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How Good Are Nuts To Your Health?

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 10 May 2021
Hits: 618

One of the most under-rated foods for our health is nuts. They tend to be associated as a food to be wary of due to their high fat content but they really are a great source of healthy fat, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre. And, just to clear up the long held belief that they will make you fat, eating healthy fat will actually help you lose weight. Usually, if you're struggling with excess weight, it's because you're eating too much sugar and processed foods. In fact, a high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carb diet is one of the most effective ways to shed stubborn weight, as it helps shift your body from burning sugar to burning fat as its primary fuel. This is what the Keto diet is based upon and why it works so well for so many people who struggle with various health problems. A big part of this diet is the consumption of various nuts. However, like all foods you need to know which ones are best for you and to avoid over-eating for you can have too much of a good thing. In this article, we will take a detailed look at everything you need to know about nuts.

Research has confirmed that weight loss is one of the health benefits of regular nut consumption. Compared to people who avoid nuts, those who eat nuts on a regular basis also tend to have:

  • Lower systolic blood pressure
  • Fewer risk factors for metabolic syndrome and a lower risk for diabetes
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Reduced mortality risk
  • Greater longevity

Eating nuts allows people to avoid the high sugar processed snacks that can easily ruin your waistline and overall health. Plus the high fat content allows you to stay full for longer periods helping you to avoid food cravings and blood sugar crashes from eating excessive sugar.

Nuts and Body Weight

Although nuts and seeds are high in energy and fats, eating nuts is not associated with weight gain. In fact, based on large population studies, higher nut intake has been found to be associated with lower body weight.

When included as part of a weight-loss diet, nuts have been shown to further promote weight loss and fat loss in the abdominal region. Lower fat in the abdominal region means lower risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, nuts can be part of a healthy diet. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend a daily consumption of 30 grams of nuts per day.

Nuts assist with weight regulation in several ways:

  • Fat absorption – fats in nuts are not fully digested and absorbed by the body. Research shows that only 68 to 94 per cent of fats from nuts are absorbed
  • Hunger and fullness – nut consumption promotes fullness and suppresses hunger or the desire to eat. As a result, food intake is reduced. This effect is due to the protein, fat and fibre content of nuts
  • Using fat as fuel source – When the body convers to using fat as its preferred fuel source is when you begin to burn fat and store less fat in the body. As we said in the introduction this is exactly what the Keto diet is based upon.

Lower fat absorption, reduced food intake, and greater energy expenditure collectively contribute to the weight regulating effects of nuts.

Nuts Are High in Fat, but It's Good Fat (Mostly)

The nutritional aspects in nuts vary widely as seen in the chart shown below. Overall, nuts have very similar macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate and fat) profiles, but different types of nuts may have slightly different micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) content.

Nuts have about 29 kJ of energy per gram, and are:

  • High in monounsaturated fats (most nut types) and polyunsaturated fats (mainly walnuts)
  • low in saturated fats
  • Good sources of dietary protein, hence a good alternative to animal proteins. Some nuts are also high in amino acid arginine, which keeps blood vessels healthy
  • Free of dietary cholesterol
  • High in dietary fibre
  • Rich in phytochemicals that act as antioxidants
  • Rich in vitamins E, B6, niacin and folate; and they provide minerals such as magnesium, zinc, plant iron, calcium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and potassium.
  • Like nuts, most seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, fibre, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, plant iron and zinc, and contain vitamins B1,B2, B3 and vitamin E. Oily seeds also contain antioxidants that stop the fats from going rancid too quickly.

The belief that eating saturated fats is bad for you and will cause heart problems has been disproven many times in recent years I suggest to read the book “Big Fat Lies” by David Gillespie for tons of facts and information relating to this if you are unsure. Unless someone has a nut allergy, there are very few risks and many great benefits from eating nuts.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these health benefits.

Nuts Linked to Life Extension and Reduced Risk of Disease

A number of studies have linked nut consumption to life extension. A large, 30-year long Harvard study found that:

  • People who ate a small handful (approximately 1 ounce or 28 grams) of nuts seven times per week or more were 20 percent less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who avoided nuts.
  • Eating nuts at least five times per week was associated with a 29 percent drop in mortality risk from heart disease, and an 11 percent drop in mortality risk from cancer.
  • Even those who ate nuts only occasionally — less than once a week — had a 7 percent reduction in mortality.

More recently, Dutch researchers found that people who ate just 10 grams of nuts each day had a 23 percent lower risk of death from any cause. This study went on for 10 years and included more than 120,000 men and women between the ages of 55 and 69.

Nuts and Heart Disease

Frequent nut consumption has been associated with lower risk of dying from heart disease mainly due to nuts being rich sources of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.

Although high in fats, nuts are good sources of healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This combination of fats makes them heart healthy as they help reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body. LDL cholesterol can contribute to the build-up of plaque inside the arteries, which causes them to become which can lead to coronary heart disease.

Besides reducing LDL cholesterol, nuts also help to maintain healthy blood vessels and blood pressure through their arginine content, and reduce inflammation in the body through their high antioxidant content.

You can read more about heart health in the articles below

3 Top Picks: Macadamias, Pecans, and Walnuts 

My favourite nuts are macadamia, almonds, and Brazil nuts, as they provide the highest amount of healthy fat while being on the lower end in terms of carbs and protein. Also when consuming nuts you should consume raw unsalted nuts. I know the salted ones taste better but it is much healthier to have unsalted.

Raw macadamia nuts also contain high amounts of vitamin B1, magnesium, and manganese. Quite often clients ask me about how to incorporate magnesium into their diet, did you know that just one serving of macadamia nuts net 58 percent of what you need in manganese and 23 percent of the recommended daily value of thiamine!

Moreover, about 60 percent of the fatty acid in macadamia is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid. This is about the level found in olives, which is another food that I like to snack on with my raw nuts, olives are also low in carbohydrates and keto friendly.

I love raw almonds, raw almonds deserve superfood status, as they are a nutrient powerhouse. Almonds are also very versatile, they can be enjoyed raw, as is, chopped into salads, ground into almond flour or made into almond butter. I especially enjoy almond butter for afternoon tea with some celery. Almonds are also heart healthy. Almonds have been shown to increase GOOD heart protective HDL cholesterol and lowering BAD LDL cholesterol.

Brazil nuts are energy dense, so you don’t need to consume too many of them!! Brazil nuts are also highly nutritious. Brazil nuts will benefit your overall health in many ways, they will help to reduce inflammation, regulate your thyroid gland, boost your immune system and support your heart and brain.

Recommended Daily Serving of Nuts

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends one serving of nuts per day for adults. One serving is equivalent to approximately 30 grams or one third of a cup (or one handful). Since all nuts are very similar in term of nutrient content, a wide variety of nuts can be included as part of a healthy diet.

This equal to about:

  • 30 almonds
  • 10 Brazil nuts
  • 15 cashews
  • 20 hazelnuts
  • 15 macadamias
  • 15 pecans
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 30 pistachios
  • 10 whole walnuts or 20 walnut halves
  • A small handful of peanuts or mixed nuts.

Including Nuts and Seeds in Your Diet

Try to eat a wide variety of nuts and avoid eating only the same one all the time. As different types of nuts have slight differences in their vitamin and mineral content, eating a variety of nuts will increase your levels of ALL the various nutrients.

Instead of eating a biscuit or piece of cake as a snack, try having a handful of raw or dry roasted nuts. I like to eat them on days when I am really busy at work and have little breaks between clients and it helps me to stay full for longer until I can eat again. Sometimes I combine a few nuts with a banana or some other piece of fruit. Combining nuts and seeds with vegetables is another fantastic way to use nuts in your diet and this is easily achieved with Asian stir-fry’s and salads.

Regular consumption of nuts, seeds and legumes is recommended for vegetarians, vegans or people who avoid animal foods. They are a good substitute for meats, fish and eggs as they contain protein, fat, iron, zinc and niacin. More than 30 grams of nuts and seeds a day may be needed to ensure adequate protein. To help boost iron absorption from nuts and seeds, eat them with vitamin C rich foods and beverages such as tomato, capsicum, orange and citrus juices.

There is no need to soak or remove the skin of nuts (or ‘activate’ them) unless you prefer the flavour and texture of soaked nuts. Research has disproven the popular belief that soaking nuts can help to reduce their phytate content (thereby making the nutrients in nuts available for the body to absorb). In fact, the skin of nuts is beneficial as it is high in phytochemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Roasting nuts (either dry or in oil) enhances their flavour but has little impact on their fat content. This is because nuts are physically dense and cannot absorb much oil, even if they are submerged in it. Most nuts only absorb 2 per cent of extra fats. 

Salted nuts, however, are not recommended as an everyday choice due to the higher sodium content. This is particularly important if you have high blood pressure. Save salted nuts for parties and make raw and unsalted roasted nuts your everyday choice.

Do You Need More Help?

To help you put together everything we have discussed in this article I have created a detailed PDF report that provides with everything you need to know about exercise and nutrition to prevent heart disease and diabetes. This is one of the most comprehensive reports I have put together and a must read for anyone who feels vulnerable with their health right now. Given the heart's never-ending workload, it can easily be brought down by a poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and illness caused by neglect to other parts of our body. This report explains everything you need to know about improving not just your heart health but your overall health.

  

Click here to get your copy.

Summary

There is no doubting that nuts are a great food for improving your overall health and regularly including them regularly in your diet is essential. Eating a wide variety of nuts, and including them as snacks and within meals is a great way to enjoy all the health benefits they provide to your body. If you are someone who has struggled to break free from sugar addiction this food can be a great way to change this destructive habit.

Like all foods you need to eat in moderation as what can be good for you can easily turn into an unhealthy option if you overdo it.

If you do need specific help with setting up an exercise and nutrition program please feel free to reach out to me for help by clicking the image below and we can set you up a free consultation to discuss how to get you started.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.

References:

  • Baker Heart & Diabetes Institute 
  • Movement - By Gray Cook
  • Functional Training for Sports - By Mike Boyle
  • Corrective Exercise Solutions - by Evan Osar
  • How To Eat, Move & Be Healthy by Paul Chek
  • Precision Nutrition 
  • Nutrition & Physical Degeneration - By Weston A Price
  • Big Fat Lies - By David Gillespie