Nuts are a misunderstood bunch. Like red wine, eggs and chocolate, they’re one of the foods that frequently litter health columns with wildly different messages – one day they’ll kill you, the next day they’ll ensure you’ll live forever.
In truth, they’ll do neither – but there are a massive number of health benefits common to most nuts. While they are high in fat, it’s the “healthy” unsaturated kind of fat that helps maintain good cholesterol levels – and they’re a fine source of fibre, too.
While they all have healthy fats and fibre, different nuts have their own way to provide a range of body-boosting benefits.
So which nut is set to become your new best food friend? It depends on what you’re looking for…
Helps weight loss:
Contrary to what people believe, walnuts can form a part of weight management diet. Several studies have suggested that regular consumption of walnuts is unlikely to cause weight gain or obesity.
In fact, an ounce of walnuts contains 2.5g of omega 3 fats, 4g of protein and 2g of fibre that help provide satiety.
Any successful weight management plan must include satiety factor; so walnut is undoubtedly the right food to consider if you are into a weight management programme.
Despite being ‘dense in calories, walnuts can be an important tool in helping you lose weight.
Walnuts contain a compound called melatonin, responsible for conveying messages regarding the cycle of light and dark to the body.
Since melatonin is already synthesised by the body, consumption of walnuts increases the blood levels of melatonin, thereby inducing sleep.
That’s why eating walnuts can be a great way to improve sleep.
Prevents heart disease:
Among all the dietary plants and nuts, walnuts contain the highest amount of antioxidants.
Around 100 g of walnuts will give more than 20 mmol antioxidants, which makes them extremely effective in combating heart disease by their ability to destroy free radicals.
They are also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that lowers bad cholesterol and increases the production of good cholesterol making it a great snack to keep your heart in great health.
All types of nuts are associated with a lowered risk of diabetes and walnuts are no exception.
According to a study, women who consumed 28 grams of walnuts twice a week were 24% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
The study was published in the Journal of Nutrition, and even though it was conducted on women, experts believe that the benefits would be similar for men too.
Boosts your sperm quality:
Eating 2.5 ounces of walnuts per day improves semen quality in healthy young men, researchers say.
According to a study by UCLA researchers, eating 75 grams of walnuts a day improves the vitality, motility, and morphology of sperm in healthy men aged 21 to 35.
Here are 8 easy ways to boost your sperm quality and count.
Makes your skin glow:
Walnuts are rich in B-vitamins and antioxidants that prevents your skin from free radical damage and prevents wrinkles and signs of ageing. So if you want glowing skin long into your middle-age, eat walnuts.
Rich In Energy:
Peanuts are rich in energy (567 calories per 100 g) and contain health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
They compose sufficient levels of mono-unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), especially oleic acid.
MUFA helps lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increaseS HDL or “good cholesterol” level in the blood.
Research studies suggest that Mediterranean diet which is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids help to prevent coronary artery disease and stroke risk by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.
Peanut kernels are good source of dietary protein; compose fine quality amino acids that are essential for growth and development.
Research studies have shown that peanuts contain high concentrations of poly-phenolic antioxidants, primarilyp-coumaric acid.
This compound has been thought to reduce the risk of stomach cancer by limiting formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach.
Peanuts are an excellent source of resveratrol, another polyphenolic antioxidant.
Resveratrol has been found to have protective function against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and viral/fungal infections.
Furthermore, studies suggest that resveratrol may reduce stroke risk through altering molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels (reducing susceptibility to vascular damage through decreased activity of angiotensin.
A systemic hormone responsible for blood vessel constriction that would elevate blood pressure), and by increasing production of vasodilator hormone, nitric oxide.
Recent research studies suggest that roasting/boiling enhances antioxidant bio-availability in the peanuts. It has been found that boiled peanuts have two and four-fold increase in isoflavone antioxidants biochanin-A andgenistein content, respectively.
The kernels are an excellent source of vitamin E (a-tocopherol); containing about 8 g per100 g.
vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant which helps maintain the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting from harmful oxygen free radicals.
The nuts are packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. 100 g of peanuts provide about 85% of RDI of niacin, which contribute to brain health and blood flow to brain.
The nuts are rich source of minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.
Of course nuts can’t make your deadline or huge credit card bill go away, but the nutrients in several types of nuts can help protect your body against the damaging physical effects of being stressed out.
One study looked at nuts rich in alpha-linolenic acid, like walnuts, and found that they had a heart-protective benefit during times of acute stress — which are known to cause cardiovascular strain.
And almonds, thanks to high vitamin E, vitamin B and magnesium content canbolster your immune system when you’re stressed, reported Women’s Health.
Nuts, like almonds, hazel nuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts and cashews can all play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease, according to a Harvard review.
That’s because nuts may help reduce LDL cholesterol (more on that later), and incorporate a dose of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat and fiber, which has a heart-protective effect.
Nuts are also rich in arginine, an amino acid that converts to nitric oxide in the body and helps blood vessels to relax.
A diet rich in pistachios may provide some protection from lung cancer, according to preliminary research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference.
The researchers theorize that the nut’s richness in gamma-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E, may be the key to cancer protection, although further research is required.
The 2013 review of nut health benefits found a modest improvement in overall weight, but several studies have found that nuts can play a role in weight maintenance.
That’s because nuts are satisfying — a “high satiety” food — that is metabolized slowly by the body, thanks to high fiber counts. In other words?
Snackers are more satisfied after eating nuts than after eating foods of comparable caloric value, but less nutrient density.
A walnut a day may keep bad cholesterol away, according to a 2010 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found a 7.4 percent reduction in “bad” LDL cholesterol and an 8.3 percent reduction in the ratio of LDL to HDL, reported WebMD.
What’s more, triglyceride concentrations declined by more than 10 percent.
Brazil nuts, which are high in the mineral selenium, may provide some protection against advanced prostate cancer, according to preliminary research presented at the American Association of Cancer Research.
The research was conducted on a Dutch cohort study and found that men with high levels of selenium, tested from toe nails, were 60 percent less likely develop advanced prostate cancer within 17 years.
Thanks to the healthy dose of vitamin E that nuts can deliver, they are considered a brain food — helping to prevent cognitive decline that happens with age.
Peanuts (even though they are legumes, we commonly group them with nuts), in particular, may be a good choice because they are high in the B-vitamin folate, which improves neural health, reducing risk of cognitive decline.
Macadamia Nuts or Pecans
Macadamia are 100% cholesterol free and are highly beneficial to reduce cholesterol level.
These nuts are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats which are said to be cardio protective by reducing cholesterol level and help to clean the arteries.
Macadamia also lowers the level of triglycerides, which is a kind of body fat and reduces the risk of coronary disease.
Another health benefit of macadamia comes from their high flavonoid content.
Flavonoids, which are found naturally in these plants help to prevent cells from damage and protects from environmental toxins.
These flavonoids convert into antioxidants in our body.
These antioxidants search and destroy free radicals and protect our bodies from various diseases and certain types of cancer which includes breast, cervical, lung, prostrate and stomach cancer.
For weight loss:
People usually avoid eating macadamia thinking that it is laden with fats and cholesterol. However, the fat in macadamia is monounsaturated fats which promote weight loss.
Macadamia nuts are rich in palmitoleic acid, and omega 7 fatty oil that provide building blocks for the enzymes and control the burning of fat and curb the appetite.
Palmitoleic acid increases fat metabolism and reduces fat storage. Their fatty acids content makes them an extremely satisfying food and you will need only a handful to feel satisfied.
Macadamias contain significant level of protein which is an essential component of our diet and forms muscles and connective tissues in our bodies.
Proteins are a part of our blood and act positively on our health. They also help to maintain the health of hair, nails and skin.
Macadamias contains around 7% of dietary fiber. Dietary fiber comprises of complex carbohydrates and includes many types of soluble and insoluble fiber.
Dietary fiber promotes satiety, provides roughage, aids digestion and assist in reducing constipation and several other disease related to it.
Phosphorus in macadamia plays a variety of roles including bone and teeth mineralization, metabolism, absorption and transportation of nutrients.
Calcium also helps in the formation of teeth and bones. Manganese in macadamia helps the body to deposit new bone tissue, so that the skeleton stays strong as you age.
Omega 3 prevents osteoporosis and reduces the severity of arthritis.
Promotes brain health:
Macadamia promotes health of the nervous system.
Copper in macadamia helps to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals which our brain cell uses to send chemical signals.
Celiac Patients, Rejoice!:
Chestnuts do not contain gluten, the binding protein in grains that upsets the small intestine and causes a host of symptoms.
This is the reason why many gluten-free foods contain chestnut.
With just over 3 ounces containing 72% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), chestnuts are very rich in vitamin C.
In fact, they’re the only nut that has vitamin C, making them stand out from other nuts. Strong teeth, bones and blood vessel walls are some of the benefits vitamin C provides the body.
This, coupled with their high content of the trace mineral manganese, allows chestnuts to aid in faster healing and protection against the harm of free radicals, reducing the risk of some cancers and heart diseases.
Stable Energy Levels:
Unlike many other nuts, chestnuts are high in carbohydrates (43 grams for every 3-ounce serving).
But before shunning the high carb notion, know that the carbs in chestnuts are complex, so they are digested slower than simple ones.
This means energy levels stay constant compared to simple carbs, which only provide sporadic yo-yo energy bursts.
Chestnuts contain approximately 21% of the Recommended Daily Intake of dietary fiber, which is necessary to help reduce blood cholesterol.
They’re also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and palmitoleic acids, which studies show help boost the good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering the bad (LDL).
About 3 ounces of chestnuts provide 35% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance RDA of folate.
Folate, a water-soluble B vitamin that occurs naturally in certain foods like chestnuts, plays a role in preventing neurological defects in the fetus, making it an ideal choice for pregnant women.
It is also known to help with the building blocks of life, responsible in part for making DNA, RNA and red blood cells.
In fact, many countries including the United States, Canada and South Africa have mandatory folic acid fortification programs in place to ensure people receive adequate amounts in their diets.
So important are folates that in 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring manufacturers to add folic acid to breads, cereals, pastas and other grains.