Studies suggest nuts have the potential to promote a healthy heart function and reduce cardiovascular risk when consumed regularly.
Nuts, though notoriously high in fat, come with a goodness emphasized upon by health practitioners and nutritionists: they lower the risk of heart disease. Yes, nuts have a very high content of magnesium which is said to support a healthy heart. Magnesium is a “macromineral,” which means that the body needs it in relatively high amounts to keep itself healthy. Magnesium serves a variety of functions in the body and is an essential element in more than 320 biochemical processes in the human body. One of its crucial functions is to maintain healthy levels of blood pressure, normalize the heart rhythm and assists blood to clot properly in the heart. This reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. The mineral also enables steady recovery in the event of a stroke. It plays a vital role in the formation of new cells and helps to relax stiff and strained muscles. The body does not naturally make magnesium, so it must be obtained through our diet. Adding nuts to a balanced, healthful diet supplies just about enough magnesium to your body and takes you one step away from heart disease.
By themselves, nuts seem to produce modest declines in cholesterol, but when they are combined with other healthful foods, the results can be spectacular. An increasing amount of researches is discovering that nuts can lower LDL cholesterol level, the ‘bad’ one, when substituted for food high in saturated fat and eaten as part of a low fat, low cholesterol diet. Nuts also contain unique combination of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, along with a wide variety of vitamins like folic acid, niacin, and vitamins E and B-6, and other minerals like copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorous and potassium. As little as one handful or 1.5 ounces of nuts per day can provide nutritional beneﬁts and minerals which can fit perfectly into a healthy diet that is calorie balanced for maintaining a healthy weight.
Read more to find which of your favourite nuts stores what good with the calories-per-serving information so you don’t pile on unwanted kilos.
1) Brazil nuts
A 1-ounce serving of magnesium provides about 65 mg of magnesium. Brazil nuts have one of the highest amounts of magnesium amongst plant foods. These nuts are extremely nutrient-rich and contain protein, copper, niacin, fibre, vitamin E and selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that works to neutralize dangerous free radicals. What many of us may not know is that it helps fight prostate cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancerous cells.
Serving info: 5 to 6 nuts = 185 calories, 18 grams fat
Just a quarter cup of almonds contains nearly 25% of your needed daily value of the important nutrient magnesium. It is also rich in potassium, manganese, copper, the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, and calcium. In fact, a quarter cup of almonds has almost as much calcium as a quarter cup of milk. A study reported that a diet rich with vitamin E may help to promote healthy ageing and protect some from Alzheimer’s. Researchers have found almonds to reduce colon cancer, probably due to its high fibre content.
Serving info: About 23 nuts = 170 calories, 15 grams fat
Cashews are lower in fat than most nuts, and 65% of this fat is unsaturated fatty acids. Of this, 90% is oleic acid, the heart-healthy fat found in olive oil. Cashews are rich in copper, magnesium, zinc, iron and biotin. One ounce of cashews provides almost 25 percent of your daily need of magnesium. The high iron content in cashews is needed to make hemoglobin – the red pigment in the blood.
Serving info: About 18 nuts = 165 calories, 13 grams fat
Although often discussed with nuts, peanuts are a legume along with dry beans, peas and lentils. People who eat peanuts tend to take in more key nutrients critical to health like vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium and dietary fibre. Peanuts also provide unique bio-active components that act as antioxidants like arginine, and amino acids that is a precursor to nitric oxide, which helps expand blood vessels and can decrease blood pressure. About a handful of peanuts eaten five or more times per week can cut the risk of heart disease by half. Peanuts are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats lower total LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides, while keeping “good” HDL cholesterol high. Flavonoids that reduce inflammation and inhibit platelets from sticking to arteries are also found in peanuts.
Serving info: About 50 grams of peanuts = 233 calories, 24 grams fat
This diet-friendly nut is a member of the cashew family, and is the most slimming of all nuts; with less than four calories each. Pistachios are packed with nutrients. One-ounce serving of pistachios (about 45 nuts) contains over 10% of the daily requirements of dietary fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, and B vitamins. Pistachios are cholesterol-free and high in monounsaturated fat. The copper, magnesium, and B vitamins in pistachios can help strengthen the immune system and the high levels of magnesium can help control blood pressure.
Serving info: About 50 nuts = 160 calories, 14 grams fat
Known as the king of all nuts; walnuts are a tremendous source of the healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, which have been found to protect the heart, promote better cognitive function, and provide anti-inflammatory benefits for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema and psoriasis. It also contains the antioxidant compound ellagic acid, which is known to fight cancer and support the immune system. But that’s not all, researchers have identified 16 polyphenols in walnuts, including three new tannins, with antioxidant activity so powerful they described it as ‘remarkable.’
Serving info: About 14 walnut halves = 185 calories, 18 grams fat
Pecans are a powerhouse of over 19 vitamins and minerals including vitamins E and A, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, several B vitamins and zinc. Recent clinical research studies evaluating the impact of pecans on serum cholesterol have found pecans to significantly help lower blood cholesterol level when consumed as part of a heart-healthy diet. A study from New Mexico State University found that eating 3/4 cup of pecans a day may significantly lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 33 percent and help to clear the arteries.
Serving info: About 18 halves = 200 calories, 21 grams fat
8) Macadamia nuts
Although ounce for ounce they’re one of the most calorie-dense nuts, macadamia nuts contain the greatest amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (MUFA) per serving. But all fat is not bad. Macadamia nuts have good fat that lower LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Studies have found that found that people who added macadamia nuts to their diets reduced their triglyceride levels, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol by nearly 10 percent.
Serving info: About 10 nuts = 200 calories, 22 grams fat
One danger you should be wary about is consuming processed or flavoured nuts that are high in fat, sugar and sodium, and have added chemicals and preservatives. The key to eating nuts is simply not to over indulge. As they are highly concentrated in both calories and nutrients, a small handful is sufficient and eating a broad range is the best thing to do as they each have specific health benefits. So mix and match and enjoy their wholesomeness but don’t go off your nut!
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