A balanced diet involves a rich variety of foods, a healthy eating schedule, and moderation as most health experts recommend. Now, there are many foods that, once introduced into our diet, will have a positive impact on our health. Nuts are among them. They are popular, convenient, tasty and go perfectly with all sorts of diets. Even if they are high in fats, they do come with several health benefits as studies have shown so far.
Although nuts are considered a fruit, they are rich in fats and not sweet. The most popular nuts include walnuts, Macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, pistachio, and pecans. Peanuts are technically considered to be legumes but most people refer to them as nuts since they have similar characteristics and health benefits. What makes nuts so popular? Here’s a list of the most important health benefits nuts trigger.
Nuts are rich in nutrients
Nuts are among the most nutritious foods out there. They are loaded with nutrients of high importance to our health. Thus, one ounce of mixed nuts will get you:
- 5 grams of proteins
- 73 calories;
- 16 grams of fats (9 grams of monosaturated fat);
- 6 grams of carbs;
- 3 grams of fiber;
- Magnesium: 16% of the RDI;
- Manganese: 26% of the RDI;
- Phosphorus: 13% of the RDI;
- Vitamin E: 12% of the RDI;
- Copper: 23% of the RDI;
- Selenium: 56% of the RDI.
The number of nutrients may vary from one type of nuts to another. Plus, the carb content varies as well. For instance, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts contain less than 2 grams of carbs of digestible carbs per serving. Cashews, though, come with a higher amount of carbs that reaches almost 8 grams of carbs per serving. This makes nuts a great option especially when you’re on a low-carb diet.
Nuts can lower triglycerides and cholesterol
Another health benefits researchers have associated nuts with is their positive impact on triglycerides and cholesterol. Several studies have concluded that nuts may lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and boost HDL cholesterol. This property of nuts is partially due to the high content of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
One study involving women with metabolic syndrome has shown that eating 1-oz (30-gram) mixture of pine nuts, peanuts, and walnuts on a daily basis for 6 weeks lowered all types of cholesterol except HDL.
Nuts are rich in antioxidants
Antioxidants are of great importance when it comes to supporting our health and nuts are loaded with them. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which, when reaching high levels, can affect out health. While they have a positive impact on our immune system, free radicals will take your body into a state of oxidative stress when their level is too high. This will further increase the risk of developing certain diseases.
The polyphenols found in nuts can combat oxidative stress and thus stop free radicals from harming your cells. Research studies have concluded that the antioxidants in almonds and walnuts can prevent oxidation from damaging the delicate fats in your cells. The bottom line is that the antioxidants nuts contain may protect LDL cholesterol and cells from damage.
Nuts can reduce heart attack and stroke risk
Several studies have associated nuts with heart-healthy properties. They say nuts may help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke thanks to their benefits for artery function, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and particle size. Small, dense LDL particles can increase the risk of heart diseases more than larger LDL particles.
One study showed that the participants who added nuts to their daily diet experienced a reduction in small LDL particles and an increase in large LDL particles. Moreover, they also had an increase in their HDL cholesterol levels.
Another study involved people with normal or high cholesterol levels who were given nuts or olive oil with a meal high in fats. The participants who had nuts improved their artery function and lowered fasting triglycerides compared to the people in the olive oil group.
Nuts may reduce inflammation
Nuts are highly appreciated for their anti-inflammatory properties. Although inflammation is our body’s way to protect itself from bacteria, injury and harmful pathogens, long-term inflammation can damage organs and increase our risk of developing diseases. Researchers link nuts with inflammation reduction and healthy aging.
One study involving people who added nuts to their diet has found that the participants experienced a 90% decrease in interleukin 6 (IL-6) and a 35% decrease in CRP, both of them markers of inflammation. Another study showed that almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and Brazil nuts fought inflammation in healthy people and people with serious disease.
Nuts are a great source of fiber
Fibers are essential for a good functioning of our body and digestive system. Even if our body doesn’t digest fiber, the microorganisms populating our colon can, which makes fiber work as food for our intestinal bacteria. Probiotics turn the fiber into beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These fatty acids are of major importance to our health. They support gut health and reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes. Moreover, fibers will keep us full and reduce the calories we absorb from our meals. The nuts that contain the highest amounts of fiber include Brazil nuts (2.1 grams), peanuts (2.6 grams), hazelnuts (2.9 grams), almonds (3.5 grams), macadamias (2.4 grams), pistachios (2.9 grams), and pecans (2.9 grams).
As we always say, see your health care provider and dietitian whenever you experience any health problem or you want to change your diet. They will create a custom diet that suits your needs best. Remember that what works for some people might prove less effective for others since there are so many factors that contribute to the efficacy of a supplement, diet, food. Plus, the foods you have should be part of a balanced lifestyle. You can have healthy foods but if they are paired with bad habits such as smoking, sleep skipping and drinking, there are great chances for you not to enjoy their benefits fully.