Nuts are suffering from a bad reputation because of their high fat content. This is old news. The truth is that nuts contain types of fat that most of us need more of, as part of a healthy diet. Nuts are also full of vitamins and minerals. Nuts are nutritional superstars, which provide you with the nutrients necessary for optimal health. Not all fat is healthy. The kind of fat we want to avoid, saturated fat or ‘bad’ fat, is found in meats, cheeses, and whole milk. It can increase our risk for heart disease. But nuts are filled with ‘healthy’ fats called mono- and poly- unsaturated fats, which are emerging as beneficiall to heart health.
Diets high in ‘healthy’ fats like those found in nuts may significantly benefit the heart by lowering blood levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and raising levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. High levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. But high levels of HDL cholesterol may protect the heart and lead to longer, healthier lives.
The heart-healthy components of nuts do not stop there. Nuts also contain a variety of other nutrients that may help ward off heart disease. Nuts are high in soluble fiber that may help lower blood cholesterol levels. Walnuts are high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids; almonds also contain some. Almonds are especially high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that is thought to protect blood vessels from damage by free radicals. Peanuts and hazelnuts are high in folate, which lowers blood levels of homocysteine, a compound linked to heart disease risk. All nuts provide copper, which is an essential mineral that helps to maintain good cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. Just one handful of any variety of nuts provides a good source of protein, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, and thiamin. Additionally, nuts are high in phytochemicals and phytosterols, which may have cancer-fighting properties. Almonds, brazil nuts, and pistachios are particularly good sources of calcium. And peanuts and pistachios provide a good source of B vitamins, essential for energy production, protein metabolism, and the synthesis of red blood cells.
Easy Ways to Eat More Nuts
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one serving of nuts equals about: 28 peanuts, 22 almonds, 20 pecan halves, 18 cashews, 14 walnut halves, 7 brazil nuts, 20 hazelnuts, 12 macadamia nuts, or 47 pistachios. Try eating one ounce a day of nuts or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
However you include them into your diet, there is strong evidence that it is definitely worth your while. Do you need to sit down and eat an entire container of nuts to achieve these great health benefits? – NO – just stick to a handful!