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Let’s Get Nutty!
Most of us are guilty of snacking. When many of us are hungry, we reach for a chocolate bar, gummi bears, or potato chips. Over the course of a busy workday, sometimes you need just a few extra calories to give you a burst of energy. We know it’s not healthy, and most people are aware that fruits and vegetables are better for them, but good luck getting someone addicted to sugar and salt to switch from their favorite junk food to baby carrots.
What if we told you that you could indulge in snacking without worrying about sugar, salt and fat? As with most things, nature got it right the first time. Nuts are among the healthiest foods you can enjoy, and they make the perfect solution for guilt-free snacking! This article will explain exactly why nuts are so beneficial, and how to differentiate the good nuts from the pretenders.
Can eating some nuts really make you live longer?
According to a 30-year study by researchers at Harvard University, it certainly seems that way. Participants in the study who consumed an average of 1oz/28g of nuts every day showed a 29 percent decrease in risk of heart disease, an 11 percent lower risk of cancer, and interestingly, a 20 percent decrease in mortality for any reason. A similar study in the Netherlands, involving 120,000 middle-aged men and women, found that those who regularly ate nuts were 23 percent less likely to die from any cause. It also found a 43 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease.
Nuts really do seem like some sort of cure-all superfood, but it’s important to make sure you’re eating the right kinds so you can reap these benefits.
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What kind of nuts should I eat?
- Walnut is one of the healthiest types of nuts. This common variety of nut is absolutely packed with nutrients essential to maintaining optimal health. Walnuts are a plentiful source of melatonin, vitamin E, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids which help ensure brain health. They are also a good source of particular antioxidants which are difficult to find in most foods. These include polyphenols, which protect the liver, and other compounds which fight inflammation and boost endothelial function.
- Macadamia nuts are particularly healthy. Macadamia nuts are high in certain B vitamins and are rich in minerals like magnesium and manganese. A single serving of macadamia nuts contains nearly 60 percent of the daily recommended intake of manganese Another benefit of macadamia nuts is how high in healthy monounsaturated fats they are. Macadamia nuts contain a particular kind of healthy fat called oleic acid. This compound is also found in olives, plays a role in lowering harmful LDL cholesterol levels, and contributes to better cardiovascular health.
- Pecans are another good option. This particular nut offers 19 different vitamins and minerals and also provides plenty of good fats.
- Brazil nuts offer many of the benefits already listed, as well as a generous amount of selenium.
- Almonds deserve a special mention. Almonds are a good source of protein and carbs. They also have a lot of magnesium, which assists in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Like the other nuts, they are high in beneficial fats, but there are some unique qualities of almonds that deserve mention. Almonds have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, like all the other nuts mentioned here, but they also include a fair amount of omega-6 fats. The modern diet in many industrialized countries is filled with processed foods which are high in omega-6 fats. The imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 fats is a contributor to many diseases. Take this into consideration if your diet is already deficient in omega-3 rich foods. You may want to start with some of the other nuts first and add more omega-3-rich foods before you start eating almonds regularly.
A quick word about peanuts
Now some of you are probably thinking “But I eat nuts all the time! My candy bar is packed with peanuts!” We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but peanuts aren’t that great for you. In fact, they’re not even nuts. Peanuts are technically part of the legume family, along with peas and beans.
It’s not that peanuts are unhealthy, per se. They are cheap source of protein and calories, and do have a lot of the same nutrients as true nuts. Unfortunately, they are frequently covered with sodium, and are often contaminated by mycotoxins and pesticides.
Peanuts also have the same problem as almonds, in that they too are high in omega-6 fats. People trying to improve their health might want to choose from the different nuts listed above.
READ ALSO: 3 Cancer-Fighting Nuts Video
One of the great things about nuts is that there is so much variety. With so many health benefits and different varieties to choose from, you just can’t lose. If you’re looking for a new guilt-free snack, go on – go nuts (har, har).