While I powered on my PC today, I sat down with a bowl of pistachios and then started browsing through the net wondering about topics to write. While eating those pistachios, it became obvious I had to go nuts. Packed with heavenly goodness, there are so many different kinds to choose to from :- almonds, cashew nuts, brazil nuts, macademia, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnut and pine nuts. Although peanuts are technically legumes (like peas and beans) they are called nuts because they have similar nutritional profile.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we eat 30 grams of nuts – a small handful – each day. But many of us know nuts are high in calories and fat. So should we be eating nuts or will they make us gain weight? The short answer is yes, we should eat them, and no, they won’t make us gain weight if eaten in moderate amounts. The fats in nuts are mostly the “good” fats.
Even if we don’t consume nuts everyday a recent study suggests that eating nuts at least twice a week is associated with a 17% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
What is so good about nuts?
Nuts are powerhouses of nutrition. In addition to protein they are also excellent sources of unsaturated fats or the “good ” fats, omega -3 fatty acids, fiber, Vitamin E, plants sterols( which is a substance that can help in lowering cholesterol) and L-arginine ( Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, which is a substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow).
Nuts also have an optimal mineral density with respect to calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The sodium content of raw or roasted but otherwise unprocessed nuts is very low. A high intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium, together with a low sodium intake, is associated with protection against bone demineralization, arterial hypertension, insulin resistance, and overall cardiovascular risk.
Nuts help improve heart health by lowering the low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels. LDL plays a major role in the development of plaque that builds up on the blood vessels. Eating more nuts has also been linked to lower levels of inflammation linked to heart disease. Nuts may also reduce your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal stroke.
Studies have associated nut consumption with a reduced incidence of gall stones in both genders and diabetes in women. Limited evidence also suggests beneficial effects on hypertension, cancer, and inflammation. Nuts have beneficial effects on oxidative stress, inflammation, and vascular reactivity. Blood pressure, visceral adiposity and the metabolic syndrome also appear to be positively influenced by nut consumption.
How many nuts per day and how?
The American Heart Association recommends eating about four servings of nuts per week. A single serve of nuts is about 30 grams of nuts (about a handful) or 2 table spoons of nut butter. Eat them in the form nature intended them to be eaten. Raw fresh nuts are the healthiest. They should be fresh because unsaturated fats can become oxidised in stale nuts, making them harmful. You can tell if the nuts are rancid from their smell and sour taste.
Are you going to gain weight but consuming nuts ?
In contrast to expectations, epidemiologic studies and clinical trials suggest that regular nut consumption is not likely to contribute to obesity and may even help in weight loss.
Studies that looked at people’s eating habits and body weight over a long period have found people who regularly eat nuts tend to gain less weight over time than people who don’t. We see a similar pattern in clinical studies that asked people to include nuts in their diets and then looked at the effects on body weight.
A review of more than 30 studies examined the effects of eating nuts on body weight. It did not find people who ate nuts had increased their body weight, body mass index (BMI), or waist circumference, compared to a control group of people who did not eat nuts.
In fact, one study found that when people ate a pattern of food aimed at weight loss, the group of people who ate nuts lost more body fat than those who didn’t eat nuts.
In conclusion, nuts are nutrient rich foods with wide-ranging cardiovascular and metabolic benefits, which can be readily incorporated into healthy diets. Even if you can’t get to eat them everyday, just consuming a handful of mixed nuts atleast twice a week will do the health trick. So, Go nuts!