Eat Nuts Everyday to Boost Your Health
If you’re looking to make your diet healthier, nuts are the perfect addition. This is because not only are they rich in health-promoting nutrients, which can help to meet your vitamin and mineral needs, but eating nuts regularly can also help you to lose weight and keep your heart in good shape. The bonus with nuts is that they taste great and they are very versatile. Whether you enjoy nuts as a snack, add them to your breakfast cereal or serve them as a protein source in a salad or stir fry, it’s very easy to make nuts a regular addition to your daily diet.
A source of calcium
As you’re probably well aware, getting enough calcium is essential to support your bone strength. If you dislike dairy produce or you avoid milk, yogurt and cheese for another reason, you may struggle to meet your daily calcium requirements without some careful planning to your diet. Although calcium supplements are available, these are not without their side-effects, so it’s best to get enough calcium from alternative dietary sources first1. Nuts are another possible choice for calcium in your diet and almonds are particularly rich in calcium2. While even almonds offer less calcium than dairy items, including these nuts alongside other sources of calcium, such as pulses, green leafy vegetables and tofu, you should be able to get all the calcium you need, even when following an exclusively vegan diet.
Boosting your iron intake
Dietary iron helps to keep your red blood cells healthy, preventing anemia, which can otherwise leave you feeling exhausted, breathless and interfere with your brain function. As with calcium, if you follow a strict vegetarian diet, you may find it more difficult to get enough iron each day. However, including nuts daily is one good way to top up your iron intake. For instance, a 1.5oz serving of nuts, similar to the amount that you may have as a snack, provides around a fifth of your daily iron needs3. The only thing you need to remember though is that like other non-meat iron sources, you need to include a source of vitamin C when you eat nuts to help your body better absorb the iron from them4. Some sliced fruit with a nutty snack, a glass of orange juice with your muesli or leafy greens with a main meal containing nuts are all easy ways to incorporate vitamin C. This is a far better approach than automatically turning to iron supplements to meet your needs, though if blood tests show you are already anemic, you will probably need supplements5.
Controlling your body weight
Some people avoid nuts believing that nuts are fattening due to their high fat content. While it’s true that nuts are high in healthy fats, research shows that people who eat nuts regularly are generally leaner6. Nuts may help you to control your weight because they are rich in both fiber and protein, two nutrients that help you to feel full. This makes nuts a filling addition to a meal or a satisfying snack. All nuts are high in fiber, but peanuts, almonds and filberts are among those richest in protein. However, you still need to watch your portion sizes when it comes to nuts, as their high calorie content means that if they are eaten in excess they could lead to weight gain. If you stick to a 1.5oz serving at a time, this shouldn’t be an issue though.
Keeping your heart healthy
Although you usually hear that diets rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fish are among those best for your heart, nuts are another component of cardio-protective diets. It’s a particularly good idea to include walnuts in your diet if you are vegetarian, as these are one of the foods that give most omega-3 fatty acids after fish7. Omega-3s protect your heart by helping to control your blood pressure, blood clotting, blood fats and your heart’s rhythm. However, walnuts aren’t the only type of nut that is good for your heart. For instance, all nuts contain magnesium, one of the minerals that help to regulate your blood pressure8. Almonds are also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to protect your blood vessels from damage. Additionally, peanuts are rich in folate, one of the B vitamins which lower levels of homocysteine, a substance linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Even if walnuts, almonds and peanuts aren’t your favorite nuts, including others in your diet each day is still likely beneficial for heart health. With a range of nuts to choose from you’re unlikely to tire of including nuts in your daily diet, but try to avoid salted varieties if your main aim is to promote the health of your heart, as the sodium in these may put up your blood pressure. Apart from this you’re free to eat whatever nuts you choose. What could be an easier way to enhance your health?
1 “Calcium,” Dr Weil, accessed May 6 2014
2 “Meeting calcium recommendations on a vegan diet,” American Dietetic Association, accessed May 6 2014
3 Janet King et al, “Tree nuts and peanuts as components of a healthy diet,” The Journal of Nutrition, 138(2008):1763S, accessed May 6 2014
4 “Anemia,” University of Maryland Medical Center, accessed May 6 2014
5 “Iron supplement,” Mayo Clinic, accessed May 6 2014
6 “Heart health –eating nuts,” Yale School of Medicine, accessed May 6 2014
7 “Getting enough nutrients from a plant-based diet,” KwikMed, accessed May 6 2014
8 “They’re good for us, but which nut is the best?” Harvard Medical School, accessed May 6 2014
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One of the most unexpected nutritional discoveries of the 1990s was that the frequent eating of nuts appears to dramatically improve health. Four other large studies have since confirmed the benefits to the heart of nut eating. In addition to the cardiac benefits of consuming nuts, the risks of having a stroke, of developing type 2 diabetes, of developing dementia, of advanced macular degeneration and of gallstones have all been found to be lowered by eating nuts. Calculations suggest that daily nut eaters gain an extra five to six years of life free of coronary disease and that regular nut eating appears to increase longevity by about 2 years. (Vegan.org)