Food Focus: Health Benefits of Nuts

Nutritional Powerhouses: The Rich Nutrient Profile of Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are not just tasty; they are nutritional powerhouses. Loaded with essential nutrients needed to grow an entire new plant, they are a key component of a balanced diet. Rich in vitamin E, potassium, and numerous B vitamins including folate and niacin, nuts and seeds offer a robust nutrient profile. They are also high in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc, making them a vital source of protein and essential fats.

World's Favourite Nuts: Coconuts and Peanuts in the Spotlight

Among the myriad of nuts available, coconuts lead globally as the most cultivated nut crop, followed closely by peanuts. Though technically legumes, peanuts are often classified and consumed as nuts. Both coconuts and peanuts have unique nutritional profiles, and their widespread consumption signifies their importance in global diets. As nutritional research evolves, nuts continue to emerge as dietary superstars, with numerous studies underscoring their health benefits.

Nutrient-Specific Highlights: Which Nuts Offer What

Different nuts offer varying nutrient profiles. For example, a 50g serving of almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pine nuts, or pistachios provides more than 340mg of potassium – comparable to a banana. Almonds are a great source of calcium, with a 50g serving offering as much calcium as 200ml of milk. Cashews are rich in iron, and Brazil nuts are an excellent source of the antioxidant selenium, with just one nut providing more than twice the recommended daily intake.

Selenium plays a crucial role in our recovery program for Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) due to its powerful antioxidant properties, which help strengthen the immune system. By reducing oxidative stress and enhancing the body's defense mechanisms, selenium can aid in mitigating the effects of EBV, supporting overall immune health and resilience. This makes it a valuable nutrient in managing and recovering from EBV-related symptoms.

Protein and Amino Acids: Nuts in a Vegetarian Diet

Nuts are a good source of protein, particularly in vegetarian diets. While most nuts, except peanuts, lack lysine – an essential amino acid for a complete protein – this can easily be remedied by combining nuts with legumes or seeds. This combination ensures a well-rounded protein intake, essential for maintaining normal blood sugar levels and overall health.

Nuts for Heart Health: The Benefits of Good Fats and Fibre

Most nuts and seeds are not only a good source of protein but also dietary fibre. A 50g serving of most nuts provides about 4-5g of fibre. They also contain plant sterols known to lower cholesterol and potentially offer protection against certain types of cancer. Additionally, several large studies have linked regular nut consumption with reduced risk of heart disease, thanks to their healthy fat content.

The fibre found in nuts can play a significant role in supporting a healthy gut microbiome. This dietary fibre acts as a prebiotic, providing nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn can improve digestive health and enhance overall gut function. By promoting the growth of these good bacteria, the fibre in nuts helps to maintain a balanced gut ecosystem, crucial for optimal nutrient absorption and immune system support. Initially it may be recommended to avoid nuts but as we move through the steps of my Gut Fix Program nuts can play a role in the optimising your microbiome step.

Caloric Considerations: Balancing Nutrient Density and Energy

While nuts are nutrient-dense, they are also high in kilojoules and fats. However, except for coconuts and palm nuts, their fats are mostly mono- or polyunsaturated – the 'heart-friendly' fats. These fats are beneficial, especially when they replace saturated fats in the diet. Despite their energy density, nuts should be consumed in moderation. For example, macadamia nuts and pecans are among the highest in energy content.

Storing Nuts Correctly: Tips to Prevent Rancidity and Contamination

Proper storage of nuts is crucial. Shelled nuts should be refrigerated or frozen to prevent their oils from turning rancid. It's also important to avoid consuming nuts that are mouldy or have an off taste, as moulds on nuts, especially peanuts, can produce aflatoxins, which are harmful to the liver.

Smart Snacking: Portion Sizes and Healthy Combinations

Incorporating nuts into your diet as a snack is a great way to enjoy their health benefits. Ideal portion sizes might include 3-4 Brazil nuts, 10-12 almonds, or 8-10 walnuts or pecans. If you're still hungry, pairing nuts with an apple or celery stick can be both satisfying and nutritious.

Alternatively, you can add some chopped nuts to salads and use nut butters on rye sourdough or dip for apples or carrots. Almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are often included in the personalised Metabolic Balance plans we run as part of the Fuel & Nourish Program.

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