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Health Benefits of Nuts

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Nuts are nutritional power house: They include tree nuts such as walnut, almond, hazelnut, pecan nuts, cashew, pistachio, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and Brazil nuts and also peanut (although it is a legume): These nuts are wholesome food and filling snacks that have numerous health benefits ranging from preventing dementia and depression to improving heart health.

Health Benefits of Nuts

Stop weight gain with tree nuts and peanut: Numerous studies have shown that tree nuts and peanut eaten in moderation are not associated with higher risk of weight gain. Rather, researches show that 30 to 50 grams per day of these nuts can actually release satiety hormones because of their high fiber content and help control appetite. However, be careful with these nuts since allergic reactions to tree nuts and peanut can be fatal or near-fatal.

Replace carbohydrates with nuts in the diabetes diet: Replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids) to preserve HDL cholesterol is one of the therapeutic strategies for diabetes treatment. Nuts (except chestnut) have large quantities of fat (49 to 74 percent total fat) but mostly monounsaturated (MUFA) or polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats. A study published in the Diabetes Care journal recommends consuming 2 ounces (56g) of mixed nuts daily as a replacement for carbohydrate foods to improve glycemic control and serum lipids in type-2 diabetes. 

Eat nuts to improve your heart health: Nuts are very rich sources of heart healthy nutrients.For example, 100g of almonds contain 49 percent DV (daily value), vitamin E – 131 percent DV, approximately 2500mg of L-arginine amino acid. Vitamin E helps stop plaque development in the arteries. Plaque leads to chest pain, coronary artery disease, or heart attack. Similarly, L-arginine improves artery wall making them less prone to blood clots and reduces atherosclerosis. Fiber helps lower cholesterol levels in the body. Again low sodium and high potassium levels in nuts help maintain healthy blood pressure.

Reduce risk of gallstones with nuts: Nuts are rich sources of unsaturated fats and fiber and these nutrients have protective effects against development of gallstones. For example, data from Nurses’ Health Study reveals that women who consume nuts five or more times a week are at 25 percent reduced risk of needing gall bladder surgery. Another study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that men who ate nuts frequently had 30 percent lower risk of developing gallstone disease as compared with those who did not eat nuts at all. 

Prevent certain cancers by consuming nuts: Being rich in antioxidants and anti-carcinogenic properties such as tocopherols (viz. vitamin E), folic acids, selenium, magnesium and phytochemicals, nuts are considered to have protective effect against cancers, especially in women. Studies have shown a significant association between higher intake of nuts and lower probability of colorectal and colon cancer in women. Similarly, a Mediterranean study in Greek women supported the role of a diet rich in nuts in reducing the risk of endometrial cancer. However, most scientists think that studies in cancer benefits are insufficient and more studies are required to clarify the effects of nuts on different types of cancer.

Protect your eyes by eating nuts: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition in which the macula (a part of retina) deteriorates leading to vision loss and blindness. A Harvard study found that nuts reduced the risk of progression of the early and intermediate stages of AMD to advanced AMD after the age of 60. The vitamin E (tocopherol) in the nuts actually plays an important role in preventing macular degeneration and cataract. Nutritionists recommend taking up to 400 IU of vitamin E every day along with other antioxidants, especially selenium. This is because selenium helps cells to absorb the vitamin E.
 
Consume nuts to delay brain ageing: Studies have noted a correlation between dietary intake of vitamin E (found so abundantly in nuts) and a decreased incidence of diseases of brain function suggesting that whole food sources of vitamin E and other antioxidants may benefit brain health and delay their ageing. Omega-3 (DHA or Docosahexaenoic acid) is an excellent brain food that helps mental clarity and protects from memory loss and dementia. And this fatty acid is plentiful in walnuts with 94.5 percent DV. 

Beat the blues with just one ounce of nuts a day: Deficiency of serotonin is known to cause low mood, depression, lack of will power, and poor appetite control. Nuts are rich in precursors of serotonin, that is, folate, tryptophan and vitamin B6. Tryptophan converts into 5-HTP which then readily converts into serotonin. So, snacking on an ounce of walnut or almond can be a perfect healthy way to boost mood.

Avoid risk of goiter through selenium in nuts: Selenium, a mineral required in minute quantity by the body, combines with proteins to make selenoproteins, which are important antioxidant enzymes that help regulate thyroid function and play a role in immune system. A German study on European women found that low selenium status is associated with risk of goiter and multiple nodules in them. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Composition Database, selenium content of dried, unblanched Brazil nuts is 544mcg, constituting 777 percent DV per ounce. However, they advise eating Brazil nuts ‘only occasionally because of their very high selenium content’.

Use nuts as snacks or in desserts: Eat them spiced up or as a spread. Savor them over a salad topped with fresh fruits and cheese. Possibilities are endless. So, start popping these health promoting and diet friendly nuts into your mouth to keep yourself healthy and hearty!

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