In the past five or so years, there has been so much negativism and warnings surrounding the nut family. In fact, you’d be hard put to find another food that’s been given as much of a bad rep as those poor nuts.
But why are we so hard on them?
Vincci Tsui, from FitNut Nutrition Consulting, once again weighed in those tricky little foods: “Nuts have gotten a bad rap in recent years because of the increasing prevalence of allergies leading nuts to be banned from schools and lots of nut-free products to be popping up in the marketplace.”
However, nuts really are not as bad as we all seem to think. They’re rich in nutrients and are great sources of heart-healthy fats, protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In fact, according to Tsui, studies have shown that by eating one or two handfuls of nuts a day can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
With so many different nuts to choose from (almonds, cashews, peanuts just to name a few), how do you know which nuts are the right nuts to eat?
Well, with Tsui’s help, we are able to get to the bottom of what are good nuts to help you make an informed (and healthy) decision next time you go grocery shopping.
The most popular nut at the moment is the almond — and for good reason. They are considered to be the healthiest of all the nuts because, when compared to other tree nuts, they are “ounce-for-ounce highest in protein, fibre, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin.” And while hazelnuts and macadamia nuts are richer in monounsaturated fats than almonds, almonds are still a good source for these types of fats which are known to help lower cholesterol when replacing saturated fats in the diet. And if that wasn’t enough, almonds are also high in Vitamin E, which is known for its anti-oxidative, heart-healthy and cancer-preventing properties.
Walnuts are also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids compared to other nuts in the grocery store. Perhaps you’re wondering what exactly are those omega 3 fats you hear about often? “Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning our body can’t make them and we must get them through our diet,” Tsui says. “They have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.”
While Brazil nuts aren’t all that common, Tsui thinks they should be. “While most nuts have about 2-6 micrograms (mcg) of selenium per 1/4-cup serving, brazil nuts have a whopping 680 mcg!” The recommended daily intake of selenium is 55 mcg, but it doesn’t hurt to enjoy a little more. Just like Vitamin E, selenium is also an antioxidant. If your family has a history of thyroidism or prostate cancer, stock up on Brazil nuts as they have been shown to regulate thyroid function and can help in decreasing the risk of prostate cancer.
Potassium is crucial for a healthy body as it helps to reduce blood pressure, anxiety and stress, while increasing muscular strength and one’s metabolism. This electrolyte can be found in high amounts in pistachios and should therefore be consumed on a regular basis. “We hear lots about decreasing sodium in our diet to maintain our blood pressure,” Tsui says, “but bumping up the potassium is important as well.”
Cashews are one of the most popular party snacks available in the grocery store for their salty and addicting taste. But while these nuts are often considered an indulgence rather than a necessity for our bodies, think again! “Cashews come in a close second compared to almonds when it comes to magnesium content,” Tsui says. And if you think that magnesium isn’t all that important, you would be mistaken. According to Tsui, magnesium is one of the most common nutrients in our body, helping our nerves and muscles to function properly, as well as maintaining the health of our immune systems and bones.
But like with everything, it’s important to watch just how much you eat! It is easy to get carried away with all the different nuts, but you should remember to follow the recommended daily intake and don’t go overboard. “Although nuts contain mostly heart-healthy fats, all fats have 9 calories per gram, so a 1/4-cup serving of nuts will pack in 200-250 calories,” Tsui explains.
So what’s a good rule to live be? Tsui recommends following the US guidelines by eating 1 oz servings (half-servings) of nuts a day, since Canada’s Food Guide says to eat only 2-3 servings of the meat and alternatives food group each day.
To get the most out of your nuts, Tsui says to buy raw, unblanched nuts and then store them in your fridge. “Roasted nuts definitely have more flavour, but the heat does break down some of the delicate, heart-healthy unsaturated fats and other nutrients,” Tsui explains. “Blanching often takes off the skin, which is where most of the antioxidants in the nuts are. Storing the nuts in the fridge also helps to preserve some of the nutrition, especially the fats.”
So now that you know the facts, there’s no need to fear the nuts! Incorporating a serving of any of the nuts we’ve listed above each day will help you maintain that balanced diet every student needs!
Category: Quick Eats