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What's in a Nut?

"Benefits of nuts"
By: Vanessa ValenzuelaWhat's in a Nut?

Nuts are actually seeds or extensions of fruits. They are usually encased in a hard outer shell and grow on shrubs or trees.  Peanuts and soy nuts, however, are not nuts—they don’t grow on trees; these two belong to the legumes family. But since peanuts and soy nuts are just as nutritious and are eaten just like any other nut, we’ll include them in this discussion.

The 1996 Iowa Women's Healthy Study reported that those who ate nuts over four times weekly reduced their risk of dying from heart disease by 40 percent. About 80 percent of a nut is fat. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats contribute to lowering levels of cholesterol in the blood, which significantly prevent heart disease.

  • Nuts also contain fiber, which lowers cholesterol levels and the risk of developing diabetes. It gives you a feeling of fullness even with less quantity, so you tend to eat less.
  • Most of the known nuts have vitamin E, which helps stop the clogging of arteries due to plaque buildup. Plaque causes your arteries to narrow and can lead to chest pains, a heart attack, or coronary artery disease.
  • Some nuts contain plant sterols, which just like fiber, help lower your cholesterol levels. Some manufactured products like orange juice or margarine are fortified with plant sterols for additional health benefits, and this is naturally occurring in nuts.
  • Nuts can also have L-arginine that may help improve the condition of artery walls. L-arginine makes arteries more flexible and less prone to blood clots.

Types of Nuts

  • Peanuts - riboflavin, folate and niacin, potassium, choline, and unsaturated fats.
  • Almonds - phenylalanine, known to encourage production of adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine—mood-enhancing neurotransmitters that are naturally produced by the brain.
  • Cashews - magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and copper.
  • Pistachios - with over 10 percent of the daily requirement of copper, B vitamins, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorous per ounce.
  • Walnuts - most brain- and heart-friendly snacks around. They have hefty amounts of monounsaturated fats and provide omega-3 that helps avert dangerous heart rhythms that may lead to a heart attack.
  • Pecans - vitamins A and E, folate, zinc, and phosphorous.
  • Macadamia nuts - 84 percent monounsaturated fats also potassium and magnesium
  • Hazelnuts - selenium and vitamin E that can fight premature aging and cell damage caused by free radicals.
  • Brazil nuts - antioxidant selenium, for prevention of breast cancer.
  • Chestnuts - antioxidant vitamin C against infection and diseases.
  • Pine nuts - vitamins A, C, and D as well as monounsaturated fats.

Healthy Snacks

Substitute your unhealthy fat-filled snacks like pastries, chips, or fried snacks with a serving of your favorite dry-roasted or raw nuts. Avoid flavored nuts such as those that are sweetened, salted, or dipped in chocolate; they only add extra calories and may cause your body to retain water. Choose raw, boiled, baked, or dry-roasted nuts. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on your usual green veggie salad.

  1. Serve pesto pasta using pine nuts ground with basil and olive oil.
  2. Serve your usual breakfast cereal with toasted almonds.
  3. Cook Asian Pad Thai noodles sprinkled with chopped peanuts or cashews. Stir-fry cooked rice noodles in fish sauce, chili sauce, lime juice, and fresh veggies in a wok. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and serve.
  4. Bake sweet potatoes and top with pecans and brown sugar.
  5. Stir-fry chicken breast with fresh ginger slices, honey, soy sauce, and chopped cashews.
  6. Create your own trail mix snack. In a container, mix in assorted nuts (cashews, walnuts, almonds, pistachio nuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, and peanuts ) with green raisins, red raisins, and other dried fruit.

Before starting on your nutty food adventure, you must check first if you have an allergy or have a family history of allergy with any type of nut. Some people are allergic to only one particular nut, while others react to several types. If you suspect you are allergic to nuts, have yourself tested by a health practitioner. For the meantime, stay away from nuts. If your doctor gives the clearance, then go ahead… go nuts!

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