For years, a lot of people have been receiving reminders on going slow on their consumption of nuts. I am one of them as those around me know I am such a nut lover. The concern stems from the understanding that nuts contain calories and fats in such large counts which can altogether negate nuts' health benefits.
However, scientific studies conducted which focused on the way the body utilizes fat showed that, contrary to the apprehension, nuts can actually improve overall nutrition and may help in lowering the risk of heart disease and even cancer.
The term "nut" is generic in that it includes the tree nuts, some seeds, and a number of legumes, all of which contain fat calories in an amount that is more than one-half of the total calorie count. Of course, some nuts may be high in saturated fat. Examples are pine nuts and macadamias.
But many of the other nuts contain fats that, for the most part, are monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated. This means that the fats in these kinds of nuts can make heart health better as they actually lower levels of LDL cholesterol - known as the bad cholesterol because it causes cholesterol to adhere more easily to artery walls, clogging the blood vessels in the process. In fact in one study, it was revealed that consuming nuts three to four times a week can reduce the risk of heart attack significantly.
Various researches came out with conclusions which showed these other specific health benefits of nuts:
- Certain nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can, therefore, help in preventing blood clots and stroke.
- The all-time favorite peanuts (which are actually legumes) contain the antioxidant compound resveratrol - the same one found in red wine which is known to defend against heart disease.
- Most nuts are a good source of protein which provides protection against cavities.
- Sesame seeds are rich in calcium which is necessary for maintaining strong teeth and bones.
- Pumpkin seeds contain iron in large amount which is needed for the production of red blood cells.
- Sunflower seeds provide thiamine which is a known energy enhancer.
- Some nuts are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E which protects against both heart disease and cancer.
- Other nuts are also rich in zinc and magnesium which are needed for cell growth and for regulating blood pressure, respectively.
But nuts do have their downsides, too. For example, nuts are notorious for being latently dangerous food allergens; they can trigger deadly responses in people allergic to them. Nut butters and other nut preparations, on the other hand, are high in saturated fats and trans fats - both of which are known to lower levels of HDL cholesterol (the beneficial cholesterol) and elevate levels of LDL cholesterol simultaneously.