What are some of the specific benefits for particular nut varieties seen in the UK around Christmas time and some ideas for using them in your diet?
Almonds | Due to the content of healthy oils, almonds have been shown to be beneficial in supporting healthy blood chemistry, cardiovascular health & may help fight cancer.
Brazil Nuts | Rich in healthy polyunsaturated fats, these are aso rich in a minerals called selenium (powerful in lowering heart disease, allergies & inflammation) & chromium, helpful regarding sugar metabolism. The best way to ensure nut freshness is to buy in shell, soon after harvest (Autumn) and the nut should not rattle inside the shell. These nuts can be high in oxalates so should not be eaten to excess by those suffering from kidney stones.
Cashew Nuts | Never sold in shell due to a toxic resin present in the shell that needs to be carefully removed before nut consumption! Cashews are rich in mono-unsaturated fats (oleic acid – helpful against cancer & heart disease) as well as many minerals including copper, magnesium, potassium, iron & zinc. They also contain protein & are a good source of a B Vitamin, biotin, helpful for skin, hair & nail health. Cashews are lower in fat & higher in protein than most other nuts but lower in the antioxidant Vitamin E.
Chestnuts | These are a low fat nut, higher in carbohydrates so they can be used to make a gluten free flour. They are the only nut to contain Vitamin C. Chestnuts contain magnesium & other trace minerals and are a source of B Vitamins.
Coconuts | Containing a medium chain fatty acids like lauric & capric acid, coconuts actually contribute to our immune system, helping us against many bacterial, yeast, fungal & viral infections. Coconut oil can also be helpful for heart disease prevention & in weight loss.
Hazelnuts | These contain a balance of protein, mono-unsaturated fats and fibre. They are a rich source of many vitamins & minerals but especially Vitamin E (an antioxidant).
Macadamia | A very high fat content gives these nuts their rich flavour & creaminess. They have a high level of mono-unsaturated fats, so helpful re-heart health and is more heat stable than olive or rapeseed oils. It also has up to 4 times the Vitamin E levels than olive oil.
Peanuts | As mentioned, not a real tree nut but a legume. They contain a good proportion of protein (25% weight) and have good levels of mon-unsaturated fats too. As a source of the antioxidant resveratrol, peanuts may support a healthy cardiovascular system.
Pecans | Another high fat content nut, the pecan has a high caloric value down to it’s oleic content. There are also natural plant sterols, which have been shown to support healthy cholesterol balance. There is a good content of vitamins & minerals too.
Walnuts | Nutrient dense and a good source of Vitamin E, antioxidants, minerals & helpful fats. The walnut is one of the few which contain omega 3 fatty acids, so helpful for non-fish eaters! Walnuts also contain an amino acid called arginine, which can be supportive to the blood system and blood pressure maintenance.
Nuts are the ‘seeds’ from trees usually encased in a hard, protective shell. When the nut hits the ground, this fractures the shell, moisture can enter & the seed grows into a new tree.
Peanuts are actually the seed from a legume or bean-like plant & grow underground. This expains that they are known sometimes as ground nuts.
Nuts have been a great source of nutrients for thousands of years. They are helpful in supporting sugar metabolism & diabetes management/prevention. Nuts have been found to be deficient in the diets of some people who later develop Parkinson’s disease.
Uses for nuts | There are many different recipes including nuts but why not try some of these that I love?
- adding chopped mixed nuts to your porridge or breakfast muesli bowl
- throw some nuts over your daily salad
- include some chopped nuts in your favourite pasta sauce
- make your own pesto, with different nuts
- mix some nuts in with your healthy vegetables when making a quick stir fry
- chop nuts into your stuffings for meat, fish, courgettes or peppers
- toss a healthy portion of nuts onto yoghurt, ice-cream or meringues
- blend some nuts into your daily smoothie recipe or use nut butters
- try different nuts in your home made breads, muffins & cakes
- base your main meal around nuts such as walnuts or hazelnuts & add whole/chopped/butter for variety of textures
- spread nut butters instead of butter or spread when making a sandwich or snack
- soak & blend nuts with filtered water to make your own nut milks or creams
References | The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods; Murray & Pizzorno 2005
Super Foods; Van Straten & Griggs 1990
Food, Your Miracle Medicine; Carper 1994