Nutritious Nuts

By Allison Hammett

Most people either love or hate tree nuts such as pecans, walnuts, cashews or almonds. We really enjoy them at our house and primarily eat them as a healthy, afternoon snack. There are many different kinds of nuts, and they all contain similar benefits to a person’s health.  When most people think of nuts, the first thing that comes to mind is fat. While it is true tree nuts contain fats, they are primarily mono saturated fats, also known as good fat. Instead of causing you to gain weight, eating nuts will actually help you lose weight and keep it off! The next thing that might come to mind  when thinking about  tree nuts is protein, and nuts do provide an excellent source of protein in a one’s diet. They actually contain so much protein they are considered a meat serving on the food pyramid.

Some of the lesser known contents of tree nuts are also the most beneficial. Most tree nuts contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, folic acid, potassium, and manganese.  They also contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, and vitamin E. They contain no cholesterol. It’s quite a list, and while each type of tree nut contains different ratios of these vitamins and minerals, all nuts contain a high concentration of health giving benefits. Some nuts are known for certain benefits. For example, almonds have a high amount of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E. Approximately one ounce of almonds contains the same amount of calcium as a quarter cup of milk. Pecans are known for containing more antioxidants than other nuts, and cashews contain certain chemicals that may prevent tooth decay and acne. Walnuts are unusual in that they are a source of Omega 3’s, which have abounding benefits. Walnuts also contain an interesting compound called ellagic acid. This acid is supposed to protect healthy cells within the body, but amazingly detoxifies cancer-causing substances and may  prevent cancer cell growth.

In addition to the benefits already mentioned, adding nuts to your  daily diet will help you to maintain a healthy heart, healthy veins, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, control your weight,  boost your immune system, and lower your risk of developing diabetes. Not to mention they are really yummy! Tree nuts are very easy to add into the food you eat.  Aside from eating them alone as a snack, many enjoy nuts in stir fry or other savory dishes. They can easily be sprinkled on salads, oatmeal, or yogurt. Of course, tree nuts are often and deliciously used in desserts. You can also purchase or make your own nut butters; almond butter, cashew butter and macadamia nut butter are all delicious and offer a nice variety from peanut butter.

There is some precaution when purchasing nuts, however. Make sure you read the labels when purchasing flavored nuts, as they often include large amounts of sugar, monosodium glutamate, salt and other unnecessary additives. Try purchasing unsalted, roasted nuts and enjoying the taste of the nuts and not the flavorings. Raw would be even better as nuts are often roasted with an unhealthy oil, and the cooking process may lower the benefits.  There are many other kinds of nuts available aside from the ones mentioned above. Hazelnuts, Brazilian nuts, macadamia nuts and pistachios are a just a few you can try. Whatever your preferred tree nut is, I hope you will enjoy a healthy snack by including them in your healthy eating!


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