If you love nuts, you’ll be glad to know that nuts are chock-full of health benefits. It’s hard to believe that so much good comes in such a tiny package!
Nuts, by definition, are a combination of a seed and a fruit inside a hard shell. Examples of nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts. Peanuts, while technically a legume, are also usually grouped with nuts.
Nuts are bursting with nutrition, providing healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamin E, plant sterols (substances that can lower cholesterol) and l-arginine, an amino acid that improves the health of your artery walls. Besides all of these nutrients, nuts are full of important minerals, including magnesium, selenium, potassium and zinc.
Researchers have discovered a whole host of health benefits from eating nuts. Here’s a rundown of how nuts can help you lead a healthy life:
- A longer life. Who doesn’t want to live a long, healthy life? Data from two large studies, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Physician’s Healthy Study showed that of the 120,000 participants, those who ate nuts often had a lower risk of premature death.
- A smaller waistline. Nuts are high in calories and fat, so it may seem surprising that nuts can be part of a weight reduction diet. But a review of 31 studies revealed that people who replaced other foods in their diets with nuts lost more weight and shrunk their waist size by more than half an inch compared to non-nut eaters. Nuts may help with weight control because of their fat and fiber content, two nutrients that help you feel full.
- A healthier heart. People who have diabetes have double the risk of heart disease compared to people without the condition. Eating nuts can lower this risk by helping to lower LDL, or bad cholesterol. Arginine, an amino acid found in nuts, helps blood vessels relax, lessening the chances of blood clot formation.
- Better blood sugars. Researchers have discovered that eating two servings (about half of a cup) of nuts a day can help improve fasting blood sugar levels and lower A1C levels in people who have type 2 diabetes.
- Better brain health. To stay sharp and thinking clearly as you get older, eat more nuts. Nuts are rich in vitamin E and B vitamins – nutrients that help to fight cognitive decline. Nuts may even help to boost memory, at least in rats!
- A lower cancer risk. There’s some research hinting that men who eat Brazil nuts, which are rich in the mineral selenium, may be 60% less likely to develop prostate cancer. Also, nut eaters may be less likely to develop colorectal and pancreatic cancer.
Tips for Eating Nuts
- Watch your portions. Nuts are a tasty, low carbohydrate treat and it’s easy to go overboard. But, despite all of the health benefits, nuts are quite high in calories. A small handful of nuts (about ¼ cup) contains around 200 calories. Portion them into small baggies if stopping at one handful is too hard.
- Sprinkle nuts onto your morning cereal, stir some into your Greek yogurt, or add nuts to your salad or pasta dishes. Nuts make a great topping for soup, too.
- Coat fish or chicken with finely ground nuts, such as almonds or pistachios. You can grind your own or buy them already ground.
- Use nut butters as a spread for toast, crackers or vegetables. Peanut butter is an old stand-by, but try almond or cashew butter as a change.
- Mix nuts with popcorn for a healthy and satisfying snack.