- Food and Cooking
All About Nuts
Introduction to Nuts
This lens is dedicated to that crunchy, wholesome, delicious little snack called nuts - almonds, pecans and walnuts, etc.
Until coming across this lens, many of you probably didn't know about just how good nuts were for you. This lens explores all the health benefits of nuts and blows any misconceptions of nuts being bad for you right out the window.
In fact nuts can be included to create great healthy gift basket for anyone and really show someone that you care about their health.
Flickr Photo Credit: Adam Wyles
Read on to find out all about the little nutritional powerhouses, commonly known as nuts!
What is a Nut?
Do you really think you know what a nut is and the health benefits of them?
Unfortunately, most people do not recognize the nutritional power package that is a nut.
From nature's point of view, a nut is a dry seed that is a nutritious kernel or 'meat' in a wooden or leathery husk that does not split open once maturity is reached.
Actually many of the nuts that we consider to be nuts aren't actually nuts at all, but the usage of the word has evolved to refer to any fruit or seed that has an edible hard kernel. For example a peanut is actually a legume (same family as peas and beans) and almonds, coconuts and cashews are actually fruits. However, all these nuts and so called nuts do have comparable nutritional values.
From an eating point of view, nuts contain loads of nutritional value in one tiny package - protein, good fats and carbohydrates. In fact, nut are commonly referred to as proteins and grouped with fish, eggs, poultry and legumes.
They make excellent healthy snacks and contain good fats that help prevent the risks of heart attacks, diabetes (they are good for balancing blood sugar) and other cholesterol related diseases. They are also high in vitamins and minerals, which are often absent in many of today eating habits.
Many of you are likely to think of nuts as fattening. Yes they do contain fats, but it is the good kind of fats - polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids. All fats that are good for lowering cholesterol and help prevent heart disease.
Your Favorite Nuts
What is Your Favorite Kind of Nut?
How to Choose the Healthiest Nuts
As a general rule all nuts are good for you as they provide you with fiber, essential vitamins, mineral and protein. If you eat a handful everyday, scientists say that you can reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases. So it is good to add nuts into your daily meal plans and recipes, like nuts in your salads, cereals and desserts.
You should be aware that some nuts have higher levels of bad fats (saturated fat), which is not beneficial to your health as too much can clog up arteries, as well as the good fats that promote good health. So a good place to start is to find an online chart that tells you the fat content for each variety of nuts.
To save you the search, below is a chart based on the information found at http://www.annecollins.com/dietary-fat/fat-nuts.htm but with the grams of good fat and percentage of Good Fats included:
So looking at this chart the yellow highlighted nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and almonds) are the best type of nuts to go for as they have a high percentage of good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and also omega 3 fatty acids.
If you want to go for nuts that are lower in all kinds of fats, go for the nut type highlighted in blue - cashew nuts.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should avoid the other types of nuts as they have all types of other good nutritional values that you could be missing out on.
Learn More About Nuts
These books cover everything from the health benefits of nuts, tasty recipes, a nut diet and growing your own nuts!
Specific Nuts and Their Health Benefits - Almonds to Hazelnuts
Almonds: Almonds are full of vitamin E, in fact if you have 2 ounces of them you will get your full Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). Now vitamin E is one of those difficult vitamins to get in modern day diets, so the addition of almonds to your meal plans is an excellent plan. They are also high in protein, riboflavin, fiber, iron, folic acid and selenium to name a few of its assets. They are even a good source of calcium too.
Brazil Nuts: Brazil nuts are another kind of nut packed with a whole range of good nutritional values. In fact just two Brazil nuts contain more than RDA of selenium, which is a antioxidant that can help prevent cancer. Brazil nuts are also high in fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Cashews: Cashews are one of the lower fat variety of nuts and about 80% of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids. A high proportion of this unsaturated fat is oleic acid, which is the same monounsaturated fat found in healthy virgin olive oil - so it is a heart healthy fat. Cashews also contain a rich variety of nutrients including magnesium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. They also contain copper, which is a good antioxidant, energy producer and helps keep bones and blood healthy.
Coconut: Coconuts seem to have a bad unfounded reputation. They actually contain good chain fatty acids, which the human body can use as instant energy and is not stored. This means that coconuts are a good energy food, that unlike carbs, will not raise the level of sugar in the bloodstream. This type of also has high lauric acid, which is antimicrobial, which can help kill off all sorts of toxins and bacteria in our digestive systems.
Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are also high in Vitamin E, magnesium and copper. This type of nut also has thiamine and Vitamin B6, which can enhance energy. Although hazelnuts are quite high in fat, they have no cholesterol. Also like other nuts they are antioxidants and are a good source of fiber, protein, calcium and iron.
Specific Nuts and Their Health Benefits - Macadamias to Walnuts
Macadamias: Macadamias have high levels of thiamine, fiber, protein, selenium and manganese, but are quite high in calories (204 calories per ounce), so should be eaten in moderation.
Peanuts: Peanuts, although strictly a legume and not a nut, are high in protein and are a great energy source. They are also rich in antioxidants like the bioflavonoid 'resveratol', which has a number of health benefits like anti-cancer, anti-viral and anti-aging.
Pecans: Pecans are the all American nut, as they are native to North America. Did I hear someone say pecan pie? These nuts are high in plant sterols which can help lower your cholesterol intake. They are also rich in B vitamins, which are the energy producers. In addition to this they contain over 90% heart healthy unsaturated fats. Pecans also contain vitamin E, potassium, calcium, fiber, zinc and contain more antioxidants then any other nut.
Pistachios: Pistachios are in the same family as cashews. Eating this type of nut (as with many other types) is said to reduce the risk of heart disease, as they are good providers of protein, fiber, thiamine and vitamins B6 and E. In addition, these nuts are mineral loaded and out of all the types of nuts are the best source of potassium. In fact, two ounces of pistachios contain more potassium than your average banana.
Walnuts: The walnut is another great nutritional nut and provides more Omega 3 fatty acids than any other nut. This means that they are ultra heart friendly, have good anti-inflammatory properties and are good for the brain. On top of this they also provide fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins and magnesium.
Conclusion: Why Nuts Make Perfect Gifts
Now you know just how healthy nuts are, we hope that you will give the gift of nuts to your friends and family at other occasions, not just Christmas. They'll always warmly welcome gourmet nut gift tins.
As it is a present, you might want to give chocolate covered nuts as a gift, or include nuts with candies and fruit to make the gift more of a treat. There are also gift baskets that have nuts, candies, fruit, maple syrups, fruit pie and jams.
Like we have said previously everything is good in moderation and nuts are little powerhouses of nutrition, which will more than make up for the 'treats'!
What do you think about nuts?