Nuts are good for health

Nuts offer wholesome health and nutritional benefits when eaten in moderation

NutsSay "goodbye" to pizzas, burgers, samosas, batata wadas and munch on your favourite and the most popular food group, nuts and dry fruits. The irony is: most of us are often scared to eat nuts. Not to worry. Moderation holds the key.

Nuts can form a good replacement for other high calorie junk-foods, which can cause unwanted weight gain. Nuts are also rich in fat. But, what we forget is that the quantity is not always the issue; what is important is the quality. On an average, 85 per cent of fat in nuts is unsaturated [MUFA or PUFA], which helps in lowering blood cholesterol, which is beneficial for the heart.

Besides fat, nuts are:

  • Good sources of vegetable proteins
  • Rich in fibre, if consumed with outer skin
  • Rich in phytonutrients [nutraceuticals] and antioxidants
  • Rich in minerals like selenium, zinc, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and potassium
  • Rich in Vitamin E

Since nuts are relatively low in saturated fat, they have an excellent keeping quality. They form good snacks while travelling, picnics. You may also store some nuts in air-tight containers in your vehicle while travelling. It's a ready-to-eat snack, especially if you are stuck in traffic or caught during rains.

On a day-to-day basis, we are be exposed to a number of stressors like pollution, cigarette smoke, sunlight, alcohol, junk-food, etc. These trigger the release of free radicals in our body which, in turn, cause oxidation of fats. This can lead to heart disorders, stroke, cancer, cataracts etc. Anti-oxidants from our diet like Vitamin A, C, E and minerals like selenium and zinc help us fight against these free radicals, and boost our immunity.

Crack the health nut

As per FDA [Food and Drug Administration, US], the latest claim indicates that 25-40 gm of nuts consumed daily can be beneficial for the heart. However, considering the Indian scenario, the quantity of nuts advisable for vegetarians is approximately 20-25 gm daily [for a vegetarian diet] and 15 gm daily [for a non-vegetarian diet].

Nuts for good health

Almonds

  • Almonds are an excellent source of calcium; hence they are great for your bones
  • They aid in stabilising blood sugars
  • Eating them causes minimal acid formation in the gastric space
  • Almonds can function as statins [cholesterol-lowering drugs]
  • Being rich in phytochemicals [polyphenols], almonds can fight against heart disease, stroke and colon cancer
  • Due to the high fibre content, almonds have the remarkable quality of blocking absorption of fat and carbohydrates. It forms a good food alternative for diabetics, obese individuals and heart patients. However, many Indians have a traditional practice to soak the almonds overnight and peel off the skin before consumption. Removing the skin would not be advisable. It leads to loss of valuable fibre
  • It's also a great option for obese individuals to munch 10-12 almonds on a daily basis, in-between meals. The exclusive fibre content has a strong satiety effect. It leads to immediate satisfaction to hunger, thus, replacing high calorie junk-food consumption
  • A combo of walnuts and almonds with honey works best to boost your memory, for all age groups, more so in children before exams.

Note: Individuals with kidney stones should avoid almonds.

Walnuts

  • Although olives have recently gained a lot of popularity for heart care, it is interesting to note that walnuts too have similar cholesterol-lowering effects, thus preventing arterial blockage
  • They also improve the elasticity of blood vessels, keeping them more flexible
  • Walnuts have the ability to improve insulin sensitivity, making it a good option for diabetics and overweight individuals
  • They are excellent non-fish sources of Omega-3 [ALA, alpha linolenic acid] that act as powerful anti-oxidants. Other cancer-reducing anti-oxidants are also found in walnuts such as ellagic acid, carotenoids and polyphenols
  • Want to control hair fall? Try taking walnuts daily; their rich supply of biotin can improve hair growth.

Pistachios

  • It may come to you as a surprise, but pistachio nuts can also help you prevent heart attacks. Latest research indicates that moderate consumption of pistachios daily can improve your cholesterol profile
  • If your job is getting you stressed out, try a daily intake of pistachios that will provide a daily dose of anti-oxidants.

Cashew nuts

  • Also known as "Nature's Vitamin Pill," cashews make a great snack, especially for athletes, underweight children, and adults
  • Cashews have high magnesium content, which makes it effective in combating colon cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and migraines. It also helps in supporting healthy bones and muscles
  • Rich in copper, cashews help in the utilisation of iron in the body and also produce the hair pigment, melanin, which can help retain black hair
  • If you're a victim of tooth decay, try chewing cashews; they prevent the growth of dental bacteria.

Note: Even though the fat content of cashew is relatively high, its good fat composition can make it ideal for health. However, excess consumption can cause weight gain

Cashews are best avoided by individuals who have kidney stones.

Hazelnuts

  • Help reduce blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They can act as good replacements for cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Due to their rich supply of Vitamin E, they have the strongest cancer-fighting property.

Brazil nuts

  • Although not very popular in India, you would often find them in chocolates and mixed dry fruit jars. Besides being rich in minerals, fibre and proteins, their high selenium content makes them a useful cancer-fighting agent. However, their high saturated fat content could be harmful, when eaten in excess.

Peanuts [groundnuts]

  • Due to their rich supply in vitamin E, manganese and resveratrol, which is a phenolic anti-oxidant similar to wine, peanuts can prevent stroke and colon cancer.

Note: Pregnant women should preferably avoid peanuts, as it could trigger allergic reactions. Another point of concern with peanuts is the fungus growth [Aspergillus flavus] that appears as black dots inside them. The fungus contains toxins that can cause cancer; it can also affect your memory. It is best avoided by individuals having problems like kidney stones, Wilson's disease [a genetic disorder], thyroid and gall bladder problems.

Dried apricot

  • It is known as "Fruit with a fighting power"
  • Due to its extraordinary supply of anti-oxidants,it helps in boosting immunity; it is also useful for good eyesight, hair and skin. It's often used in commercial face scrub products.

Raisins

  • Due to the presence of anti-oxidant [catechin], they aid in lowering blood cholesterol and prevents blood clot formation.
  • They have special acids that inhibit the growth of bacteria, delaying tooth decay
  • Act as colon cleansers
  • Excellent fat-free snack for pregnant and lactating women, anaemics as well as athletes. Raisins provide a rich supply of calories, carbohydrates, fibre and iron for athletes, prior to tournament and improve endurance levels.

Dried dates

  • Rich source of iron, advisable for pregnant and lactating women, growing children and anaemics.
  • Act as a natural laxative.
  • Commonly found as a part of a daily diet in Arabic countries as it is believed to relieve cough, cleanse the stomach and intestines, regulate urination and enhance fertility.

Note: Excessive intake can trigger migraine headaches, weight gain, and dental caries.

Best in combination

A combination of nuts can definitely be a boon to your health. This could be consumed on a daily basis. However, the problem with most of us is that the minute we hear the health claims of a particular food we tend to binge on it in excess quantities. Excess of dry fruits and nuts can definitely trigger weight gain. You must also remember that sometimes the form in which we consume can also reverse its health benefits. Preferably, dry fruits should be consumed in their dry- roasted, unsalted and unsweetened form.

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Payal Ahuja
Payal Ahuja is a Mumbai-based dietician and consultant. She conducts workshops on lifestyle management and weight management programmes on TV. Ahuja is also IPC-certified auditor for ISO-9001:2000, and author of the book, Combating Childhood Obesity.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Mam/Sir,
    I am rashmi,
    I am 26yr age and vegetarian,
    From last 4 months I have taken weight loss program for one year in gym.
    I started taking dry fruits and sprouted seeds from last 15 days, but I get Pitta (in Kannada)
    Don’t know for what its coming is it bec first time I am having all these things are bec off heavy protein content in that .

    Please suggest me whether I can have dry fruits and sprouted seeds on daily basis and if yes how much and when , what end all I need have

    Presently I am having all grains and wall nut and badam
    Sorry please lengthy mail but I also want to know dry fruits and sprouted seeds can also be taken by elderly people that is my parents with age group of 45-60 and if yes how much and when , what end all I need have
    Thanks and regards
    rashmi

  2. Peanuts are definitely good for health but it depends on your consumption quantity and it’s a substitute food with fibre. But it also contain saturated fatty acid which is not good for health!

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