Do you ever eye that bowl of mixed nuts at a party and feel like you should hold back? Do you consider nuts an unhealthy indulgence?
It might be hard to shake the old belief that nuts are high in fat and calories and thus should be avoided. But it’s time to rethink the way we see nuts.
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Nuts are, in fact, a health food. There’s a robust body of scientific evidence suggesting that nuts have a wide range of health benefits that can keep your body in good shape and even help you to prevent disease.
The wonderful health benefits of nuts
Nuts contain a variety of important nutrients that your body needs to function optimally and that can protect you from health problems. For example, nuts are full of healthy fats called unsaturated fatty acids, protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, polyphenols, and phytochemicals.
Eating nuts can ultimately improve the quality of your diet. Since nut serving sizes are pretty small, you get quite the bang for your buck with a small handful of your favorite nuts. In just a few bites, you can provide your body with a wide range of important nutrients.
These nutrients provide you with many different health benefits. For example, the nutrients in nuts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; these qualities are known to help protect the body from many different serious health conditions like heart disease and cognitive decline. Nuts also have other effects in the body like helping to regulate blood sugars, satisfying your appetite, and more.
Due to these powerful qualities, nuts can have beneficial effects on conditions such as:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Cognitive decline
- Metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance [1-7]
People who eat more nuts are less likely to have serious diseases like heart disease, and they are also less likely to die from these conditions. In fact, eating more nuts can help you to reduce your risk of dying from any cause.
Nuts may also be useful if you have a health condition like diabetes and want to better manage it or prevent more complications from occurring down the line. For example, people with diabetes who eat more nuts have better blood sugar control and have a reduced risk of cardiovascular complications.[4,5]
But won’t nuts make me gain weight?
In the past, nuts got a bad reputation as a high-calorie, fatty food that could make you gain weight. But we now know that this just isn’t the case. Nuts don’t lead to weight gain, and instead they can actually help keep you full and help you to maintain a healthy weight.
Are some nuts healthier than others?
Most nuts are considered healthy. Almonds, walnuts, pistachio, and peanuts have all been associated with significant health benefits. Other healthy choices can include pecans, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and cashews.
Each individual variety of nut has a unique nutrient profile. For example, almonds are particularly high in vitamin E, macadamia nuts have high levels of monounsaturated fats, walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, cashews are rich in copper and magnesium, and brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium.
Beyond their unique nutrient contents, different nuts also have unique textures and flavors. So feel free to experiment with the different varieties of nuts in your cooking to take advantage of the wide range of health benefits and culinary applications.
Some specific diets promote nuts of different types. Nuts of all sorts are an important food group on the Mediterranean diet, for example. On the keto diet, low-carb nut options are usually preferred. That includes nuts like pecans, macadamia nuts, and brazil nuts.
Adding more nuts to your diet
If you want to support a healthy body, then you may want to consider giving nuts a more prominent role in your diet.
Eating more nuts will help you to get plenty of important nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. And it just might help you manage your blood sugars, maintain a healthy weight, protect your heart, and prevent disease.
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Here are some healthy tips for eating nuts:
- Watch your portion sizes. While nuts are considered a healthy food, you can eat too much at once if you aren’t careful. Portion sizes of nuts are quite small; aim for a small handful of whole nuts or a couple of tablespoons of nut butter.
- Plain is best. You can cancel out the health benefits of nuts if you eat them covered in sugar or sweetened chocolate, for example. So stick with raw, roasted, and lightly salted preparations.
- Combine them with other healthy foods. Nuts pair well with other healthy foods and are key parts of popular dietary patterns like the Mediterranean diet and the keto diet. Eat nuts alongside vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and sources of protein. For example, top veggie salads with chopped nuts instead of croutons, spread nut butter on a slice of apple or celery, or experiment with unique dishes like nut-crusted fish.