At this time of year squirrels get busy collecting nuts for the winter but have you considered the health benefits of eating nuts yourself? These energy packed gems are bursting with health beneficial properties, especially for our hearts. And excluding those who unfortunately suffer from allergies, there is a nut for everyone - almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia.
There is a huge variety of shape, size and flavour. Don’t forget nut butters and nut oils are also full of goodness once eaten in moderation. So why should we be adding nuts to our diet? Here are some of the many health benefits of eating nuts.
The Health Benefits of Eating Nuts
High In Protein
High energy foods contain a lot of carbohydrates but the protein content of nuts provides a nutritional edge. Protein is essential for building and maintaining strong tissues and muscles.
High In Fibre
Whole nuts contain a lot of carbohydrate in the form of fibre. This helps to maintain good digestive health and provides a slow release energy for the body.
High In fat
The good kinds! Nuts are high in poly unsaturated fats, omega 3 fatty acids and plant sterols. These types of fats, unlike the animal fats found in meats and dairy, promote higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower bad (LDL) cholesterol in our body. This plays an important role in heart health and the avoidance of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also thought to be important for maintaining brain function. Plant sterols are naturally occurring substances and are often added to the likes of margarine spreads to boost cholesterol reducing properties of these products. Nuts provide a delicious alternative source.
Another of the health benefits of eating nuts is their vitamin E content. Vitamin E is found naturally in nuts and is an essential vitamin that's known for its’ antioxidant properties.
While research is ongoing, it is thought that vitamin E may play a beneficial role in the bodies fight against heart disease and diabetes and it is best recommended in the diet in its natural form.
Nuts are a great source of L-Arginine, a nutrient which is thought to play an important part in maintaining the health of blood vessels. There is ongoing research which is looking at its role in diseases such as peripheral vascular disease and heart failure.
Are All Nuts Good?
There is a type of nut to suit every palate - experiment to see which one is your favourite. As with everything moderation is key. Nuts by their nature are so packed with goodness that they are also high in calories. However, unlike the ‘empty’ calories found in processed snacks and confectionary, with nuts you get a lot of ‘bang for your buck’.
The best way to eat nuts is as part of a balanced diet. Swop snacks that are higher in sugars or saturated fats for nuts for example opt for a portion of nuts instead of a bag of crisps, or have toast with nut butter instead of jam.
Take care with portion size: the recommended intake is a handful of nuts or 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter. Avoid additional empty calories by eating them whole or dry roasted and without added salt.
Nut oils such as walnut oil, are also high in omega 3 fatty acids although the fibre of the ‘whole’ nut is lost. They have a delicious, delicate flavour but become bitter with age and heating so they're best bought in small quantities and savoured in salad dressings.
Peanut butter is a popular and nutritious nut butter. But don't be afraid to think beyond peanut butter to almond or cashew if you're looking to reap the many health benefits of eating nuts. They are convenient and versatile and can be a useful addition in baking recipes, increasing protein content and adding flavour. Try adding to flapjacks or with bananas in whole wheat breakfast muffins. Experiment - your heart will thank you for it!
Looking to get a nut fix? Shop our huge range of healthy nuts here!
Checked and updated: 30 July 2021