14 Aug 2019
They’re typically high in fibre, protein and healthy fats, and low in sodium and carbohydrates, so why are we so keen to avoid nuts? Here’s why our diets should include a nutritious dose of nutty goodness.
We’re nuts about nuts, but those moreish little creamy kernels have copped a bad rap over the years from those looking to control their calorie intake and maintain a low-fat diet.
Yes, they’re full of fat. Most (except chestnuts, which are low-fat) contain large quantities of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, but this is what makes them taste so great. This healthy fat is also responsible for helping us feel fuller for longer, which in turn helps us to control our appetite.
By definition, a nut is something witha hard shell that contains both the fruit and the seed of a plant. And like other plant foods, they’re packed with nutrients – beyond their healthy fat content, they’re good sources of dietary fibre, protein, vitamin E and antioxidants.
So, unless you’re allergic, here are six reasons why your daily diet should include a handful of nuts.
1. They’re a great source of nutrients
Nutritionists recommend we eat a small handful of nuts daily. A small handful (approximately 28 grams) contains on average 173 calories, just 6g of carbohydrates, 3g of fibre and 5g of protein.
Of course, the nutrient content varies from nut to nut. Those looking to curb the carbs should avoid cashews (which have 8g per serve). Instead, reach for the hazelnuts, macadamias and Brazils which have less than 2g of digestible carbs per serve. And if you’re looking for your daily intake of selenium, just one Brazil nut gives you more than 100% of your recommended daily intake.
Got a favourite nut? Here’s its nutrient value in a nutshell:
Almonds: Are high in protein, calcium and vitamin E.
Brazil nuts: Are high in fibre and selenium.
Cashews: Are a great source of plant-based iron and better still, they have a low GI rating.
Chestnuts: Have a low GI rating, and are a great source of fibre and vitamin C (when eaten raw).
Hazelnuts: Are high in fibre, potassium, folate and vitamin E.
Macadamias: Are highest in monounsaturated fats, thiamine and manganese.
Peanuts: Are high in protein and fat, low in carbohydrate and a good source of vitamin E and magnesium.
Pecans: Are a great source of fibre and antioxidants.
Pine nuts: Are full of vitamin E and arginine (amino acid).
Pistachios: Are high in protein, potassium, plant sterols and the antioxidant resveratrol
Walnuts: Are a great source of plant omega 3 and antioxidants
2. They’re full of antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds found in some foods that neutralise free radicals – unstable chemicals in the body that damage cell membranes, cause inflammation and accelerate the aging process, among other nasties. Nuts are packed with antioxidants, particularly almonds and walnuts, which are more successful at fighting free radicals than fresh fish.
3. They can help reduce inflammation
Inflammation is not all bad – it’s your body’s way of defending itself from injury, harmful pathogens and bacteria, but long-term it can cause damage to your organs and increase your risk of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease and even cancer.
Thankfully, most nuts have excellent anti-inflammatory properties – magnesium, l-arginine and vitamin E (found in almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and peanutsin particular), all help keep inflammation under control.
4. They can actually AID weight-loss
They may be considered high calorie, but as mentioned previously, the healthy fats in nuts – particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats– can help you control and even lose weight. The fats help you feel fuller for longer, which helps control our appetite and reduces the risk of obesity. Plus, not all the fat is digested by the body. The fibrous structure of most nuts traps some of the fat, helping it pass straight through the body.
5. They can help reduce your risk of heart attack
People who eat nuts regularly are far less likely to have a heart attack, or die from heart disease, than those who rarely or never eat them. In fact, according to one study, the risk of developing heart disease can be reduced by 30-50% by simply eating a handful (28g) of nuts each day.
A number of nutrients work together to help keep our hearts healthy. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help regulate blood cholesterol. Fibre and plant sterols help reduce cholesterol re-absorption from our guts. Antioxidants reduce both oxidation and inflammation. Arginine (an amino acid) helps keep our blood vessels elastic, reducing the risk of our arteries hardening (atherosclerosis). And naturally low sodium and high potassium levels in nuts help keep our blood pressure normal.
6. They can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
The disease is a progressive condition whereby the body becomes resistant to insulin and/or slowly loses its ability to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. Eating a healthy diet, including a daily serve of nuts, is one way to help manage, control and even prevent the onset of the condition.
The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts are believed to enhance insulin sensitivity. Nuts can also help reduce the overall glycaemic index of a person’s diet. When added to meals rich in carbohydrate, nuts slow the passage of the meal through the gut and reduce blood glucose levels following the meal. Better still, the phytochemicals found in the skins of nuts may slow carbohydrate digestion.
DID YOU KNOW: Peanuts are actually legumes, not nuts, although their nutritional composition is closest to that of tree nuts, like almonds and cashews. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts aren’t technically nuts either – they’re drupes, which are fleshy fruits with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed.
We love nuts at The Black Truffle, especially the all-natural Nuttabutta range of peanut spreads. Check out the range in-store.