If you’re always reaching for a chocolate bar or a cookie for a snack, consider replacing it with a handful of nuts. Rich in energy and protein and packed with nutrients, nuts are one of those superfoods that you should make sure to add to your diet. Especially if they replace some of the processed food you tend to go to whenever you need some extra energy.
Why are nuts good for your health?
You may have heard that nuts are rich in healthy fats. While they contain some saturated fats, most nuts are rich in monounsaturated fat, as well as omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat.
Omega-6 and omega-3 are essential fatty acids and have to be consumed through the diet. It is also important to maintain a balance between the two, aiming to consume more omega-3 fats rather than omega-6. A ratio of 4 to 1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality.
Nuts are also packed with nutrients like Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Finally, antioxidants in nuts help reduce the effects of oxidative stress and therefore prevent cell aging and disease.
Studies have also shown that nut consumption can reduce the risk of hypertension and help lower blood lipid levels. Furthermore, it appears that they are associated with a reduced risk of diabetes and certain cancers.
What nuts should you eat?
- Pistachios: rich in vitamin E and magnesium, pistachios can help keep blood sugar levels under control after meals. You can even add pistachio grains to many dishes.
- Walnuts: shaped like a brain, they are associated with better brain health as well as reduced inflammation.
- Brazil nuts: these nuts are very rich in the antioxidant selenium and can provide the daily requirement in less than one serving (one ounce). Like other nuts, they can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Pecans: high in antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, pecans are also rich in vitamin E and magnesium. They are great on their own or added to desserts.
- Hazelnuts: lower in fat than other nuts, hazelnuts have also been linked to better heart health and lower cholesterol levels. They also improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation.
- Chestnuts: usually only used in some autumn recipes, chestnuts are very low in fat and calories while still being packed with protein, dietary fiber, and vitamin E. They also have small amounts of vitamin C, as opposed to other nuts. Add them to your meals or desserts.
- Macadamia nuts: high in monounsaturated fat, macadamia nuts are also associated with reduced inflammation and lower LDL-cholesterol levels. They are, however, quite calorie-dense so you should keep an eye on the amount.
Peanuts, which are technically legumes but are often added to the nuts category, also have some benefits but they can very easily increase your calorie intake so they should be limited.
Almonds and cashew nuts are great types of nuts to add to your diet but their production is associated with other environmental and ethical issues. Almonds require a lot of water to produce and are mainly produced in California, a state that is severely affected by droughts and fires. Cashew nuts grow in a hard shell that is toxic when removed and can cause severe harm to the workers.
While these nuts are extremely rich in nutrients and good for your health, you may want to choose some of the other equally nutritious ones.