Nuts DON’T cause weight gain!
I love nuts, but I’ve always worried that eating them will pile on the weight as they are high in calories, but thankfully new research from the University of Otago, New Zealand, shows that eating nuts lowers bad cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart disease without making you gain fat. Sounds perfect!
For these health benefits it is recommended to eat between 30 – 60 g nuts a day. Try to eat unprocessed nuts rather than roasted or salted. Don’t just rely on Nutella either as this contains too much sugar and chocolate! Peanut butter is slightly better than Nutella, especially the unsalted, low sugar varieties, but still often contains hydrogenated oil to keep it fresh.
It is best to eat a variety of different nuts to get maximum benefits as they all contain slightly different beneficial ingredients.
Nuts by definition are the seeds of fruits, encased in a hard outer shell. They grow on flowering upright trees and shrubs. By this definition, peanuts are not actually nuts! They are legumes, the same as beans or peas, as they are edible seeds that grow inside pods. With peanuts, the pods fall off the plant and the peanuts mature within these pods, underground.
Nuts, and peanuts, are all good source of protein, dietary fiber and unsaturated fat. The protein found in nuts is rich in Arginine. This is an amino acid that the body uses to make nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels in the body, thus lowering blood pressure. Arginine also helps the body get rid of ammonia (which is created when the body gets rid of waste in urine).
As they come from plants, most nuts and peanuts are cholesterol-free and are instead rich in a healthy type of plant-based fat known as monounsaturated fat. This type of fat is thought to help lower blood cholesterol and prevent heart disease. In addition, nuts all have their own individual health benefits. Here are a few examples of the health benefits of popular nuts:
- Almonds are very rich in calcium, providing almost as much as milk! They are also high in selenium and vitamin E, which are both excellent antioxidants.
- Hazelnuts are high in nutrients, especially vitamin E and selenium.
- Peanuts are about 20-30% protein, rich in potassium and vitamins especially B vitamins (folate and niacin).
- Brazil nuts are high in copper, selenium, niacin, magnesium, fiber, and vitamin E. Selenium is thought to boost your mood, which is especially useful as the darker nights draw in.
- Cashews are rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, phosphorous and copper.
- Pistachio nuts are a member of the cashew family. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, copper, phosphorous, and B vitamins.
- Walnuts are one of the best nuts for heart health! As well as monounsaturated fat, they are also rich in omega-3 fatty acid, in fact they contain a higher concentration of omega 3 than salmon!
- Pecans are a member of the walnut family. They are rich in vitamin E, vitamin A, folate, Zinc and phosphorous.
- Macadamia nuts are rich in beneficial fatty acids. They are also rich in potassium and magnesium.
- Chestnuts are soft and fleshy and contain very high tannin levels so have to be cooked before eating. They are worth the effort though as they are high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, and potassium.
- Pine nuts are actually the seedlings of pinecones, rather than nuts. They are very rich in fats and are used to make pesto. Pine nuts are very nutrient rich and are especially full in vitamins A, C and D.
The best way to incoroprate nuts into your daily life is to swap unhealthy sugary and chocolate snacks for a nice handful of unprocessed mixed nuts. Try eating a mix of different types to gain as many of the above health benefits as possible. Christmas is a great time of year for getting good deals on nuts and they will be a fuel rich food to help you keep warm, so snack away!
Thanks for reading. All comments welcome