Do you grab a small handful of nuts for a quick pick-me-up? If so, you are taking advantage of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that may have a positive impact on your gut. Likewise, there are benefits from nuts and seeds in reducing risks of cardiovascular disease. However, many do not realize that benefit is reduction by 30-50 percent. Some research has shown people eating nuts on a regular basis may even slow cellular aging.
Additionally, nuts contain omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). This fatty acid is important to developing brains and retinas in fetuses. It is also connected to lowering blood cholesterol along with reducing chronic diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s. So, which nuts offer the most benefits?
Nuts offer a wide variety of nutrients and health benefits. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. In the skins, we find proanthocyanidins, flavonoids and phenolic acids. Almonds can be helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol. Amazingly, hazelnuts have higher levels of vitamin E than almonds. They also contain the highest level of folate of any tree nut. Hazelnuts also reduce cholesterol when consuming 1-2 ounce daily.
Peanuts (actually a legume) have higher protein than other nuts. Containing niacin, folate, thiamin, vitamin B6 and E, copper, manganese, iron, and phosphorus peanuts offer several health benefits while possibly protecting against cancer.
Pecans and pistachios are both excellent sources of lutein, and zeaxanthin—important for eye health. Pecans are also believed to affect insulin resistance and improve the ability of beta cells in pancreas to operate properly. They also contain various B-vitamins and EGCG (found in green tea). Similarly, pistachios also affect cholesterol and insulin resistance. Research has shown an impact on colon cancer cells as well.
If you are considering walnuts, reach for the English walnuts. This nut contains five times as much ALA as pecans. Several studies have shown including walnuts in your diet may reduce your risk of developing breast or prostate cancers. Walnuts also reduce blood pressure, lower triglycerides, and help people loose abdominal fat.
When it comes to seeds, reach for chia, flax or hemp seeds. Chia impacts mind, bones, liver and intestinal health. Flax addresses CVD, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, and autoimmune and neurological disorders. Hemp is high in protein. Any way you use them, as a snack, in salads, etc., nuts are a health altering addition to any diet!
Dianna Richardson of the Health, Wellness & Nutrition Center in Jefferson City has served communities as a wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. She has her doctorate degree in naturopathy, a master’s degree in health and wellness, a bachelor’s degree in public health education and is a certified wellness specialist. Core to her practice has been the use of nutrition to enhance health and improve vitality.