Nuts are one of the most nutritious snacks out there. Not only are they delicious, but they are packed with antioxidants, fiber and magnesium. They also contain monounsaturated fats which can lower your bad cholesterol to help prevent the buildup of arterial plaque. Otherwise stated, they are great for your heart! Nuts are also a wonderful source of protein that can be added to any vegetarian or vegan diet. So next time your stomach starts growling, grab a handful of nuts instead of processed snacks like chips and candy that are loaded with sugar, fat and sodium. Learn about the benefits of different nuts below and then head to the store to stock up on your favorites!
- High level of omega-3 fatty acids (1oz of walnuts contains nearly 100% of the daily value for omega-3s)
- Vitamin E in the gamma-tocopherol form which has been shown to provide significant protection to the heart
- Contains rare antioxidants that aren’t found in many other commonly eaten foods which have shown to protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (quinone juglone, tannin tellimagrandin, flavonol morin)
- Do not remove the skin when preparing nuts as it contains 90% of the phenols found in walnuts
- Homemade walnut granola: Mix together ½ cup of honey, 3 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses, a tablespoon of vanilla, a dash of salt, and a teaspoon each of your favorite spices, such as cinnamon, ginger and/or nutmeg. Place 6-8 cups of rolled oats in a large bowl and toss to coat with the honey-blackstrap mixture. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 275°F (135°C) for 45 minutes. Cool and mix in 1/2 to 1 cup of walnuts
- Full of healthy monounsaturated fats. Studies show when more traditional fats coming from meat and dairy were replaced with almonds, LDL (bad cholesterol) dropped 8-12%
- High in magnesium (62mg in ¼ cup). When there is enough magnesium in the system, veins and arteries relax which decreases blood pressure
- High in potassium (162mg in ¼ cup). Potassium is involved in nerve transmission and contraction of the heart. Potassium is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function.
- Multiple studies show that eating almonds with a high glycemic (sugary/starchy) food can lower the glycemic level of the meal and lessen the rise in blood sugar after eating
- To roast almonds at home, do so gently in a 160-170°F oven for 15-20 minutes to preserve the healthy oils
- One serving of pecans provides almost half of your daily value of thiamin (Vitamin B1). Thiamin helps convert carbohydrates into energy and helps aid in heart, muscle and nervous system function
- One serving also holds a third of your daily value of zinc. Zinc is important in immune function, protein and DNA synthesis and wound healing
- Contains betacarotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin that help rid your body of harmful free radicals to protect it from disease and infection
- Another phytochemical contributing to its antioxidant activity is ellagic acid, which helps keep several carcinogenic properties from multiplying
- The phosphorus, iron, calcium and selenium content of pecans also have many nutritional properties
- High in copper. A ¼ cup of cashews has almost 98% of your daily recommended value of copper. Copper is essential for energy production and antioxidant defenses (removal of free radicals)
- A third of your daily recommended value of magnesium can be found in just a ¼ cup of cashews which is also important for healthy bones. Two thirds of the magnesium in the human body is found in our bones
- Contain proanthocyanidins, a class of flavanols that have been found to actually starve tumors and stop cancer cells from dividing. Studies have shown that cashews can reduce your colon cancer risk
- Sauté cashews with shrimp, basil, ginger and green beans for a delicious Thai inspired dish
- Contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids not found in most nuts. They have been linked to a decrease in age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of visual impairments and acquired blindness in the United States
- High in Vitamin B6 which helps with hemoglobin formation, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen through the bloodstream to cells
- Great source of Vitamin E which also helps prevent the skin from UV damage, providing defense against premature aging and skin cancer
- Top your salads with pistachios to add flavor and variety while giving you that extra crunch!
Don’t forget to add your favorite nuts to that weekly shopping list! They’re a great addition to a healthy diet that are easy to take with you when you’re on the go. Don’t buy “flavored” nuts that are full of sugar and sodium (as well as MSG!). Buy raw nuts and season yourself for extra flavor. Now, go nuts!