Sweet or savory, toasted or raw, nuts are one of the best sources of protein, micronutrients and monounsaturated fats on the market. With the exception of the peanut, nuts are the seeds of trees. Like every other seed, the nut contains enough nutrition to feed the small plant that eventually would emerge had the nut been allowed to mature, drop to the ground and germinate. Squirrels, birds and humans benefit from these petite packages of potency in many ways.
First,incorporating nuts into the diet is a heart-healthy move. Nuts contain plant sterols and fiber, both of which are known to reduce blood lipids. A Wall Street Journal article reported that eating 2 1/2 ounces of nuts a day lowered LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 7.4% in a test group of 600 participants who had high cholesterol but were not taking medication. Nuts tested included walnuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and macadamias. Mayo Clinic reports that eating nuts regularly reduces the risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also contain L-arginine, a substance that improves the health of artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots.
Second, eating nuts can help curb hunger dramatically, making them a friend to people who wish to lose weight. One study cited in the Journal of Nutrition noted that there is an inverse relationship between nut consumption and BMI - in other words, people with more body fat tend not to eat nuts. Nuts are very high in both fat and fiber, both of which serve to suppress hunger in a satisfying way. The crunch factor also makes the nut satisfying as a snack food. Nuts demand a lot of chewing, and this makes them less likely to be overconsumed during a spate of "mindless eating," unlike other crunchy items that offer a lot of empty calories such as potato chips.
Finally, nuts also are a great source of several of the B-group vitamins, vitamin E, minerals such as iron, zinc. potassium and magnesium and antioxidant micronutrients such as selenium, manganese and copper. Many nuts also contain flavinols and resveratrol. Resveratrol is also found in red wine and red grape juice. It is credited with helping the body fight cancer and with reducing the formation of plaque in the brain, a factor that is related to the onset of Alzheimer and other neurodegenerative diseases in older people.
With all of their health and nutritional benefits, it's no wonder that Dr. Oz and other medical professionals recommend a daily serving of nuts.
Monday: Walnut recipes