If you followed the most popular dietary advice in the eighties and nineties, likely, you seldom ate nuts and seeds. Their benefits were ignored and they were treated like high-calorie junk food that would blow up your waistlines. The food industry was only too happy to jump on the bandwagon, pumping out an avalanche of sugar-laden, fat-free junk foods marketed as healthy. Today we know that the Western World’s government’s dietary recommendations were wrong in many ways. But its advice to cut back on nuts and seeds due to their fat and calorie content will likely be remembered as some of the worst dietary advice ever received.
Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy, anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fats, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and fibre. Which supports them having many benefits for your health.
Here are 5 big reasons to make nuts and seeds a key part of your nutrition.
They keep your heart healthy
In February 2013, one of the largest dietary clinical trials ever published showed that eating fat could protect you from heart attacks and strokes. How did the researches find this out? By making the participants add nuts and olive oil to their diets.
In the trial, those who ate nuts every day reduced their risk of heart attack by 30%. Eating nuts slashed the risk of a heart attack as much as taking a particular medication for heart disease but without any of the side effects. It was also noted that the subjects that ate nuts lost more belly fat and had greater reductions in blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and inflammation.
They can keep your weight under control
Nuts are a good lesson on how all calories are not the equal. A shortbread biscuit has around 40 calories which is about the same as two to three macadamia nuts. So what’s the difference?
Quite a bit. The amount of sugar in the shortbread biscuit will raise your triglycerides, lower your good cholesterol, and increase your stress hormones. It will also spike your blood sugar and insulin which will cause your body to store fat and make you hungrier which could ultimately lead to weight gain. The macadamia nuts, however, have the opposite effect. They are high in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are packed with satiating, healthy fats that improve your cholesterol profile and make you less hungry and they’ll keep your insulin levels steady.
Nuts are a perfect antidote to hunger pangs, which is why research shows that people who regularly eat them gain less weight than those who don’t.
They can reduce oxidative stress and some cancers
Sunflower seeds and almonds are a good choice as they contain vitamin E, which is known for being able to reduce oxidative stress in the body. If this is left unchecked, it can set the scene for many serious health problems, including cancer. A 30 year Harvard study found that people eating nuts regularly cut their cancer risk by 11 per cent.
Add flaxseeds to your diet as they contain compounds that are protective against hormone-related cancers of the breast and prostate.
They can keep your brain healthy
The omega 3 fatty acids in nuts and seeds can help to keep your brain functioning well. Flaxseeds are a great source of fatty acids. Chia seeds, in particular, are full of EPA, a fatty acid that is linked to many health benefits, including for your brain health. Pistachio nuts contain resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to protect and enhance memory function.
They can keep you ‘regular’
Do you struggle to go to the bathroom sometimes? The fibre content in nuts and seeds could be just what you need to keep your bowel movements regular. 30 grams of flaxseeds gives you over 7 grams of fibre or you can eat the same amount of sunflower seeds or almonds for just 3 grams of fibre.
What about nut butters?
Are nut butters as healthy as whole nuts? They can be a good source of protein but you can get caught out if you go for the processed kind. Look for a shop that grinds nuts into butter themselves and choose the kinds that don’t have added oils, sugars or anything else. Unprocessed nut butters can be added to smoothies and used in cooking, for example. They’re a great protein boost and also include lots of the nutrients that whole nuts have.
The evidence is clear that eating nuts and seeds for many reasons won’t make you fat. So should you include them in your diet? Absolutely, but within reason. Enjoy them but don’t go too nuts. The research shows that all you need is one or two handfuls a day to reap the health benefits but make sure that you buy them in small quantities so that the fats don’t go rancid otherwise store them in the freezer.
Food, Mark Hyman, MD, Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Eat fat, Get Thin, Mark Hyman, MD, Little Brown and Company, 2016
Genius Foods, Max Lugavere, Harper Wave, 2018
Medical Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For medical advice always consult your physician. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.