THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF NUTS – A HEAD TO TOE GUIDE
For a Mind and Body Makeover, It Pays to Go Nuts!
Most of us know that nuts are good for us. But do you know what nuts you should eat to get the exact health benefits you want? What nuts, for example, are best for our memory? What nuts are best for our heart?
In the list below, we outline how eating different nuts can benefit different aspects of our wellbeing and different parts of our body. Have a read through and discover why, when it comes to our health, it pays to go nuts!
- Cashews are rich in zinc and iron. A lack of zinc can cause a dry, flaky scalp, whilst iron helps cells carry oxygen to hair follicles. Too little iron (anemia) is a major cause of hair loss, particularly in women.
- Walnuts are rich in biotin and vitamin E, both of which protect our cells from DNA damage. This is an important consideration for our hair, which is constantly exposed to the sun. Walnuts also possess copper, a mineral that helps maintain a rich and lustrous hair colour.
- All nuts are full of brain-boosting healthy fats.
- Peanuts are high in folate, a mineral that has been identified as essential for brain development and which may also serve to protect against cognitive decline
- Cashews are a good source of magnesium. A study conducted in the journal Neuron has shown that magnesium can help improve memory and may protect against age-related memory loss.
- Nuts rich in Vitamin E (like pecans and almonds) may also help to delay progression of degenerative neurological diseases like Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- Cashews are rich in zinc, which is critical to healthy vision.
- Walnuts, with their high content of omega-3 fatty acids are also great for the eyes. A 2009 study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology is one of many that have provided evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help protect vision and protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Teeth / Bones
- Almonds have more calcium than any other nut, making them great for strengthening teeth and bones. Calcium also helps nourish and support healthy gum tissue.
- Walnuts contain a rich range of ingredients, all of them great for the health of your teeth. They include folacin, magnesium, iron, thiamine, vitamin E, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.
- Walnuts are great for the heart. They have high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Studies have shown that ALA may help with heart arrhythmias and also assist in reducing inflammation in the arteries, as well as lowering levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).
- Pecans are antioxidant-rich. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming pecans can help lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 33 percent.
- Macadamia nuts contain the greatest amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (MUFA) of any nut. MUFA helps not only to lower LDL cholesterol levels but also blood pressure.
- Any nuts high in the antioxidants Vitamin E (hazelnuts, almonds, pecans to name a few) or selenium (brazil nuts) are great for helping maintain healthy skin.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (as found in walnuts) are also important for good skin health. They encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds that can help the skin stay soft and supple and aid in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that many experts believe can help protect against various forms of cancer, including prostate, bone and breast cancer. Selenium also assists with the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, and helps fight other diseases because of its ability to boost the immune system. Be careful though! High levels of selenium can be harmful, so to get the best out of brazil nuts, it is best to eat them in moderation (2-3 nuts taken 4 times a week is suggested as a maximum).
- Pecans are loaded with beta-sitosterol, a plant steroid that might help relieve symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate.
- Clinical trials run by St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto have shown that two servings of tree nuts per day (each serving being 30 grams) can help lower and stabilize blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
- When eaten in moderation, all nuts can help with weight management – they have a unique mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fibre which will help you feel full and suppress your appetite. Of course, to help with weight loss, nuts should be eaten raw or dry roasted, rather than roasted in oil.
- A study conducted by the ‘International Journal of Obesity’ measured weight loss in two groups following low-calorie diets. Interestingly, the group who ate almonds as part of their weight loss plans lost more weight than those who ate more complex carbohydrates.
- All nuts are nutrient dense and therefore may provide benefits for overall joint health.
- Almonds are especially high in dietary fiber. Studies conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Centre indicate that a high-fiber diet can lower levels of chronic inflammation in our joints. Almonds also contain other anti-inflammatory nutrients including vitamin E, vitamin B-6, and magnesium.
- Macadamia nuts and hazelnuts are high in monounsaturated fats (MUFA). Individuals who get most of their fats from MUFAs may have a lower risk for inflammatory diseases.
- Walnuts are the richest of all nuts in omega-3 fatty acids, which also help fight inflammations.
Toenails (and fingernails):
- The omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts provide the nutrients needed to help your nails stay strong and prevent splitting.
- Almonds and cashews are both great sources of protein, which is essential for maintaining strong, healthy nails.
This is some list of benefits, right? Enough, maybe, to turn us all into health nuts (sorry... pun intended... we couldn’t help ourselves!).
If anything, the difficulty comes in picking which nuts to eat.
In the end, unless you’re looking for a very particular benefit, the best answer is to eat a combination of nuts in moderation. Instead of eating just one kind of nut, or having a handful of cashews on Monday, a handful of walnuts on Tuesday, and a handful of almonds on Wednesday, why not eat a mix daily (say, 2-3 of each)?
Do that, and the improvements you might make to your overall levels of wellbeing will likely be quite... nuts.