It’s common knowledge nowadays that nuts have a high fat content. But shouldn’t you steer clear of high-fat foods? Well, in the case of nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, as well as legumes like peanuts, the answer is, don’t avoid them — embrace them. Nuts are nutrition bombs that offer a panoply of wonderful health benefits, and incorporating reasonable servings of them into a healthy balanced diet can help you avoid heart disease, lose weight, and more. Read on to find out about the undeniable health benefits of nuts.
Nuts Raise Your Good Cholesterol Level
A serving of nuts — about 1 ounce — contains between 150 and 200 calories, most of them from fat. However, the high caloric content and fat in nuts mostly comes from monounsaturated fats, which do not raise levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. Monounsaturated fats also raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) – the “good” cholesterol.
Lower the Risk of Heart Disease
It is also thought that these “good” fats help guard your body against heart disease. Several recent studies seem to indicate that people who regularly (read: 5 times a week) incorporated nuts into their diets had a much lower risk of developing and dying from heart disease. The reduction in rates of heart disease can also be partially attributed to the levels of vitamin E in nuts.
Nuts such as walnuts and almonds also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which lower levels of triglycerides in the blood and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels – especially so with the walnut health benefits. If you’re looking to gain control of your cholesterol levels, nuts are essential to your diet — some studies suggest they lower cholesterol as well as cholesterol drugs do.
A Great Source of Vital Nutrients
Nuts are also a great source of many other vital nutrients, including fiber, Vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. Eating nuts in large portions is not advisable, because as I mentioned before, they do contain a lot of fat. However, nuts are a great addition to many foods like salads and cereal, and a small portion of them is great for on-the-go. Don’t overdo it, though — as I mentioned before, they are high in calories.
A Good Dose of Protein
Nuts are considered a part of the protein section of the food pyramid. This means that they provide a good dose of protein and can be considered one serving of other protein-rich foods. Nuts are also great for vegetarians who need to seek consistent protein sources that are non-animal in origin. The best nuts for protein are peanuts (25g/serving), almonds (21g/serving), and cashews (20g/serving), but all nuts provide some amount of protein.
Peanuts as a Diet Food
What about peanuts as a diet food?
Peanuts are gaining popularity as a diet food lately. This, too, seems counter-intuitive: peanuts for dieting? Peanuts, with their omnipresence at bar counters and cocktail parties? But peanuts are indeed a healthy food in moderation, boasting all of the health benefits of other nuts. Because they contain such a good dose of protein and fiber, peanuts are filling, so they satisfy — people who eat peanuts as a snack tend to eat less and therefore stick to their diet better. What’s more, they’re filled with antioxidants. Peanuts contain the same amount of antioxidants as strawberries do, according to a UF study.
Overall, nuts are healthy for you, and a good food for anyone. Choose raw nuts when you can, although roasted nuts will do in a pinch. Be sure to avoid honey-roasted and chocolate-covered nuts, as those add extra calories and zero nutrition. As long as you don’t suffer from a nut allergy, consider incorporating nuts into your daily diet. You’ll be glad you did.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.