The botanical definition of nuts is a narrow one, but in general usage we refer to many food items like almonds, walnuts, pistachio, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, macadamias, chestnuts and many others. People all over the world include nuts in their diet in many forms and as a part of other foods like salads, desserts, pies or even eat them just as they are. Nuts have even been used to make milk, butter and cheese.
Nuts are considered one of the best foods available. In a tiny bite, they pack a punch full of vitamins, protein, fibre, essential fats and minerals. Different nuts may contain these vital nutrients in different proportion. Due to their relatively high caloric value, a handful of nuts can make an excellent and healthy snack.
Each type of nut may have special benefits but as a whole research has shown that a regular intake of nuts in a moderate quantity has several health benefits. Nuts act as an excellent source of energy. Eating a serving of nuts every day has shown to help in controlling blood sugar which is particularly important for those with diabetes or at risk for it.
In spite of being high in calories, research has shown that eating a moderate amount of nuts can aid in weight loss. This is due to their high fibre content that promotes a feeling of fullness. Additionally they are a great alternative to more fattening foods used as a snack like potato chips. Nuts have been shown to benefit the heart due to the relationship between nuts and lower cholesterol.
Though nuts are mostly fat, it is important to distinguish between â€œgoodâ€ fat and â€œbadâ€ fat. Nuts tend to have unsaturated fats that actually help in lowering cholesterol. Though many people trying to lose weight will try and cut out all fat from their diet, it is important to remember that fats are an essential nutrient and it is most beneficial to eat foods that not only contain â€œgoodâ€ fat but are also full of other required nutrients.
In addition to all the benefits already mentioned, nuts are an excellent source of protein which is essential for normal functioning of the body. They are rich in omega-3-fatty acids which promotes a healthy heart. They contain high levels of minerals like magnesium and calcium. The vitamins found in nuts especially Vitamin E is needed to maintain a healthy circulatory system. Nuts are also a good source of an essential amino acid called arginine which helps in relaxing blood vessels.
Particular nuts have specific benefits.
- Almonds are particularly rich in calcium and Vitamin E.
- Brazil nuts have a high level of selenium which is needed for optimal thyroid function, immunity and cellular repair.
- Cashews are a great source of iron, zinc and magnesium especially for vegetarians.
- Chestnuts contain lots of fibre and vitamins C and B.
- Pecans are anti-oxidant rich and help to prevent hardening of arteries.
- Pistachios are particularly rich in vitamin B or folate which can keep hormonal imbalances in check.
- Walnuts may even help to fight against cancer due to their anti-oxidant properties.
With these many upsides to eating nuts, it is hard to remember that nuts should be eaten in moderation. Experts recommend a daily serving of about 1-2 ounce or about 28 to 46 grams. This translates to approximately 25 almonds or 49 pistachio nuts or 14 walnut halves or 18 cashews. Experts recommend that the best way to extract all the benefits of nuts is to eat them raw and unsalted rather than roasted. And as is the case for all foods and good things in general, nuts should be eaten in moderation and preferably a variety of them rather than just one type of nut.