They taste great and make a handy and satisfying snack – plus they’re packed with nutritional goodness. We find out here why you should be going nuts for nuts.
A small handful can deliver protein, fibre, healthy fats, and essential vitamins and minerals, so it’s no surprise they’ve been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, weight control, and even a lower cancer risk. What are you waiting for?
Benefits of Nuts And Nutritional Values
KING OF THE KERNELS
Walnuts have a high ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) content, and a diet high in ALA has been shown to reduce the risk of death from sudden cardiac arrest by close to ,50 per cent. Eating just four walnuts a day can signifi cantly raise blood levels of heart-healthy ALA.
> 30g / 10 whole walnuts: energy 871kJ; total fat 20.8g (sat fat 1.3g); carbohydrate 0.9g; protein 4.3g; fibre 1.9g.
Technically not a nut but the seed of the almond fruit, one of the healthiest aspects of almonds appears to be their skins, as they are rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids and phenolic acids, which play a signifi cant role in protecting our health. A 30g serving of almonds has a similar amount of antioxidants as a
cup of steamed broccoli or green tea.
> 30g / 20 almonds: energy 751kJ; total fat 16.4g (sat fat 1.1g); carbohydrate 1.4g; protein 5.9g; fibre 2.6g.
Hazelnuts are a rich source of folate, an important nutrient for expectant mothers, which helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects in newborns. They’re also rich in alphatocopherol, a type of vitamin E that may reduce our risk of bladder cancer by 50 per cent.
> 30g/20 hazelnuts: energy 807kJ; total fat 18.4g (sat fat 0.8g); carbohydrate 1.5g; protein 4.4g; fibre 3.3g.
Eating a handful of cashews each day provides women with more than 20 per cent of their recommended daily intake of zinc, which is vital for the reproductive and immune systems. Cashews also contain flavanols, which lower the risk of colon cancer by reducing the ability of cancer cells to divide and multiply.
> 30g / 15 cashews: energy 731kJ; total fat 14.8g (sat fat 2.5g); carbohydrate 5g; protein 5.1g; fibre 1.8g.
EAT YOUR GREENS
Antioxidants found in pistachios are excellent for protecting the eyes against harmful diseases, says dietitian Karen Inge. “It’s the green colour of pistachios that is a good source of the carotenoid, lutein – a nutrient really important for eye health,” she says. They also appear to act as a prebiotic in the gut by encouraging the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.
> 30g / 30 pistachio kernels: energy 717kJ; total fat 15.2g (sat fat 1.7g); carbohydrate 2g; protein 5.9g; fibre 2.7g.
THE TOUGH NUT
Brazil nuts are a rich source of the antioxidant selenium that could help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. Be careful though. If you consume more than 30g of this nut per day, you could exceed the recommended daily amount of selenium, and high levels of selenium in the blood can have detrimental effects on your health.
So stick to 10 Brazil nuts or less per day.
> 30g / 10 Brazil nuts (depending on size): energy 866kJ; total fat 20.5 (sat fat 4.4g); carbohydrate 0.7g; protein 4.3g; fibre 2.6g.
CURB YOUR CHOLESTEROL
Macadamia nuts contain the greatest amount of hearthealthy monounsaturated fat (MUFA) per serving compared to other nuts. Regular consumption of the nut could help reduce LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and protect against chronic disease. MUFAs have the added bonus of being an eff ective tool to target stubborn belly fat.
> 30g / 15 macadamias: energy 924kJ; total fat 22.2g (saturated fat 3g ); carbohydrate 2.4g; protein 2.8g; fibre 1.9g.
Pecans are the most antioxidant-rich tree nut and are among the top 15 foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity. Boasting more than 19 vitamins and minerals, pecans assist with heart and skin health, and give your immunity a boost, so enjoy a handful each day.
> 30g / 15 pecan kernels: energy 892kJ; total fat 21.6g (sat fat 1.3g); carbohydrate 1.5g; protein 3.4g; fibre 2.5g.
The Raw Truth
“It’s important to eat nuts raw or dry roasted” says Inge. “They should be unsalted and not coated in chocolate.”
What’s a serve?
According to nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume, the recommended daily intake of nuts is 30g, or roughly a mixed handful. Pack your favourites in small containers to control your portion sizes.
Should nuts be activated?
A fear of phytates – compounds found in some plant foods that can make minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium less available for us to absorb – is behind the trend of soaking and drying nuts. It’s true that soaking will reduce the phytates in nuts and release more nutrients, but unsoaked nuts are still nutritious and can safely be included in a healthy diet. Activated nuts are now available from some health food stores.