Nuts are nutritional powerhouses. They can improve heart health, enhance cognitive function, and reduce your risk for certain cancers. They are portable and easy to consume with little preparation. Nuts are a simple way to boost energy and nutrition levels with healthy protein and fats. These nutrient-dense nuts are a much better choice for snacks than the normal junk foods.
Let’s look at the healthiest nut varieties and their benefits:
These miniature-looking brains contain a significant source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid and neuroprotective compounds such as polyphenols and melatonin, which enhance brain health. Walnuts also improve vascular endothelial function, enhance your microbiome, and aid in anti-aging. These tasty nuts are an excellent source of antioxidants that can help fight oxidative damage in your body and may reduce your risk of certain cancers including breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. Between preventing aging and cancer to improving brain and heart health, walnuts never looked so good!
Almonds are a high-protein staple of many athletes. They are good for reducing hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood), which lowers your risk for cardiovascular disease. Almonds are also high in antioxidants, healthy fats and vitamin E. Several studies have linked higher vitamin E intake with lower rates of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Eating 15 almonds per day is one of the best habits you can develop. I use these in casseroles and salads.
Cashews are one of my favorite nuts. They can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels and are also anti-cancer. Eating these nuts is a great way to get essential fatty acids and dietary fiber. Cashews are rich in carotenoids and polyphenols, two categories of antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and offer protection from disease. Roasted cashews appear to have an increased antioxidant activity compared with their raw counterparts. I buy mine organic at Costco ($15.99 for 40 ounces).
Pistachios are packed with enough nutrients to make them worth the effort. I buy them already shelled—lazy me! They are a rich source of B vitamins for enhancing our nervous system and are among the lowest calorie nuts while offering a high source of protein.They contain essential fatty acids, which promote heart-healthy blood levels and maintain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the body. Pistachios along with walnuts can lower triglycerides, total and LDL cholesterol. Your heart will thank you for the benefits.
Pecans are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Studies on this sweet southern treat indicate that they reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. Pecans also contain vitamin E, which contributes to antioxidant activity. Clinical studies on mice reveal that pecans support brain health by slowing down the progression of motor-neuron degeneration. Pecan nuts protect the human body from cancer due to the anti-proliferative properties of ellagic acid which inhibit DNA binding of certain carcinogens such as nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. They contain oleic acid, a fatty acid which has been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Pecan nuts also reduce the risk of colon cancer since they help clean the gastrointestinal system.
Macadamia nuts, grown mainly in Hawaii, are high in mono-saturated fats, which reduce total and LDL cholesterol. They contain flavonoids and tocotrienols, plant compounds that test-tube studies indicate may help fight or kill cancer cells. Raw macadamia nuts have the most nutrients. These nuts are a great and tasty snack to grab instead of the usual chips and high carbs junk food.
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources of selenium, an essential trace mineral. Increased selenium levels improve thyroid function and hormone levels, immune function, fertility, cognition, heart health. Eating Brazil nuts may also reduce inflammation. One of my doctors recommended that I take a selenium supplement as cancer prevention for the rest of my life. Since I’m not a fan of Brazil nuts, I prefer the supplement made from it. The upper level of selenium intake for adults is 400 mcg per day. For this reason, it’s important to not eat too many Brazil nuts.
Hazelnuts grown mainly in Oregon have one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) sources of any nut. These tiny nuts modulate oxidative stress and inflammatory gene expression, which both contribute to cancer. Hazelnuts contain a high concentration of proanthocyanidins, which are antioxidants that may help prevent and treat some types of cancers. A couple of test-tube studies showed that hazelnut extract could be beneficial in the treatment of cervical, liver, breast and colon cancer.
Nuts are a perfect snack or a healthy addition to a casserole or salad. They are nutrient-dense foods, which provide protein for the energy we need to get through the day or when we need a special boost. They also provide prebiotic fiber, which enhances our gut microbiome, antioxidants which prevent cancer, and healthy fats which lower cholesterol and enhance brain and heart health. Most are best eaten raw as opposed to roasted. Nuts give us a bigger bang of nutrition for our buck.
What nuts do you eat to enhance your health? And what creative ways can you share to incorporate more of these gifts of nature into your diet?
For Your Health,