Go nuts for health!
By Sharon Palmer, R.D.
Research supports that healthy fats--monounsaturated fat (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA)--actually lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. A body of evidence has accumulated on the health benefits of tree nuts--almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts--which provide an excellent source of MUFAs, PUFAs and other health-protective nutrients.
"It's well established that people who eat nuts on a regular basis have a lower risk of heart disease," says nutrition researcher Joan Sabate, M.D., Dr. P.H., Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Loma Linda University in California. "It is clear that there are many mechanisms by which eating nuts reduce heart disease. They reduce 'bad' LDL cholesterol, contain powerful antioxidants and influence inflammatory parameters. This is well established in clinical trials of different populations and different countries."
Indeed, in a pooled analysis of 25 intervention trials led by Sabate, which was published in a 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, results showed that nut consumption improves blood lipid levels in a dose-related manner, with greater results among people who ate a typical Western diet (high saturated fat, low-fiber) and had high LDL cholesterol levels.
FIGHTING TYPE 2 DIABETES
"Research shows that females who regularly eat nuts in general, and in particular walnuts, have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And a small clinical trial found that nuts incorporated into the diet of diabetics helped control blood cholesterol levels," says Sabate.
A 2011 study in Diabetes Care found that two ounces of nuts daily as a replacement for carbohydrate foods improved both glycemic control and serum lipids in type 2 diabetes. "There is a double effect for diabetes--nuts can improve the metabolism of glucose, and lower cholesterol and inflammatory parameters for heart disease, the leading cause of death in those with type 2 diabetes," says Sabate.
THE BRAIN AND BEYOND
Additional studies have found that nuts may offer benefits for fertility, bone health and cancer protection, but more research needs to occur before we can fully understand nuts' potential in these conditions.
NO WEIGHT WORRIES
"Twenty years ago, we noticed that people who ate nuts on a regular basis were thinner than those who refrained from eating nuts. Subsequent studies have found that including nuts in a diet with the same amount of calories, results in weight loss. If you add nuts on top of your regular diet, it doesn't help, but if you replace some of your calories with nuts, they help with weight maintenance and weight loss," says Sabate.
He explains that some of the calories in nuts are not fully absorbed during mastication and digestion. If you eat a nut oil, you will absorb 100 percent of its calories; 90 percent of the calories for a nut butter and 70 to 80 percent of the calories for a nut.
Results from the PREDIMED study, which included 847 older Mediterranean adults, found that body mass index and waist circumference decreased by 0.78 and 2.1 centimeters, respectively, for each 30-gram (1 ounce) serving of nuts (Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases).
Aim for one handful--about 1.5 ounces--per day of a variety of tree nuts to make the most of their benefits. Sprinkle nuts on salads, vegetables, side dishes, cereals, fruit and yogurt. Stir them into baked goods, such as pancakes and cookies. Let their earthy, delicious flavor--and potent nutrients--shine in your favorite foods every day.
THE NUTRIENT POWER OF NUTS
2. Brazil nuts (6-8 nuts). 190 calories. Protein: 4g; Fat: 19g; Fiber: 2 g (8 percent DV); Thiamin: .2 mg (12 percent DV); Vitamin E: 1.6 mg (8 percent DV); Selenium: 542 mg (774 percent DV); Magnesium: 106 (27 percent DV)
3. Cashews (18 nuts). 160 calories. Protein: 4g; Fat: 13g; Vitamin K: 9.7 mcg (12 percent DV); Iron: 1.7 mg (9 percent DV); Magnesium: 72.8 mg (18 percent DV); Copper: .6 mg (31 percent DV)
4. Hazelnuts (21 nuts). 181 calories. Protein: 4g; Fat: 17g; Fiber: 3g (12 percent DV); Vitamin E: 4.3 mg (21 percent DV); Vitamin B6: .2 mg (9 percent DV); Copper: .5 mg (25 percent DV); Manganese: 1.6 mg (78 percent DV)
5. Macadamia Nuts, (10-12 nuts). 203 calories. Protein: 2g; Fat: 21g; Fiber: 2 mg (8 percent DV); Thiamin: .2 mg (13 percent DV); Magnesium: 33.3 mg (8 percent DV); Manganese: .9 mg (43 percent DV)
6. Pecans. (19 halved). Calories: 199. Protein: 21g; Fiber: 3g ( 12 percent DV); Thiamin: .1 mg (8 percent DV); Magnesium: 37 mg (9 percent DV; Zinc: 1.4 mg (9 percent DV); Manganese: 1.1 mg (55 percent DV)
7. Pine nuts (3 Tbsp). Calories: 190. Protein: 4g; Fat: 19g; Vitamin E: 2.6 mg (13 percent DV); Vitamin K: 15.2 mcg (19 percent DV); Iron: 1.6 mg (9 percent DV); Manganese: 2.5 mg (124 percent DV)
8. Pistachios. (3-1/2 Tbsp.). Calories: 160. Protein: 6g; Fat: 13g; Fiber: 3g (12 percent DV); Thiamin: .2 mg (16 percent DV); Vitamin B6: .4 mg (18 percent DV); Copper: .4 mg (20 percent DV)
9. Walnuts. (14 halves). Calories: 185. Protein: 4g; Fat: 18g; Vitamin B6: .2 mg (8 percent DV); Folate: 27.4 mcg (7 percent DV); Copper: .4 mg (20 percent DV); Manganese: 1 mg (48 percent DV)
(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of
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