Healthy Snacking : All About Nuts
Nuts make healthy snacks.
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Whether you’re nuts about nuts or you’re a nutcase (no, not the certified kind) of nut proportion, nuts are a healthy and perfectly sane choice for snacks. It is true that they are high in fat content but health experts will tell you that the kind of fats found in nuts are heart-friendly. According to Mayo clinic, nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids, amongst other beneficial nutrients, that can help lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein), notably known as “bad” cholesterol in the blood. In addition, nuts can reduce risks of developing blood clots (main culprits for inducing heart attacks) and improve the health of the lining of the arteries.
More studies, cited by John Livesey, PhD, of the Department of Endocrinology of Christchurch Hopsital, reveal even more health benefits. Nuts can reduce risks of developing type 2 diabetes, dementia, advanced macular degeneration and the development of gallstones. If you’re wondering how a bunch of pebble-sized nuts (some smaller or bigger) can exert such health benefits, take a look that their nutritional profile. Though not all nuts have the same nutrients, collectively they present a formidable front against the devastatingly effects of ill health.
If you’re not already of nut lover, why not start romancing this health group of superfoods. If you’re allergic to nuts, then don’t even try. We don’t want any fatal attraction here. I naturally love nuts and will eat any kind of nuts, though some are higher up on my favorite nut list. Here are my top 7 favorite nuts:
Crack open the pit of an almond fruit and you’ll find the gem—the almond nut that is quite the favorite of nut lovers. It is also the favorite of dietetians for obvious reasons. Compared to most nuts, almonds have fewer calories and pack more fiber and calcium. A quarter cup almonds yields 205 calories, but of course, we’ll practice some restraint and just stick to a handful.
In addition to healthy fats, it has high levels of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. It also has high quantities of magnesium, nature’s calcium channel blocker. What can magnesium do? When the body has enough magnesium, it improves the flow of blood and nutrients throughout the body. Conversely, the lack of magnesium can lead to heart problem.
According to Dr. Cyril Kendall from the University of Toronto, eating almonds can help to manage blood glucose level: “We found that eating two servings of almonds can have a significant impact on blunting the glycemic and insulin responses of the body when fed with a meal high in carbohydrates.”
These inflated crescents are absolutely my favorite munchies. Buttery and yet delicate, cashews are a great substitute for those who absolutely hate spinach. You can get 10 percent of your daily iron from a single serving of cashews. Compared to other nuts, they have relatively lower fat content and 75% of their fat is unsaturated fats. Specifically, the healthy fat found in cashews is oleic acid, the same kind found in olives and avocados.
Oleic acid, also known as omega 9 fatty acid is a monounsaturated fat. It promotes cardiovascular health, lowers bad cholesterol and triglycerides (another form of ugly unhealthy fat) and fights cancer.
Regarded as delicacies in Brazil and the Carribbean, cashews are significant sources of copper, magnesium, phosphorus (for strong bones and teeth) and zinc which is essential in regulating digestion and metabolism. They are also a good source of folate and vitamin K, both of which help keep bones strong and help blood clot normally.
Macademias--in the shell, out of the shell.
Health report that gives you even more reason to go nuts...
If you ask my husband, he would tell you that he used macadamias as his bait. I paid him no attention until he showed up with cans of Hawaiian Macadamia nuts. But that’s a little personal detour, we’ll come right back to the topic.
Although Macadamia has one of the highest fat content of most nuts, the oil is 84% monounsaturated. Further good news-- macademia is also one of the few plants that contains palmiteoleic acid, otherwise known as omega 7, a friendly monounsaturated fat that helps to lower cholesterol and therefore reduce the risk of heart diseases. And if you think the fat content is going to pad your middle, some studies suggest that palmitoleic acid helps to regulate your metabolism, curb your appetite and help to burn fat faster. Now, who could have thought? A natural diet snack!
One cup of macadamia nuts covers over 100% of your daily thiamin requirements, though one cup may be too much to eat in a single day. Other nutrients include riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium and potassium.
Brazil nuts--high in selenium.
The sumo nut of nuts, the Brazil nut is pudgy and gruff with patchy exterior that speaks of “diamond-in-rough” persona. However, its high level of selenium makes up for any lack of exterior charm. A 28g serving of Brazil nuts contains a whopping 640 mg of selenium. And what is selenium good for? Selenium is an antioxidant, a mineral crucial for thyroid health and plays an important role in fighting cancer and promoting good skin (aids skin elasticity) and healthy hair.
Other redeeming qualities include zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and iron. In addition, Brazil nut is a complete protein in itself, containing all eight essential amino acids needed for good health.
Across the spectrum, we have the petite, pint-sized pine nuts. As the name suggests, they come from pine cones and have to be extracted by hands, hence the hefty price. Most commonly associated with pesto sauce, a specialty coffee is also made from them, called Pinon, noted for its deep, nutty flavor.
These diminutive nuggets pack quite a punch. Loaded with dietary fiber, they are nature’s only source of pinoleic acid, which helps to stimulate hormones and curb appetite. They also have the highest concentration of oleic acid. One serving of pine nuts yields 3 mg of iron, a key component of hemoglobin, the oxygen counterpart that supplies energy.
Other nutrients include vitamin K, vitamin E, manganese (works with the development of connective tissues, bones, insulin regulation and maintaining healthy cholesterol), magnesium, copper, zinc and phosphorus.
Pine nuts on pizza--why not?
Half the fun in eating pistachios is cracking them.
If you like Baklava, you probably have a soft spot for pistachios. Relatively low in fat content compared to other nuts, pistachios go beyond protecting heart health and fighting cancer. Researchers noted in the Journal of Nutrition that “pistachios are high in lutein, beta-carotene and gamma-tocopherol relative to other nuts.”
What does that translate in terms of health benefits.? Lutein is an antioxidant, found in dark green leafy vegetables that is important in promoting good vision and healthy skin. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A and gamma-tocopherol is a common form of vitamin E. The mega-power of vitamin A and E are well-established and you can read more here.
Walnuts--nourish your brain with these.
I call them brain food and if you examine them, you will find grooves and ridges that rather resemble the brain matter. Okay, maybe the shriveled version. Still, that correlation may be right—walnuts are known for its high levels of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acid. A quarter cup serving of walnuts provides 90.8% of the daily value for these essential fats. These fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory and help to fight asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
But that’s not all. Walnuts also contain ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant that improves the immune system and fights cancer. In addition, they boost relatively high levels of l-arginine, an essential amino acid that combats hypertension. L-arginine converts to nitric oxide in the body, a chemical that helps to keep the blood vessels smooth and free from nasty cholesterol built-up. Since hypertension patients have a harder time maintaining nitric oxide levels, adding walnuts to their diet can help them better manage the condition.
So, let’s go grab a handful. They are best when eaten out of the hands. You can also toss them with your favorite dried fruits, mini-chocolate chips (and others) to make your own trail mix. Bag them and carry them around, just in case you’re hungry and you’re tempted to coax some unhealthy snacks out of the vending machines.