Go nuts for nuts
What are the health benefits of nuts?
Are they good for you?
Nuts are nutrient-rich foods that are abundant in plant protein, beneficial fat, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemical compounds. They have been a constituent of mankind’s food since prehistorical times. Due to their diverse nutritional profile, when consumed in appropriate quantities, they have a splendid impact on one’s health. The most popular edible nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, cashews, pecan, macadamias, brazil nuts, and peanuts.
Research studies have linked the consumption of nuts with reduced incidence of diabetes mellitus, heart diseases, and cancer. Nuts are eaten as snacks – roasted, salted or sweetened form. They also occupy an important place in the production of milkshakes, paste for addition in gravies, in making candies, production of oils, sauces, and ice-creams.
Contrary to the myth that nuts cause overweight and obesity, regular consumption of nuts do not increase weight. Although nuts are one of the richest sources of fat, the fatty acid composition of nuts is beneficial as saturated fatty acid content is low (4–16%) and nearly half of the total fat content is made up of unsaturated fat, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Nuts also are a good source of dietary fiber, which ranges from 4 to 11 g per 100 g.
Among the constituents of nuts, essential micronutrients are present in significant amounts. They improve health status when consumed at doses beyond those necessary to prevent deficiency states. Nuts contain sizeable amounts of folate, which is much necessary for normal cellular function. Nuts are also rich sources of antioxidants which help in reducing oxidative stress and help in regenerating damaged tissues. A high amount of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, together with low sodium is associated with protection against bone demineralization, hypertension, insulin resistance.
The two main concerns regarding nut consumption are the possibility of allergies to some people due to the presence of certain amino acids and the second one is potential toxicity through contamination of nuts with mycotoxins, particularly aflatoxins which might cause foodborne illness.
It is better to consume nuts in the whole form with skin rather than processing with salt, sugar, and chemicals. Soaking in water can help in improving the bioavailability of nutrients to the body. Thus, a diet supplemented with one daily serving of nuts can go a long way in reducing cardiovascular events, development of other chronic disorders including diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.