By: Marlene Affeld ~
Grab a handful and munch away. Energy dense nuts are good for you! Convenient and great for snacking, nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, magnesium, manganese, calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins A and E. Nuts are also a rich source of l-arginine. L-arginine helps keep arteries flexible and less prone to dangerous blood clots that block blood flow and can lead to a stroke.
The United States Department of Agriculture divides nuts into two groups: tree nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, etc.) and peanuts (a legume). Peanuts are included because they are typically consumed in the same manner as tree nuts and present a similar nutrient profile. Be aware that some people are allergic to nuts. Reactions can be life threatening in sensitive individuals. If you, or a family member, are allergic to nuts, always read food labels. Food products labels must note if they contain nutmeats or have been prepared in a facility that processes tree nuts or peanuts.
When it comes to nutritional value, walnuts appear to pack the biggest punch. NuVal, a proprietary food scoring system developed by Topco Associates and Griffin Hospital of Derby, Connecticut (home of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center located in Braintree, Massachusetts) provides food-scoring systems to food retailers. NuVal gives walnuts a score of 82, closely followed by almonds with a score of 81. Pistachios score an impressive 69, peanuts 67 and cashews rank low with a score of 25.
The United States Department of Agriculture advises, “Walnuts have specifically been studied for their effect on serum lipids and blood pressure. Results have shown that incorporating a moderate amount of walnuts into a cholesterol-lowering diet decreases serum total cholesterol levels and favorably changes the lipoprotein profile in healthy men.”
The USDA reports that in response to growing national and international demand, United States production of nuts has increased substantially. Production has increased from 206.4 million pounds (shelled) in 1970 to more than 2.0 billion pounds produced by the middle of the first decade of the 2000s.
High LDL levels (low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol) in the blood are one of the major contributing factors in cardiovascular disease. New research data, provided by the research team of David Jenkins and Cyril Kendall at the University of Toronto, reports that dietary changes to incorporate mixed nuts into the diet have significant health benefits. A diverse variety of nuts, including roasted peanuts, help patients with type 2 diabetes control blood lipids (HDL and LDL cholesterol) and blood sugar levels (postprandial glycaemia). The Toronto research team concluded, “Two ounces of nuts daily, as a replacement for carbohydrate foods, improved both glycemic control and serum lipids in type 2 diabetes.”
Most nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help keep the heart healthy by preventing dangerous changes in heart rhythms that can trigger a heart attack. Nuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Whether they are use for baking, cooking or snacking, nuts desire a prominent place in a plant-based diet.