Image: Maggie Smith
You may be inclined to think of nuts as nature’s junk food… a tempting, but ultimately unhealthy treat that you ought to avoid. After all, they’re high-fat and high-calorie, right? A glance at the nutritional facts for most nuts could make you think that, delicious though they are, they have to be bad for you.
Wrong. Actually, nuts are one of the healthiest foods around. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, young or old, an athlete or a couch potato: eating nuts is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and here’s why.
What Benefits Can You Get From Nuts?
They improve your cholesterol. Nuts themselves contain no cholesterol. None whatsoever. Not only that, they may actually lower your LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) when eaten regularly. It’s true that nuts contain a high quantity of fats, but remember that certain types of fat are not only good for you but essential for health. These include omega-3 and unsaturated fatty acids, all of which are found in abundance in nuts.
They could help maintain a healthy weight. Nuts have a very low glycemic index– in other words, they fill you up without causing a dramatic spike in blood sugar, like many processed foods. Over the long term, making nuts part of your regular diet can reduce weight gain and inflammation, and combat obesity.
They’re full of protein and fiber. Most people need about 30-60 grams of protein per day. Vegetarians have been substituting nuts for meat for years, and no wonder– they contain high levels of protein without the associated saturated fat and cholesterol. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
They have been shown to promote heart health. Several studies have found that people who eat nuts at least 5 times a week are 20-60% less likely to develop heart disease.
They contain vitamins and antioxidants. Nuts are practically a natural multivitamin: they contain lots of phytochemicals (compounds which may help prevent cancer) as well as copper, potassium, zinc, niacin, folic acid and even calcium.
Image: Arvind Balaraman
Peanuts are great for your heart. In one recent study, “a high monounsaturated diet that emphasized peanuts and peanut butter decreased the risk of cardiovascular diseases by 21% compared to the average American diet.”
As for nutrition, peanuts are slightly higher in protein than other nuts. They’re also chock full of vitamins, especially Vitamin E, which is great for your skin and has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, and anti-oxidants.
Almonds are higher in calcium and iron than other nuts, and are generally very high in potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, and protein, making them an excellent choice for the health-conscious. A handful of almonds alone provides 85% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin E.
Almonds are beloved by chefs and bakers alike, and almond flour can provide a delicious alternative for people with specific diets: it’s low-carb and gluten-free.
Almonds have been loved for millennia; they originally come from the Mediterranean region, and were hugely popular in ancient Rome. Almonds were even found in Tutankhamen’s tomb. References to the tastiness of almonds can be found in numerous Shakespeare texts, and are scattered throughout the Bible.
Peanuts aren’t really nuts at all: they’re legumes, like peas and beans, and are grown underground.
In China, almonds are considered to be symbolic of female beauty.
Peanuts contain so many nutrients that peanut-based pastes are currently being used by a variety of organizations (including UNICEF and Project Peanut Butter) to fight malnutrition in third-world countries.
The natural oils in peanut butter make it useful in other ways: for instance, it can remove gum from a person’s hair!
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