A popular Indian saying states that somethings are like ‘Chota packet, bada dhamaka’ which means that despite being a small pack the product packs in a lot of punch. This is very apt for nuts. Nuts are simple dry fruits with one/two seeds e.g. almonds, cashew, pistachios, walnuts, etc.
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These are tree nuts, but some other seeds that are also included in the list of nutritious nuts are flaxseeds, pumpkin, sunflower seeds. Though peanut is a legume, the nutritional composition is close to tree nuts. These plant foods which are bite size are nutritional power houses filled with heart-healthy fats i.e. Mono & poly unsaturated fats, are a rich source of dietary fiber, possess essential nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, B complex group vitamins with folate, vitamin E, minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, anti oxidants and trace elements like selenium, manganese & copper. Antioxidants like flavonoids & resveratrol, phytochemicals & plant sterols are also found abundantly in these nuts.
Each nut has different nutritional credentials, thus offering varied health benefits. These nuts are vitality boosting snacks, nearly perfect health packages and simple to eat foods. In the nuts, the skin has 90 % of antioxidants. Thus, one should eat them raw & organic rather than irradiated, peeled or flavoured sweet or salty. The nutritional values also differ between raw & roasted varieties of nuts. Processed nuts have reduced B group vitamins as these are lost in the heating process, similarly a reduced water content & concentration of other nutrients. Usually, nuts have low sodium but with processing, this increases. Nuts have carbohydrates in the form of sugars & heart healthy fats & omega 3 fatty acids.
Among nuts, walnut seems to be the king. The benefits nuts bestow that make them a must have in your diet are:
1) Bone Building material & maintaining good bone health – Calcium rich nuts like almonds must for all ages both sexes.
2) Glowing Skin’s preventing aging by combating free radicals – Nuts with Vitamin E, antioxidants Omega 3 fatty acids like walnuts.
3) Heart Healthy- nuts reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and have multiple vascular benefits; they are inflammation fighters, preventing cellular damage & clot formation, maintaining elasticity of blood vessels.
4) Reducing cancer risk – A healthy intake of handful of mixed nuts, two of each of the ten varieties gives enough Vitamin E, antioxidants & more.
5) Brain power booster – They improve memory, slow brain aging, maintain brain health with neuro protective compounds, improve reasoning and immediate recall.
6) Weight control- They help by improving the metabolic parameters in type 2 diabetics, reduce glycaemic index, reducing insulin resistance, and reduce risk of obesity by controlling appetite, giving fuller control. Eat a handful of nuts as a substitute for foods like muffins etc.
7) Immune system – Nuts fortify the immune system, especially cashews having zinc which is critical to immune health & iron which prevents anaemia. Pistachios are rich in Vitamin B6 and aid in balance problems, period troubles & premenstrual symptoms. Antioxidants play an important role in maintaining good eye health.
Knowing the massive health benefits, let us know briefly which nut will individually have a positive effect in what way:
Almonds: They are so rich in Calcium that they can be given for a missed dairy product. They have a high amount of Vitamin E, so they are essentially good for bone building and skin. One should eat almonds with the skin intact to get the best Flavonoids, antioxidants which are good for the heart. They are a powerhouse of proteins.
Cashew nuts: Cashew nuts possess substantial levels of proteins, and are a good source for minerals like iron (non-haem plant based iron) and zinc. Richness in magnesium helps improve memory loss, immediate recall and delay. Phosphorous is good for bones. The saying is “Anything in excess is bad” so be careful as they are also high in calories!
Pistas: They are rich in Vitamin B, Potassium, fibres, proteins, Vitamin K and Anti-oxidants. They help balance hormones so relief in problem periods. Reasonable levels of lutein and zeaxanthin anti-oxidants too are found, which play a role in eye protection.
Walnut: The walnut seems to be the best of the nuts as it has superior anti-oxidant content to fight against cancer. It is a good source of mono-saturated heart friendly fats. It lowers LDL (bad cholesterol). It contains Alpha linoleic acid nd Omega 3 fatty acids which are great at keeping cholesterol levels under check. It makes for a good substitute to oily fish in the vegetarian diet. It has multiple vascular benefits, prevents ageing, prevents liver damage due to polyphenols, helps improving reproductive health in men and has a positive impact on male infertility. Improves brain health, reasoning and much more.
Hazel nuts: These flavourful nuts have lot of fibre, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Copper, Manganese and phosphorous. They can prevent premature ageing and cell, tissue degradation, helps produce healthy red and white blood cells. They help maintain healthy levels of homocystyene, an amino acid associated with heart conditions and Parkinson’s with Folate.
Peanuts: A good source of niacin, potassium and Folate, it is good for healthier skin, hair, muscles. It helps regulate body’s water level and metabolism and can thereby prevent muscle cramps.