Nuts used to have a bad reputation for being high calorie and high fat, therefore avoided to prevent gaining weight. These days, however, nuts have returned to the spotlight for being the nutrition powerhouses. Numerous studies have indicated that nuts have many health benefits and do not contribute to weight gain. (Source) As a vegetarian, I love nuts because they are an easy way to add a little more protein to my diet. Plus, I am all about incorporating healthy fats and nuts are loaded with them! They can also help to lower LDL-cholesterol. At breakfast, I may sprinkle some walnuts on my oats, snack on almonds in afternoon, or spread some peanut butter on an apple to include in my lunch. (Peanuts are technically a legume, but they have a very similar nutrient profile to nuts so I include them here.) Let’s take a quick look at just why nuts are so good for you…
1. High in fiber: A serving of almonds can have up to 3.5 grams of fiber. Fiber is important for gut health as well as lowering cholesterol.
2. High in protein: Just 1/4 cup of walnuts had 5 grams of protein and almonds 7 grams. The protein combined with fat contributes to nuts high satiety factor.
3. High in healthy fats: Nuts are chock full of fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (in almonds, peanuts) which help lower LDL-cholesterol or omega 3 fatty acids (in walnuts), known to help prevent inflammation.
4. Protect against heart disease: Numerous studies have linked an average of a 35% lower risk for heart disease in people who eat nuts at least once/week. This is likely due to the fact that nuts can have a positive influence on many CHD risk factors such as high blood pressure, LDL vs HDL cholesterol, and inflammation.(Source)
5. High in Antioxidants: These compounds (such as Vitamin E, folic acid, and phytochemicals) are responsible for fighting free radicals in the body, preventing the development of cancer. Recent studies have found links between nut consumption and a reduction in colorectal and endometrial cancer. (Source)
6. Potential to reduce risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Several large cohort studies with women have shown a lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The PREDIMED trial which encouraged people to consume 30 grams of nuts (or ~20 almonds or 15 cashews) daily saw an 11% reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes. (Source + Source)
7. High in essential vitamins, minerals, and plant sterols : Pistachios, for example are high in potassium. All nuts (and peanuts) are usually full of magnesium, zinc, niacin, and more! Plant sterols are naturally found in small amounts in nuts. These sterols help prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the gut, improving your LDL/HDL cholesterol.
Allergic to nuts? No worries. You can still get some of the great health benefits provided by nuts from other great foods!
- Beans/Legumes: Beans rival nuts in their nutrient content. They are also packed with protein, fiber, and vitamins. They are only lacking the healthy fats!
- Quinoa: These little seeds are also packed with protein, fiber, magnesium, and iron.
- Chia Seeds: These funny little seeds have a fat profile similar to walnuts. If you are looking for an easy way to incorporate more Omega 3s in your diet, add a few of these.
- Flax Seeds: Also high in Omega 3s and fiber, sprinkle ground flax seeds on anything from cereal to salads.
- High Fat Fish (Tuna, Salmon, Sardines): Not exactly something you can just snack on, but you should try to eat a high fat fish at least once weekly since they are full of Omega 3s.