Nuts are another amazing food that are not only good for snacking and baking, but actually help prevent many of the lifestyle diseases today that affect so many people. Researchers are convinced that nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, pine nuts, peanuts – are extremely beneficial to our health! Ancient civilizations valued nuts as a source of energy; they were also available all year-long since they stored easily. Nuts are a source of the “good” fats in the much-touted healthy Mediterranean diet as well. They are loaded with protein, fiber, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Nuts are portable, filling and keep you from eating more fattening and less healthy food.
Nuts contain compounds that help prevent heart disease by keeping the arteries open and blood flowing. They help improve the health of the artery lining as well. They contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can help lower total cholesterol (as opposed to saturated fats which have the opposite effect). They are high in Vitamin E, which also helps to prevent cholesterol from sticking to the artery walls and some nuts contain plant sterols, a cholesterol lowering substance. These same compounds can help prevent gallstones too.
Nuts are beneficial in cancer prevention. They are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight free radicals. Studies from Purdue University have also shown that the Vitamin E in walnuts and pecans kills certain cancer cells. The omega-3 in nuts also helps with memory loss and developing neuron-transmitters for brain function. Interesting how a walnut even looks like a brain!
Despite all the health benefits of nuts, recent studies have shown that only 5.5% of adults from age 19 – 50 consume them. Perhaps it’s because nuts have a reputation for being fattening, which they can be, but not if you limit your intake to one ounce, or about a handful a day. And some people do have nut allergies.
In a “nutshell” (I couldn’t resist), however, these nutritious treats are an invaluable part of your daily diet.