Nuts for Nutrition and Health: It’s All In How Much You Eat
Are you looking for a tasty snack that won’t boost your weight? How about a recipe ingredient that will add crunch and flavor? What if only a handful of this food could diminish your risk of having a heart attack?
Nuts were once thought to be fattening and unhealthy due to their high fat content. In 1992, researchers were intrigued when a large-scale study found that adults who regularly ate small amounts of nuts actually had lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who did not eat this food.
Since then, dozens of additional studies strongly support the conclusion that nuts boost heart health. The research is consistent. Nuts lower total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and this is certainly helpful.
The positive news does not stop there. Nutrients in nuts also help relax blood vessel walls and slow the inflammatory process that is ultimately responsible for the build-up of artery-clogging plaque. Nuts are dense with phytochemicals, potent antioxidants found only in plants.
Studies also demonstrate that, in moderation, nuts do not cause weight gain. In fact, by making you feel satiated and providing a rich source of diverse nutrients, nuts can actually spur weight loss or at least prevent obesity from developing. Here is another way nuts are helpful with getting trim – evidence shows they help boost metabolism so you naturally burn more calories.
Despite all the high tech drugs and surgery, heart disease is still the leading killer in the U.S., causing one out of four deaths. Over 26 million Americans wake up each morning to face heart disease clouding their future.
Nuts, eaten in moderate quantities, can make a significant difference. This food can cut your risk of death from heart disease by 37%. Nuts interact with your physiology, and are measurably less effective in people who are obese. However, since nuts can aid in weight loss, they can still be helpful in getting you to the point at which they will be significant for heart disease as well.
You will fully experience the health and weight benefits if you eat nuts as part of a whole foods, plant-based diet. No one food will magically cure your ills if you continue to consume inflammatory animal foods and manufactured foods. What is critical is the
overall pattern of how you eat.
By concentrating on fat content alone, early theories about diet missed all the wonderful nutrients in nuts. This food is a classic example of the dangers of oversimplifying nutrition. All whole plant foods contain hundreds, if not thousands, or nutrients. Each acts not in isolation, but in rich interplay with the others.
Raw or dry roasted nuts are a whole food, and not comparable to the isolated fats in a jar of “cooking” or “salad” oil. In these manufactured foods, the oil has been extracted from the matrix of nutrients and fiber in the original plant, and has an inflammatory effect – the opposite of nuts.
Watch out for the tendency to think “if a little is good, a lot is better.” This is seldom true anywhere in nature. Health thrives on balance, so choose to enjoy nuts a little at a time. One or two handfuls a day, four to six days a week, is sufficient to reap the benefits. Or choose a tablespoon or two of nut butter instead.
Avoid nuts that are heavily salted or roasted in additional oils. For greatest benefit, buy nuts still in the shell and a good nutcracker. When you remove the shell, be sure to eat any skin that wraps the nut itself. This skin is dense with antioxidants.
Nuts can be a delicious, fun part of a gold-standard eating plan, helping you reverse the damage from years of poor food choices. Why wait to experience their goodness!
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Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, the smart person’s nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.