Nuts have been an incredible and wholesome source of nutrients for thousands of years. A longtime addition in the Mediterranean diet, nuts have only recently received the spot light for their health benefits in modern medicine. The American Heart Association (AMA) refers to nuts as “petite powerhouses of taste and nutrition.”
A common and misguided stereotype of nuts labeled these powerhouses as destructive to health. This assumption originated from the knowledge that nuts are a dense source of calories and contain a high fat content.
Fortunately for those Paleo dieters, nuts have not only been proven healthy and wholesome but they have actually been shown to aid in weight loss efforts. So, will you welcome nuts back into your diet?
What are the health promoting factors of nuts?
Nuts have biologically active compounds available for the development and maintenance of a healthy body.
Examples of these compounds that provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and heart health properties are:
1. Vitamins: Examples include folate, niacin and tocopherols (make up vitamin E) in which many act as powerful antioxidants protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radicals, or highly reactive oxygen atoms.
2. Minerals: Examples include calcium, selenium, potassium and magnesium which help protect bone density, heart health and assist blood sugar regulation.
3. Phytosterols: A cholesterol-like molecule which interferes with the human body’s ability to absorb cholesterol and helps lower low density lipoprotein cholesterol or the “bad” LDL cholesterol.
4. Phenolic Compounds: Zeaxanthin and beta-carotene are examples of plant substances that provide color and protection to plants. These compounds serve as antioxidants in the human body. Studies suggest that plant phenols protect the body from cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes osteoporosis and degenerative nerve diseases.
Discover the ‘good fats’ inside tree nuts
Nuts contain a rich source of polyunsaturated fats which are contributing factors to blood vessel health and the reduction of cholesterol. Coconuts, specifically, consist of medium-chain triglycerides compared to the more prevalent long-chain fatty acids that make up approximately 98% of our daily food consumption of meat, dairy, and vegetable oils.
The body recognizes the length of these chains of fats and breaks them down differently. This metabolic difference is partly why fats contained in coconut are healthier for you compared to saturated fats found in animal fats like cheddar cheese and sausage.
Nutritionally speaking, these are the best nuts to eat:
Great tips on adding variety to your daily nut intake
Believe it or not, even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Heart Association (AMA) suggest eating nuts – as part of a healthy diet. The AMA notes a single serving size is 1.5 ounces of nuts (about 30 almonds or 11 whole walnuts) or 2 tbl of nut butter.
If you are looking for more ways to receive your recommended daily dose of nuts and add variety, try the following techniques:
Swap out the frequented candy bowl for pistachios
Add sliced almonds to your salad
Add pecan butter to your morning smoothie
Grind brazil nuts and coat fish or poultry
Make homemade salad dressing with pine nuts
Replace vegetable oils for coconut oils
Add hazelnuts, cashews and walnuts into your trail mix with added dark chocolate and organic goji berries – it’s delicious!