Here’s the telegram: nuts can help you lose weight, reduce cholesterol, manage diabetes and blood sugar levels, prevent heart disease and macular degeneration, stroke and add significantly to overall health.
These facts are supported by a variety of studies done by a number of organizations from the Mayo Clinic to the Harvard Medical School.
However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind before you start pounding down the nuts.
For one, buy the unsalted varieties. Salt causes water retention and excess sodium can lead to edema and a rise in blood pressure.
They also tend to be high in calories so manage your intake and avoid other snacks that provide little or no nutritional benefit that could add to your daily caloric intake.
Finally, be mindful of the fact that some nuts are very good for you while others have minimal benefits.
With that in mind, here are the 6 nuts that provide the most significant health benefits. To varying degrees they all provide protein, dietary fiber, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, magnesium, copper, folic acid and unsaturated (good) fats.
1. Pecans. Number one for a reason. According to the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, “Pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity.” Nutrition Research states that “Adding just a handful of pecans to your diet each day may help inhibit unwanted oxidation of blood lipids, thus helping prevent coronary heart disease. According to the Journal of Nutrition, pecans lowered total cholesterol by 11.3% and LDL cholesterol by 16.5% when incorporated into a diet. They provide more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and are a high quality source of protein, and fiber.
2. Almonds. Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats – the good fats. They are cholesterol free and a good source of Vitamin E with 35% of the daily value in a one ounce serving. They are also high in protein, calcium, niacin, magnesium and potassium while low in sugars. In a study published in Metabolism almonds lessen blood sugar after a meal.
3. Walnuts. Walnuts are unique due to the fact that they are the only nuts to carry a significant amount of alpha-linolenic acid. (ALA) This is an Omega-3 fatty acid and a one ounce serving provides 100% of the daily recommended value. In a Yale University study, walnuts improved blood-flow in patients with Type-A Diabetes. They are high in magnesium, phosphorous and Melatonin, and proven to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
4. Hazelnuts. Hazelnuts are high in something called PAC’s. They are antioxidants that are 20 times more potent than Vitamin C and 50 times more potent than Vitamin E based on a study done by the Journal of Nutrition. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin E, protein, fiber, folates, and blood pressure lowering minerals like calcium, magnesium and potassium. In fact, they’ll even reduce LDL cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol according to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
5. Pistachios. Everyone loves pistachios and for good reason. They are high in protein, fiber and the only nut to possess significant amounts (464 mg) of Gallic Acid Equivalents (GAE) which offers significant antioxidant properties and cholesterol lowering properties. The only nut to contain significant amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin which has been associated with a reduced risk of macular degeneration. Pistachios have the highest fiber content equal to oatmeal, the highest amounts of protein and are an excellent source of manganese, Vitamin B6 and copper. According to a study from Harran University Turkey, pistachios also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.
6. Peanuts. Yup. Good old peanuts are good for you. But once again, we’re talking about the unsalted variety. Peanuts are the highest in folates, panthotheme, niacin, and many amino acids. They are also very high in potassium, magnesium, fiber, zinc, thiamin, and Vitamin E with good amounts of selenium, iron, calcium and Vitamin B6. Harvard researchers believe that it’s easier to lose weight with peanuts incorporated into a diet rather than a pure, low-fat diet.
As a general rule, most nuts provide surprising and positive health benefits. Some like Macadamia nuts are very high in calories with fewer nutrients, but for the most part these top 6 can easily become a regular part of a healthy diet. Try them as a snack or top a main dish, side-dish, salad or dessert. Remember to purchase the unsalted varieties and start to enjoy the benefits of an often misunderstood category of food.