Nuts can be a great addition to a healthy diet. They do have a fair amount of fat, but it's mostly unsaturated, the healthy kind that's good for your heart. Nuts are also high in protein and fiber, which both have many health benefits including helping you stay full longer so you can avoid less healthy snacking.
Many nuts are high in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant, and other nutrients like magnesium.
Here are just a few of the health benefits associated with popular nut varieties. Take a look to see what your favorites have to offer and consider expanding your nutty horizons.
Walnuts are an excellent source of ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that can help decrease the risk of heart disease. Eating them routinely can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) (Banel DK1, 2009).
The ALA in walnuts can also help reduce inflammation in the body, and that's good for overall health and the reduction of many illnesses.
Almonds may also be able to improve your cholesterol profile, boosting the good HDL type and decreasing the bad LDL type (Jenkins DJ1, 2002).
Note: The health benefits of the nuts listed here assume they are minimally or not processed. When nuts have coatings, additives, or are processed into another form, their health profile will be different.
Pistachios are quite high in fiber, which is good for your digestion. It also helps you feel full longer. Eating two to three ounces of pistachios every day might help increase HDL, which is the good type of cholesterol that can lower the risk of heart disease (Sheridan MJ1, 2007).
When you eat pistachios with a meal that's high in carbs, they may act to mitigate the sharp rise in blood sugar that usually occurs (Kendall CW1, 2011). That's a good thing and might even help lower the risk of diabetes.
Macadamia nuts are quite high in monounsaturated fat, which is the good kind of fat that is known to have significant heart health benefits.
One study found that people who ate a macadamia-based diet for a while experienced lower cholesterol levels similar to those achieved by people on a moderately low-fat diet when compared to people eating a typical American diet (Curb JD1, 2000). That means that a diet rich in macadamia nuts might have similar heart health benefits as a low-fat diet.
How to Increase Nuts in Your Diet
There are lots of ways to get more nuts into your diet. Here are some ideas:
- Have a small handful with fruit as an afternoon snack.
- Crunch up some nuts and add them to low or non-fat yogurt with fruit for a healthy parfait.
- Add some chopped nuts to your cereal or oatmeal.
- Nuts add great crunch and flavor to salads.
- Add slivered almonds to your vegetables.
- Banel DK1, H. F. (2009, July). Effects of walnut consumption on blood lipids and other cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Retrieved from pubmed.gov.
- Curb JD1, W. G. (2000, April 24). Serum lipid effects of a high-monounsaturated fat diet based on macadamia nuts. Retrieved from pubmed.gov.
- Jenkins DJ1, K. C. (2002, Sept. 10). Dose response of almonds on coronary heart disease risk factors: blood lipids, oxidized low-density lipoproteins, lipoprotein(a), homocysteine, and pulmonary nitric oxide: a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Retrieved from pubmed.gov.
- Kendall CW1, J. A. (2011, June). The impact of pistachio intake alone or in combination with high-carbohydrate foods on post-prandial glycemia. Retrieved from pubmed.gov.
- Liu Z1, L. X. (2014, April). Prebiotic effects of almonds and almond skins on intestinal microbiota in healthy adult humans. Retrieved from pubmed.gov.
- Sheridan MJ1, C. J. (2007, April). Pistachio nut consumption and serum lipid levels. Retrieved from pubmed.gov.
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