When it comes to eating nuts some people become a little concerned, or shall we say “phobic”, about their calorie and fat content. It is time to do away with that fear. Current research suggests that nuts are extremely beneficial to our health. Nuts are not only a good source of healthy fats; they are a very good source of protein, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients. Nuts were the first food product to gain the official “stamp of approval” from the Unites States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In July 2003, the FDA approved the first qualified “health claim” for a food, allowing it to be used on product labels and packaging. It states:
“Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of some nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Not all of the claims for certain nuts have been “approved” by the FDA, however the research continues to suggest that eating nuts is beneficial to good health.
One study of over 30,000 adults conducted by Loma Linda University demonstrated that eating nuts not only lowered risk for heart disease, but it also helped people manage their weight and keep their weight down. Other studies have shown that including nuts as part of an overall healthy diet (Mediterranean-style) reduces the risk for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that includes high blood sugar, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides.
Which nuts are best for our health? We’ve made a list of our top 7:
Walnuts top our list. Just one look at walnuts and it seems almost obvious – why else would nature make something that looks just like a brain? Walnuts are a fantastic source of essential fatty acids, including omega-3’s, which have been shown beneficial to heart health, cognitive function, and act against inflammation in the body. Walnuts contain polyphenols and antioxidants including ellagic acid, shown to fight cancer and support the immune system.
Almonds have the highest protein content of the nuts. They also contain healthy monounsaturated fat, and important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are particularly rich in magnesium and calcium. Almonds have a high fiber content as well.
3. Macadamia Nuts
Macadamia nuts are a buttery tropical treat. They are high in fiber, protein, healthy fats, magnesium, and protein.
Pistachio nuts are rich in phytosterols (which have been shown to help lower cholesterol), antioxidants, fiber, protein, and are a good source of copper, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6.
Cashews are another rich and buttery nut, much like the macadamia. Cashews have a lower fat content than most of the other nuts. They are rich is magnesium, copper, zinc, biotin, and iron.
Pecans have also been studied for their cholesterol-lowering effect. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of their nutritional highlights include vitamins A, E, and many B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus.
Most notable for their selenium content, Brazil nuts are also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium.
Honorable mention: Pine nuts – also contain a high amount of protein and antioxidants.
Unfortunately nuts may not be safe to consume for all people. Research indicates that approximately 1% of the American population have some sort of tree nut allergy. This affects about three million individuals. For these folks, eating nuts may result in mild reaction or it could be life threatening. It is important to always read labels to make sure the foods you are eating are safe for your health.
Why raw nuts over roasted? There are a few reasons for this. One reason is that when nuts are roasted at high temperatures, free radicals can form as a result of the monounsaturated fats breaking down. Free radicals can cause damage to our cells, including the DNA. Another chemical that forms during the roasting process is acrylamide. Acrylamides form when foods containing the amino acid asparagine are heated to high temperatures. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has listed acrylamide as a probable cancer-causing agent. Some researchers estimate that if you are a heavy consumer of the foods that contain acrylamide, the exposure will result in about a 15 in 10,000 chance of contracting cancer over your lifetime. New research suggests that chronic ingestion of acrylamide-containing foods produces inflammation in the body and increases the risk for heart disease, and specifically atherosclerosis. One option for those who enjoy the taste of roasted nuts is to roast them at home at a very low oven temperature – below 170 degrees Fahrenheit. It will of course take longer, but the results will be worth it.
About: Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic doctor and expert in functional and lifestyle medicine. An author of nine books, host and founder of Optimum Wellness Media, and Ironman triathlete, James has coached Fortune 50 and 500 companies, MLB and NFL teams, several branches of US Government and consults for companies including BackJoy, SKOOP and Kroger Grocery. He has shared his message to audiences in the US, Europe and Asia.