Feel free to go nuts!
It’s always difficult to know what kind of foods you should be snacking on. While fruit is an obvious choice, sometimes you’ll want something more satisfying. Crisps and mandazis are a popular choice, but they’re packed with the wrong sort of fat – the kind that causes weight gain, distresses the skin and furs up arteries.
Enter nuts. They also contain fat, but the ‘good’ kind and eaten in moderation, nuts can lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack. In a 2006 study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) showed that people who ate two servings of nuts a week had a 24 per cent decrease in their risk of death from coronary heart disease compared to those who didn’t eat nuts (one serving is about 10 almonds or 28 grams). This study simply confirms the findings of several other studies.
What’s in them that make nuts so good?
Their plant protein and fibre have a cholesterol-lowering effect, and nuts are a great source of antioxidant Vitamin E. They also supply the B vitamins thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin (although roasting can destroy much of the thiamine – one reason to eat raw or unroasted nuts) and minerals magnesium, zinc, copper, and selenium.
Nuts also stimulate the release of an amino acid called arginine, which helps our bodies maintain the proper function of the cells that form the lining of our blood vessels.
Which nuts should I eat?
My top choices would be almonds, walnuts, hazel and Brazil nuts, but I find that I normally eat almonds due to the lack of availability/expense of the other ones here in Kenya.
What about peanuts?
The peanut is not, in fact a nut, but a member of the legume family, along with peas, beans and lentils. It contains a lot more fat than real nuts and are often served salted (dehydrating) and roasted (the fats inside get damaged). Stick to the real variety.
Can I still lose weight if I eat nuts?
It seems strange that a food that is very rich in fat might be seen as suitable for people who may be carrying some excess body fat. Nevertheless, several studies have demonstrated that moderate intake of nuts (25–50 grams per day, a small handful) is not associated with a tendency to gain weight.
In fact, consuming nuts may assist slightly with actual weight loss – this may be because nuts have a high satiety value (i.e. they make you feel ‘full’ for a relatively low calorie intake).
If you decide to eat more nuts, make sure you substitute them for less nutritious foods (processed meat, sugary snacks) rather than simply ‘add’ them to your diet.
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