Vitamin E content in almonds is a significant source of antioxidants that combat the dangerous free radicals in the body. It can also lower the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and so reduce the risk of heart disease.
2) Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are of South American origin, and in Brazil itself, it is against the law to cut down a Brazil nut tree.
Recent research has revealed that Brazil nuts have been linked to raising testosterone levels and aiding male fertility because of the high selenium content in the nuts. Selenium is an essential mineral, which is best is best obtained through the diet, including Brazil nuts. Studies have also shown that selenium is a powerful source of antioxidants.
Brazil nuts in your diet will provide you with further health benefits, such as supporting the thyroid function. The heart-healthy fats can help to reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as inflammation in the body. (2)
3) Cashew nut
A cashew nut tree is an evergreen tropical tree. These nuts are especially of benefit to people who have diabetes. This is as they contain anacardic acid, which improves insulin sensitivity and helps to prevent chronic inflammation.
Cashew nuts are also lower in fat content than most nuts but contain monounsaturated fatty acids, which help to lower harmful LDL and raise levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Cashews are most popular in the US, where studies have indicated that over 90% of the global cashew crop is consumed. (2)
Peanuts. What is not generally known is that peanuts are actually legumes, in the same family of beans, peas, and lentils. Peanuts contain the highest amount of plant-based protein among nuts.
They are also rich in vitamin E, folate – a B vitamin that promotes cell growth and metabolism, niacin (B3) needed by the entire body, boosts brain function, lowers bad cholesterol, and helps to ease arthritis. Trace minerals like magnesium for bone health, and potassium needed for muscle control, including breathing and heartbeat, are also present in peanuts. (2)
Pecans, sometimes known as Hickory nuts, are native to Northern Mexico and the region of the Mississippi River in the US. These nuts contain the highest polyphenol content among all the tree nuts and are also high in fiber, which aids the elimination of waste from the body.
Pecan nuts are an excellent source of vitamin A needed for good vision, a strong immune system, and help organs function properly. Pecans also contain several B vitamins and essential minerals like phosphorus, zinc, and amino acid.
It is a mineral that makes up 1% of a person’s total body weight and is found in every cell in the body. High concentrates of phosphorous are found in the bones and the teeth. Zinc, another vital mineral, also found in cells, helps to boost the immune system and promote healthy DNA.(2)
Pistachios originated in Central Asia, but are now also grown elsewhere. Snacking on pistachios has beneficial effects on blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight control.
These nuts give you a feeling of fullness, due to high fiber content, and may help to reduce the intake of calories. Pistachios have strong contents of potassium, manganese, and vitamin B6. (3)
B6, which is also known as pyridoxine, is not able to be produced by the body. It can only be obtained from your diet or supplements. It is essential for the creation of red blood cells and the health of neurotransmitters operating between the brain and the body.
B6 is also critical for the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates so that they can more easily be absorbed by the body. They have a lower amount of fat than other tree nuts but contain higher amounts of vitamin K and potassium.
Walnuts are mainly grown in the US, providing 38% of the world’s walnuts, 90% of which are grown in California. Although lower in fiber and unsaturated fats than many other kinds of nuts, walnuts are much higher in essential omega-3 fats.
In addition, they have notably higher levels of antioxidants, which combat the dangerous free radicals in the blood. A study by the University of Texas Health Science Centre revealed that walnuts also contain melatonin, which is a hormone that deals with healthy sleep patterns and is known to help insomnia. (4, 2)
Hazelnuts originated in the eastern and western regions of Turkey, along the coastline of the Black Sea. The contents of these nuts include vitamin E, manganese, fatty acids, thiamine, and folate, all of which combine to help prevent degenerative diseases later in life.
Thiamine (Vit B1) enables the body to use carbohydrates as energy, has a crucial role in heart, muscle, and nerve function – and is vital for metabolizing blood sugar.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, promotes the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. This vitamin is highly recommended during early pregnancy, as it is crucial to help reduce the risks of brain and spine deformities. (3)
Chestnuts are native to the colder climates of the Northern hemisphere but are also cultivated in parts of Asia. These nuts contain quercetin, which is a naturally occurring flavonoid found in various fruits and vegetables.
Research has shown that chestnuts are the only nuts to contain vitamin C, and is much lower in fat, with fewer calories than other nuts. Roasted chestnut is a popular street-food traditionally sold in autumn and winter in places like New York City, East Asia, and Europe.
10) Macadamia nuts
Macadamia nuts are indigenous to the northern parts of Queensland, Australia. People who are gluten intolerant, or who have celiac disease, can safely eat macadamia nuts, as they are gluten-free, and are used in the preparation of gluten-free foods.
They are rich in nutrients, including many of the B complex vitamins, which are essential for optimal body functions. Macadamias are high in healthy fats, dietary fiber, and essential minerals such as magnesium and manganese, which all combine to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Note that studies have shown that these nuts are more calorie-dense than other tree nuts.
For example, one cup of macadamias has a whopping 950 calories, which is not great for anyone trying to lose weight. Eating an entire cupful is not necessary to obtain health benefits. A few at a time will do the trick! (2,5)
Some points to note about nuts in general:
When you have decided which nuts you want to add to your diet, always avoid buying those who are highly salted, sugar-glazed or accompanied with dried fruit.
If you have never eaten nuts in the past, and you suffer from allergies, visit the doctor to test whether you are in any way allergic to nuts.
The most common symptoms of a nut allergy include a runny nose, cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Severe symptoms can include difficulty breathing and swallowing and may lead to serious challenges when trying to recover.
Studies have suggested that nuts be stored in a cool, dry place. Humidity and high temperatures may lead to contamination by a fungus known as Aspergillus, which secretes a toxin that has carcinogen properties. Nuts should also be kept out of direct sunlight as exposure to the sun may deplete the level of the mineral and vitamin content.
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The humble nut qualifies to fall under the superfood umbrella and makes for a healthy snack. Throughout history, nuts have been a reliable and popular food source for thousands of years.
Almonds, especially, were something of a staple diet for the ancient people of the Middle East. They ate sweet and bitter almonds, which were blanched, roasted, or ground into flour. The bitter almonds were also used to extract oil for medicinal purposes.
This oil extract was used as a medicine in many European and Middle East countries. Devotees of natural medicine still use it today as a laxative for treating indigestion and helping to relieve coughs and colds