Historically, nuts are universally accepted as an important part of human nutrition. Anyone looking for a healthy snack option should turn to these dry fruits. Yes, by definition, nuts are fruits, enclosed in a tough woody wall, containing one single seed.
For those who are allergic to nuts, fear not, there are some awesome substitutes out there, like for example, crunchy veggies. Carrot or sweet potato chips are all the rage these days!
1. Nuts are packed with antioxidants
Every dietary plant contains many different types of antioxidants. They are molecules that defend our cells from damage caused by oxidant by-products, for example – free radicals. Stress, excessive sun exposure, and pollution are some of the reasons why free radicals are formed in our body. Antioxidants bind to these unstable by-products and deactivate them. (1)(2) Cellular impairment causes aging, cancer and a variety of diseases. Eating a small handful of nuts can help reduce the oxidative damage. (3)
The highest contents of antioxidants are in walnuts, chestnuts, and pecans.
2. Brain food
Nuts are nutrient dense fruits with ample amounts of healthy (unsaturated
) fatty acids, that are linked to lower rates of dementia due to Alzheimer’s Disease, improved thinking and memory. Walnuts, pine nut, pecan, macadamia, hazelnut and Brazil nut contain more fats than almonds, cashew nuts, and pistachios. (4)(5)
3. High content of fiber
Fiber is important because it changes the pace of food movement through the digestive system. It helps our body maintain balanced microbiota – a little (big!) community of microorganisms, that live in our gut. If there’s an imbalance in the community – there’s hell to pay in a form of constipation, diarrhea, nausea and many other undesirable effects.
Richest in fiber are almonds, followed by pistachios and hazelnuts.
4. Nuts are rich in vitamins.
Nuts are a great source of vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, and E). They also contain a lot of carotenoids, some of which our body converts into vitamin A. This vitamin is essential to vision and normal development. Roasting, however, decreases the amount of vitamin B1, carotenoids and vitamin E, especially in almonds and walnuts. (6)
5. Nuts can help us lose weight
I know how this sounds, especially since I wrote that they’re rich in fats and high in calories! Well, moderation is the key, of course, and – the fact that nuts contain polyunsaturated fats (the good fat). The worst fats of all are the trans-fats (junk food) and saturated fats are those that should be eaten in moderation (bacon <3 ). So, switching from potato chips to nuts is the logical step.
6. Nuts have beneficial effects on metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes
The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of four conditions: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol (or triglycerides, or both)and excess body fat around the waist. Together, these conditions increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. There are reports suggesting, that there is an inverse link between eating nuts and type two diabetes, as well as metabolic syndrome, however, these studies call for further focusing on the mechanisms that could play a significant role in the prevention of the mentioned conditions. (7)
7. Nuts can reduce inflammation
A study on Mediterranean diet shows that eating nuts improves anti-inflammatory activity by decreasing certain inflammation markers (C-reactive protein and Interleukin-6) (8). An exploratory clinical study shows that pistachios help maintain anti-inflammatory activity, glycemic control, and endothelial function (9). Not bad for a nut.
8. They won’t break your heart
9. They prevent anemia
Now we got good blood! It used to be mad love… Sorry, where was I? Nuts are rich in iron, which prevents anemia and carry oxygen to other parts of the body. In one study, the scientists determined the content of iron in nuts and found that cashew nuts are the richest nuts of all. (11)
10. They simply make you happy
After all, who can resist the nutty, sweet yet mellow taste, accompanied by crunchiness.
- Lobo V. et al.: Free Radicals, Antioxidants, and Functional Foods: Impact on Human Health. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 4 (8): 118–126.
- Khalid R.: Studies on Free Radicals, Antioxidants, and Co-Factors. Clinical Interventions in Aging.2 (2): 219–236.
- Hudthagosol C, Haddad EH, McCarthy K, Wang P, Oda K, Sabaté J: Pecans Acutely Increase Plasma Postprandial Antioxidant Capacity and Catechins and Decrease LDL Oxidation in Humans. The Journal of Nutrition.141 (1): 56–62.
- Alasalvar C, Shahidi F: Tree Nuts: Composition, Phytochemicals and Health Effects. 2008. CRC Press. Taylor & Francis Group, 6000 Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300, Boca Raton, FL. Page: 15.
- Online Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/boost-your-memory-by-eating-right(17.05.2018)
- Stuetz W, Schlörmann MG: B-vitamins, carotenoids, and α-/γ-tocopherol in raw and roasted nuts. Food 2017. 221: 222-227.
- Pablo HA et al.: Nuts and Dried Fruits: An Update of Their Beneficial Effects on Type 2 Diabetes. 2017. 9 (7): 673.
- Casas R. et al.: The Effects of the Mediterranean Diet on Biomarkers of Vascular Wall Inflammation and Plaque Vulnerability in Subjects with High Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. A Randomized Trial. PLoS ONE 9 (6): e100084.
- Dreher ML: Pistachio nuts: composition and potential health benefits. Nutrition Reviews. 2012. 70 (4): 234–240.
- Damasceno, Nagila R.T. et al: Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts reduces waist circumference and shifts lipoprotein subfractions to a less atherogenic pattern in subjects at high cardiovascular risk. 230 (2): 347-353.
- Suliburska J, Krejpcio Z: Evaluation of the content and bioaccessibility of iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium from groats, rice, leguminous grains, and nuts. Journal of Food, Science, and Technology. 51 (3): 589-594.