Nuts are not only tasty snacks, but nutritious ones too. They may be small but you’d be surprised just how many beneficial vitamins, minerals and healthy fats they’re packed with. A recent study has found that eating even a small handful of nuts each day could have the following results:
- cut the risk of coronary heart disease by 30%
- reduce premature death by 22%
- cut the risk of cancer by 15%
- the risk of respiratory disease could also be halved
- the risk of diabetes could be reduced by almost 40%
The researchers analysed 29 studies which involved almost 820,000 people across the globe. Within the studies were 12,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 9,000 cases of stroke, 18,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and cancer and 85,000 deaths.
Dagfinn Aune from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London who was a co-author of the study said:
“We found a consistent reduction in risk across many different diseases, which is a strong indication there is a real underlying relationship between nut consumption and different health outcomes.
“It’s quite a substantial effect for such a small amount of food.”
The findings come after a separate study showed how walnuts reduced levels of bad cholesterol thus helping stave off heart disease.
How do nuts vary in their nutritional content?
Here’s a comparison of the nutritional data for various common nuts. The values are approximate and per 100 grams for each type of nut. Nutritional content can vary slightly based on the specific variety and processing method (e.g., raw, roasted, salted).
|Nutrient (per 100g)||Almonds||Walnuts||Cashews||Peanuts||Hazelnuts||Pecans||Brazil Nuts||Macadamia Nuts|
|Total Fat (g)||49.9||65.2||43.8||49.2||60.8||72.0||66.4||75.8|
|Saturated Fat (g)||3.7||6.1||7.8||6.8||4.5||6.2||15.1||12.1|
|Monounsaturated Fat (g)||31.6||8.9||23.8||24.4||45.7||40.8||24.8||58.9|
|Polyunsaturated Fat (g)||12.2||47.2||7.8||15.6||7.9||21.6||20.6||1.5|
This table provides a basic comparison, but each type of nut has its unique profile of nutrients and health benefits. It’s also important to consider how nuts are prepared and consumed (e.g., raw vs. roasted, salted vs. unsalted) as this can affect their nutritional content. Nuts are a healthy addition to most diets when consumed in moderation.
General Health Benefits of Nuts:
- Energy: Nuts are energy-dense foods due to their high fat content.
- Protein: Peanuts (technically legumes) and almonds are particularly high in protein.
- Fats: Nuts contain a mix of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats, but they are generally high in healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated).
- Fibre: Nuts are a good source of dietary fibre, with almonds and hazelnuts being particularly high.
- Carbohydrates: Nuts generally have a low carbohydrate content, making them suitable for low-carb diets.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Nuts are a good source of various vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, iron, and calcium.
Let’s have a look at some specific health benefits of different kinds of nuts:
Walnuts are great for your health, particularly your heart health, thanks to their high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA). ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid which reduces inflammation in the body and helps to lower bad cholesterol.
Read more about the health benefits of walnuts:
Pecans can also improve your heart health as they are among the most antioxidant-rich nuts. Research suggests that they help to prevent the formation of plaque in your arteries and, like walnuts, lower bad cholesterol.
Cashews, which have a lower fat content than most other nuts, are particularly rich in iron and zinc. Iron helps to deliver oxygen to your cells and zinc is critical to immune health and healthy vision. They’re rich in magnesium too, which helps to balance calcium levels in the body.
As they contain more fibre than many other nuts, almonds are very good for your gut. They’re also high in vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant – and the same healthy monosaturated fats that are found in olive oil and are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
A single Brazil nut contains more than 100% of your recommended daily intake of selenium – a mineral which is associated with a reduced risk of certain cancers, including bone, prostate and breast cancer. Researchers believe that selenium may inhibit the growth of some cancerous cells. However, it can be harmful when high levels are consumed, so it’s important to eat Brazil nuts in moderation.
If you’re trying to lose weight, pistachios are the nuts you should be munching on as they contain less than four calories each. They’re also rich in antioxidants, vitamin B6 and potassium, which means they can help to fortify your immune system and boost your mood.
Above, each nut’s most prominent health benefits have been highlighted, but all nuts are a good source of healthy fats and many of them contain a lot of the same beneficial nutrients. Most of them are rich in antioxidants and various vitamins and minerals. However, because they’re high in fat, you should avoid consuming large amounts. Eat small quantities to reap the benefits, and opt for raw or dry roasted nuts rather than picking up packaged nuts that have been roasted in oil.
If you are concerned about your heart health, you may like to read the advice of the British Heart Foundation by following the link.
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