“Let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food!” This phrase from Hippocrates applies particularly to nuts in all their different forms.
Nuts are concentrates of nutrients and active ingredients. High-quality fatty acids, proteins, essential vitamins as well as minerals and trace elements – all of this can be found in nuts. Although they are quite caloric, if you consume them in moderation they will not make you fat. You do not need to count the calories if you replace meat and meat products with nuts. In addition, individual types of nuts have special dietary and curative properties.
You don’t have to go without nuts because you might get too fat. It is true that nuts are very high in fat. But this fat consists mainly of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids that are used for various body functions and are therefore not stored in the fat cells. They’re far too precious for that. They are used to isolate nerve cells and protect blood vessels. They give the brain the right support and energy. It is not for nothing that nuts are part of a trail mix widely known as student fodder in German. If we don’t snack on nuts, but use them to replace unhealthy foods at your meals, we don’t need to be afraid of their high fat content.
The mineral content of nuts is very high, much higher than that of most fruits. They are especially a good source of Phosphorus, sulfur, potassium and magnesium. The expert can see right away that nuts are therefore good for the nerves, helping to substitute lecithin that is getting used in intellectual work. However, athletes, pregnant women and growing children also benefit greatly from the nuts because of the high amounts of calcium and iron. Student fodder is a mixture of nuts and dried fruits, especially raisins. The dried fruits provide the necessary carbohydrates. Protein and fat come from the nuts. A pack of trail mix can replace in a healthier way a visit to a sausage stand.
Nuts are Far Superior to Meat
Nuts contain an almost complete high-quality protein. They are only deficient of the two amino acids methionine and lysine. If we complement nuts with legumes, this deficiency is also fixed. Nuts are preferable to meat for many reasons:
- Nuts are free from metabolic waste in animals. They contain neither urea, nor uric acid, or cholesterol.
- Nuts are free from parasites such as trichinae or tapeworms.
- Nuts are not contaminated with harmful hormones from livestock breeding or the pre-slaughter stress.
- Nuts are free from harmful bacteria, which can frequently be found in meat during the warm season.
- Nuts can be eaten raw, meat usually has to be cooked for a long time
Of course, nuts have to be handled properly too. They also have an expiration date. They can go rancid. They can contain aflatoxins, especially peanuts. These are poisonous excretions from mold. That is why you always have to pay attention to the quality of goods when buying. When buying trail mix, check that the nuts don’t look rancid or are even moldy.
Nuts for Your Heart
Many studies reveal: nuts are good for the heart. They reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. They lower the cholesterol level. They provide energy for the heart, because the heart prefers to use fatty acids as an energy source. We should consume around 40g of nuts per day, alternating between the different varieties. Each variety has something special to offer.
Actually, they are legumes. But because of their high fat content we’ll treat them together with the nuts. They are the healthiest ingredient in the Santa Claus bag. Nibbling peanuts can help prevent tooth decay. After eating peanuts, a neutral pH value is measured in the oral cavity. This means that the microorganisms that cause tooth decay cannot find a breeding ground. Some people show though some allergic reactions on consuming high quantities of peanuts.
Hazelnuts overshadow milk and eggs in terms of nutrient density. Hazelnuts give the Christmas biscuits a special touch and strengthen the nerves. The nutrients in nuts can be best absorbed when they are processed into nut butters. Then they are optimally ground. Otherwise you would have to chew them for an extremely long time to achieve the same benefit.
There is a huge walnut tree in many house gardens. Let us take advantage of this wonderful gift of nature. The walnuts you have collected yourself have to be dried very well so that no mold can form. If you nibble a few walnuts every day, you protect your blood vessels and heart, because walnuts have a high content of beta-sitosterol. This hormone-like phytocholesterol also protects the prostate against tissue growth and swelling. It also helps keep the bladder functioning properly. The shape of the nut gives us a hint that it could be good for the brain. And really, it helps to keep your brain sharp as you age.
Pecans are a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which can help control your blood pressure. Pecans contain also Omega 3 and other anti inflammatory properties, helping to control arthritis and many other diseases. They help improve the immune system, protect from cancer and prevent Alzheimer and Parkinson.
Almonds are rich in calcium and phosphorus, also containing significant amounts of magnesium, iron and potassium. These minerals are present in the almond in a good ratio for maintaining nerve functions. Regular consumption of almonds prevents depression and strengthens nerves and muscles.
Cashew nuts are beloved around the world for its rich flavor. In spite of having some saturated fats, like most nuts they contribute to lower cholesterol and protect the heart. Studies suggest that some cashew nuts in your diet can be helpful for your weight control, probably because they help in satiety control. They contain an antioxidant that helps protect the eye from harmful UV rays. Cashew oil is good for the skin and eating cashews or applying the oil on the scalp gives shiny hair.
Those nuts are one of the highest in fat content. They contain though some monounsaturated fatty acids that are not readily available from other food sources. They are the type of fatty acids that can help improve diabetes and metabolic syndrome, some of them may even help to prevent excessive weight gain. Macadamias have one of the highest flavonoid levels amongst the nuts, helping to lower cholesterol. Furthermore, they have a form of Vitamin E that protects against cancer, Alzheimer and Parkinson.
This nut is the top candidate among all foods in terms of selenium levels. Eating just two Brazil nuts usually covers the daily selenium requirement. However, the selenium content can vary greatly depending on the place of origin. Especially in areas with selenium deficiency, it is advisable to regularly incorporate this nut into the diet. It can also help to protect against certain types of cancer.
Besides Walnuts and Pecans, pistachios are among the nuts with the highest antioxidant content. Some of them are important for healthy eyes. Amongst the nuts, they are one of the lowest in calories, which makes it a good option for weight control. Besides that, if you buy them with shells, you will take more time to eat them. That helps you to have a better control over the quantity you eat.
Coconuts are high in saturated fatty acids. In contrast to animal fats, however, these are medium-chain fatty acids that are much easier to digest. Studies have shown that these types of fatty acids can increase the endurance of athletes. They also have antibacterial properties which are beneficial in dental hygiene. They can also boost fat burning, which may help a little bit with weight control.
Each type of nut has its own specific advantages. That is why we would do well to vary our types of nuts from time to time. There are many more species than we were able to cover in this short article. Again: It pays off to crack your nuts!
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Esther Neumann studied Nutrition at the University of Vienna. Since then she served as an author for the health magazine “Leben und Gesundheit” and conducted health lectures in various locations of Austria.
Martin Neumann was trained for Lifestyle Interventions in 1998 at Wildwood Lifestyle Center & Hospital. Since then he has lectured in different parts of the world about a healthy lifestyle and natural remedies. He is the founder of the Abundant Health website.