By Cristen B. Lindsay, RD, CNSC
Including nuts in your daily diet is a great way to gain from their health benefits. Nuts are convenient, portable, and delicious. They are nutrient-dense and can be expensive, but a little bit goes a long way. Most research suggests as little as one ounce of nuts is enough to obtain the benefits.
Nuts are healthy sources of fats, protein, and fiber. Fifteen assorted nuts including walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, and hazelnuts contain 190 calories, 5 grams of protein, and 3 grams of dietary fiber. Also, all nuts contain antioxidants – small nutrients that fight inflammation and prevent chronic disease – and vitamins and minerals that improve health at every level.
Nuts and Brain Health
Nuts like walnuts have high amounts of DHA, which is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid that protects your brain cells. DHA improves cognitive performance, improved thinking, reasoning, and memory. It’s also been linked to the prevention of Alzheimer's disease. Almonds and hazelnuts are the highest in vitamin E, which have nutrients that help keep your brain healthy and your memory strong. Vitamin E is not just a vitamin but also acts as an antioxidant in your body.
Nuts and Heart Health
Many studies have shown that people who regularly consume nuts have fewer heart attacks than people who rarely eat them. Eating just one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Consuming walnuts has been linked to lower levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels, prevention of blood clots, and significant drops in resting blood pressure.
Nuts also contain a protein called Arginine, which is needed to create a molecule called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes contracted blood vessels and eases blood flow in your body.
Nuts contain soluble fiber, which can lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Pistachios help lower blood pressure, even in stressful situations.
Reducing Inflammation and Prevention of Early Aging
Long-term inflammation within the body is caused by stress, poor diet, and many other environmental factors. Eating nutritious foods helps reduce inflammation, and nuts are significant sources of anti-inflammatory properties.
Nuts are full of phytonutrients and vitamins that act as antioxidants and fight free-radicals. Free-radicals are directly linked to premature aging. The healthy fats and vitamin E in nuts are beneficial for the skin and can keep premature aging away.
How to Add Nuts to Your Diet
To gain these health benefits of nuts, you can easily add them to your diet by topping slivered almonds or walnuts on to salads. Almonds and blueberries create a perfect topping for oatmeal or cold cereal.
You can also create a trail mix with walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and your favorite dried fruit for a flavorful and healthy snack. Another way to gain the health benefits nuts have to offer is to use walnut oil when making salad dressings, tossing pasta, or when flavoring fish.
No matter how you get them into your diet, your body and mind will reap amazing benefits from the astounding nutrition nuts offer.