In a recent study comparing the nutritional and antioxidant values of ten different types of nuts, surprisingly pecan nuts came first, followed by walnuts and pine nuts came last.
The top five healthiest nuts are pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and almonds, followed by peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and pine nuts.
Nuts are underrated as nutritious snacks . They have been linked to lower cholesterol, improve heart health, great for weight loss, and even lower cancer risk.
Most people are afraid of consuming nuts due to their fat and calorie content. It’s a shame as a small handful of nuts can pack your diet with satiating protein, fiber, unsaturated fats and important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Nuts are so packed with antioxidants they’re adding nut powders to meat to keep it from spoiling longer.
Here’s how you benefit your health every time you snack on a handful of nuts:
Pecans improve your heart health and are among the most antioxidant-rich nuts. They may help prevent plaque formation in your arteries. In the a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, it stated that consuming pecans can help lower LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 33 per cent. Pecans also protect your brain. The vitamin E found in the nuts could delay progression of degenerative neurological diseases like amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Walnuts contain the most antioxidants of all nuts which help protect your body from the cellular damage that contributes to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. They also have the highest amounts in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation.. Walnuts are a wonderful alternative to eating fish. The manganese content in walnuts may also reduce PMS (premenstrual symptoms).
Hazelnuts are notable for their high levels of monounsaturated fats, which can improve cardiovascular health and help to manage type 2 diabetes. They’re also high in the antioxidant vitamin E, which may prevent cataracts and macular degeneration, maintain healthy skin, and reduce risk of dementia.
Pistachios are the skinny nut, with less than four calories each. Eating them from the shell slows down the pace that you eat them and hence the snack lasts longer and you eat less overall. The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers found that eating two ounces of pistachios daily may reduce lung cancer risk.Pistachios are rich in the antioxidant gamma-tocopherol, a form of cancer-fighting vitamin E. They are packed with potassium, a mineral essential for a healthy nervous system and muscles, and are a good source of vitamin B6, which can lift your mood, fortify your immune system, and more.
Almonds are good for your gut as they contain the most fiber compared to the other nuts. They are also a very rich source of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Almonds assist weight loss. In one International Journal of Obesity study, when two groups of obese adults followed low-calorie diets for six months, those who included almonds in their weight loss plans lost more weight than those who ate more complex carbohydrates. Other research shows that almonds are especially healthy for people worried about their blood sugar: Those who ate about 20 percent of their calories from almonds for four months saw their bad LDL cholesterol drop and their insulin resistance decrease compared to a control group who didn’t eat them. Almonds also raise levels of good bacteria in the gut which then improves the body’s immune system.
Peanuts actually grow underground and, despite their name, are actually legume. Peanuts are abundant in the vitamins niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, choline, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E and rich in minerals like magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, iron, copper, manganese and selenium., making them a great energy food for athletes. Studies have found eating peanuts five times a week decreased heart disease and reduced the risk of diabetes, gallbladder disease and colorectal cancer. They also help to lower blood pressure. Peanuts contain the potent antioxidant reservatol which has anti-aging properties. Peanuts have also been shown to reduce cholesterol and have heart-protective effects. It is best to find a source of peanuts which are free from the mold aflatoxin which may cause liver cancer. A healthfood store may be your best bet.
Cashews are particularly rich in iron and zinc. Iron helps deliver oxygen to all of your cells, which can prevent anemia, and zinc is critical to immune health and healthy vision. Cashews are also a good source of magnesium: One ounce provides almost 25 percent of your daily need. Magnesium may help improve memory and protect against age-related memory loss, according to a study in the journal Neuron. Also a handful or two of cashews keeps depression at bay as it boosts tryptophan levels.
#8 Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are the most calorie dense nuts yet they contain the largest amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (MUFA) per serving. This ‘good fat’ lowers LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol levels and blood pressure. A Pennsylvania State University study (funded partly by the Hershey Company, which owns the Mauna Loa Macademia company) found that people who added macadamia nuts to their diets reduced their triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol by nearly 10 percent.
#9 Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are potent cancer protectors ! Just one Brazil nut packs more than 100 percent of the daily value for the mineral selenium, which may help prevent certain cancers, including bone, prostate, and breast cancer. A recent study in the Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that the selenium found in Brazil nuts, along with soy, may help fight prostate cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells. However, don’t overdo it on Brazil nuts: High levels of selenium can be harmful, so eat no more than 3-6 nuts a day.
#10 Pine Nuts
Pine nuts may help with weight loss because they contain pinolenic acid, which triggers the release of an appetite-suppressing hormone. They are also a good source of magnesium, which may help boost energy and fight fatigue. Pine nuts contain anti-aging antioxidants and nutrients that support heart and vision health
How much should you eat per day ? Not more than a couple of handfuls a day.
Nuts are always best eaten raw and on an occasional treat to be eaten roasted. Roasting has been found to damage nutrients in nuts, including decreasing the availability of beneficial fatty acids and amino acids. A better option would be nuts that are hot-air dried at temperatures of 82C or less, which should help to minimize any potential heat-related damage.
An even better option is to consume nuts raw, and soak them first for 8-12 hours. Phytic acid, which is found in the coatings of nuts and seeds, is an "anti-nutrient" responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body.
Soaking nuts will help to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your own digestive and metabolic enzymes, in the nuts.
To make them more palatable, you can use a dehydrator to improve the texture. Enzyme inhibitors in nuts (and seeds) help protect the nut as it grows, helping to decrease enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting.
When nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated and increasing the nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest.
One exception is with macadamia nuts (and other white nuts), which have only negligible amounts of enzyme inhibitors, so soaking is not as necessary. If you prefer to eat nuts and seeds roasted, do so yourself so you can control the roasting temperature and time.
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Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !