Nuts About Nuts

Most of us are aware that nuts contain a lot of goodness, but I know many folk won’t eat them because they are worried about the fat content. However, unless you are allergic to them, there are many good reasons why you should include them regularly in your diet. They contain protein, fibre, antioxidants, and many vitamins and minerals. 

Also, whilst they are undoubtedly high in fats, many of these are healthy, and you only need to consume a few to get the benefit. In fact, because eating nuts enhances levels of satiety, they can actually be beneficial if you’re watching the calories too! 

Walnuts are high in healthy omega-3 fats, and contain good amounts of the minerals copper, manganese, molybdenum, and biotin. Some research has indicated that walnuts have cancer fighting properties, in particular prostate and breast cancer. Omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is anti-inflammatory, and eating just a few walnuts per day can lower bad cholesterol and help to prevent blood clots. ALA can also raise mood and there is some evidence it may be helpful in combatting mild depression, it can be safely taken alongside antidepressants too. It’s anti inflammatory action is also beneficial for chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and eczema. 

There are a number of powerful Antioxidants found in walnuts which are found in only a few commonly eaten foods. Antioxidants are free-radical scavengers and support the cells of the body which are attacked by these. There is some evidence that the particular antioxidants found in walnuts, classed as polyphenols, may also help prevent chemically-induced liver damage.

Brazil nuts come from a South American tree which is the only member of its species, the monotypic Bertholletia. The tree is an example of a very finely balanced ecosystem. The flowers it produces are very complex and inaccessible to most insects, and it is pollinated by a particular  type of bee which in turn is supported by a specific orchid. Hence the trees only grow in rain forests where these orchids are found. 

The nuts are extremely nutritious and contain a high amount of selenium. This trace element is an important antioxidant supporting the immune system and has been found to have cancer fighting properties. Brazil nuts also contain magnesium, phosphorus and thiamine. In addition the nut is a complete protein, that is, like meat it contains all the amino acids necessary for the body in an assimilable form. 

Brazil nuts should be eaten sparingly because they are quite high in saturated fat, although they do contain even higher levels of the healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Also too much selenium can be harmful and just one to two of these nuts per day provide ample amounts of this trace element. 

Nuts can be consumed just as they are and are handy to carry around with you as snack. But I also incorporate them in crumble toppings and add to stir fries to vary the routine a bit and add flavour and texture.  The best nuts to buy are organic and raw nuts and not ones coated in salt or sugar. Roasted and salted nuts still have the nutritional benefits, but as many of us already consume a lot of sodium in our diet, they are best eaten only occasionally and, as a general rule, avoided by those with high blood pressure. Be careful not to eat old, rancid nuts, that have been lying around for a long time. These have become oxidised and won’t be good for your health. To avoid this occurring all nuts are best stored in the fridge and consumed within a few weeks after opening or soon after being removed from their shells.