Nuts are purported to contribute to a myriad of health benefits when consumed as part of a balanced diet. Though this wasn’t always the case!
The fear of fat from decades past permeated dietary advice, and swept up nut consumption as something to limit.
But now we know better. And it seems that in addition to reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, other chronic diseases, and even early death, a daily handful of nuts could reduce systemic inflammation, boosting health overall!1-4
Our food and inflammation
Diet and inflammation are intrinsically linked. And whilst an inflammatory response is a protective one by the body’s immune system, we don’t want this defense to spiral out of control!
Therefore, balancing some stuff that causes inflammation with some stuff that helps moderate that response may be a good idea.
And nuts could offer some balance.
Another take from the epic Nurses Health Study sought to evaluate correlation of nut consumption with inflammatory markers.4
Analysing the diet of 5,013 women and men, regular nut consumption – defined as 30g or 1 ounce at least 5 times per week – was associated with lower inflammatory biomarkers overall. Cool!
Researchers went a step further to compare consumption of nuts in place of other foods. Eating nuts instead of foods like heavily processed meats and refined grains showed even greater health benefit, with lower systemic inflammatory markers IL-6 and C-reactive protein. Boom!
Getting 30-50g of nuts (or 100% nut butter) is easy to do, equating to about a handful, or 15-20 almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or macadamia nuts; and about 9 walnuts. Peanuts can be included too, as they have similar nutritional qualities, but are technically a legume!
And it will be worth your while, as these puppies are rammed with goodness!
Nuts are great sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids; those fats associated with the benefits of the Mediterranean diet.
Not only do good fats like this leave you feeling fuller for longer, they are a source of energy and have little impact on blood glucose levels.
Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia and pecans top the list for monounsaturated fat concentration, thought to be cardioprotective and helping reduce total serum lipid profiles, including LDL and triglyceride levels.5-7
Walnuts supply omega-3 fatty acids, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient that loves to help your brain!
A fantastic source of protein, nuts can support energy and cognition, and like the fats mentioned above, help with feeling fuller longer.
Nuts are also a good source of the amino acid arginine, which acts as a precursor to nitric oxide, the molecule that induces blood vessel dilation, allowing blood to flow free and easy, reducing blood pressure.10
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin E, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron and selenium are just a few of the vitamins and minerals a nut can offer.
Nuts also supply a good chunk of fibre, phytosterols, and antioxidants, essentially kicking ass in the whole food health stakes!7
Tuck into your nuts
Nuts can easily be added to any meal – sweet or savoury – for extra texture and crunch, or eaten simply as a snack. You can substitute flour for an almond or hazelnut meal in cakes and crackers, or blend up into dips or sweet treats like our nutty banana bread balls!
For more inspiration, check out the pile of recipes incorporating the magic of nuts in our books and e-books.
Finally, when tucking into your nuts, try and go for raw, activated or dry roasted preparations. Avoid those gunked up with added refined oils, sugars and salt. Nuts don’t need ‘em, and neither to do we!
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- Gopinath, B, Flood, V, Burlutksy, G, & Mitchell, P 2015, ‘Consumption of nuts and risk of total and cause-specific mortality over 15 years’,Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, vol. 25, pp. 1125-1131.
- Jiang R Manson, JE Stampfer, MJ Liu, S Willett, WC & Hu, FB 2002, ‘Nut and peanut butter consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women’, JAMA, 288, no. 20, pp. 2554-2560.
- Ros, E 2010, ‘Health Benefits of Nut Consumption’, Nutrients, no. 7, p. 652.
- Yu, Z, Malik, VS, Keum, N, Hu, FB, Giovannucci, EL, Stampfer, MJ, Willett, WC, Fuchs, CS, & Bao, Y 2016, ‘Associations between nut consumption and inflammatory biomarkers’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, [Epub ahead of print].
- Curb, JD, Wergowske, G, Dobbs, JC, Abbott, RD, & Huang, B 2000, ‘Serum lipid effects of a high-monounsaturated fat diet based on macadamia nuts’, Archives Of Internal Medicine, vol. 160, no. 8, pp. 1154-1158.
- Kris-Etherton, PM, Pearson, TA, Wan, Y, Hargrove, RL, Moriarty, K, Fishell, V, & Etherton, TD 1999, ‘High-monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 70, no. 6, pp. 1009-1015
- Linus Pauling Institute 2009, ‘Nuts’, Oregon State University, viewed 3 August 2016, <http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/nuts>
- Bloomfield HE, Koeller E, Greer N, MacDonald R, Kane R, Wilt TJ. 2016, ‘Effects on Health Outcomes of a Mediterranean Diet With No Restriction on Fat Intake: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis’. Ann Intern Med, [Epub ahead of print 19 July 2016]
- Imamura F, Micha R, Wu JHY, de Oliveira Otto MC, Otite FO, Abioye AI, et al. 2016, ‘Effects of Saturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate on Glucose-Insulin Homeostasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomised Controlled Feeding Trials’,PLoS Medicine, vol 13, no. 7.
- Gropper, S & Smith, J 2013, Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th edn, Wadsworth Cengage Learning, Belmont, CA