Nuts About Nuts

Leading nutrition sources have some good news for us. Studies suggest that consuming a handful of nuts per day may reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 30-50% and reduce the risk of death from heart disease by around 20%. “This is based on the high proportion of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in nuts, and the low proportion of saturated fats, and is the results of studies comparing heart disease rates among people who eat nuts with those who do not [1].”

In addition to this, there is preliminary evidence that suggests nut consumption of around 30 grams per day may actually decrease a person’s chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes. More research is needed, but its good news indeed.

Nuts also have well-documented health benefits in other areas, including reducing the risk of gall stones, reducing age-related macular degeneration, maintaining bone health, slowing brain aging and reducing cancer risk [1].

Of course, the term ‘nuts’ is a broad one and across the category, nutrient composition varies. For the curious, here’s the scoop on the specific nutrients in many popular nuts [2].

Almonds are rich in protein as well as calcium and vitamin E.

Brazil nuts contain fibre and selenium. In fact, two brazil nuts per day provide the entire recommended daily intake for selenium in an adult.

Cashews are a rich source of plant-based iron, and are low on the glycaemic index.

Chestnuts are also low on the glycaemic index, but are high in fibre and vitamin C. A warning though: vitamin C tends to be compromised during cooking, just in case you were thinking of roasting chestnuts on an open fire and getting your recommended daily intake that way.

Hazelnuts are a good source of fibre, potassium, folate and vitamin E.

Macadamias are highest in monounsaturated fats, thiamine and manganese.

Pecans contain both fibre and antioxidants.

Pine nuts are rich sources of vitamin E and the arginine amino acid.

Pistachios are the go-to nut for protein, potassium, plant sterols and the antioxidant resveratrol.

Walnuts, though boasting a higher calorie content that other nuts, contain alpha linoleic acid, plant omega 3 and antioxidants

The humble peanut, so often the cause of severe allergic reactions, does not appear on this list due to the fact that it is in fact a legume not a nut. Allergies to peanuts and tree nuts are not uncommon, but the good news is that they belong in different families. Hence, if someone is allergic to one, they aren’t necessarily bound to be allergic to the other. Food proteins vary greatly between the two groups (nuts and legumes). As it is the food protein that triggers the allergic reaction, allergies and reactions will also vary. Almonds, cashews, macadamia and brazil nuts fall under the ‘tree nuts’ category [3].

If you are among the majority of people who aren’t reactive or allergic to tree nuts, then incorporating nuts into your diet may be of great benefit to your health. Bon appetit.

 

 

References

[1] http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/frequently-asked-questions/general-nutrition/nuts-and-health

[2] Nuts for Life. Nuts for Life Nutrient Composition of Tree Nuts 2014. http://www.nutsforlife.com.au/resources/nutrient-composition

[3] http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/food-allergy/peanut-tree-nut-and-seed-allergy

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