The healthy way to eat nuts
Categories of nuts
Nuts are generally categorized as tree nuts and seed nuts. Tree nuts include hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, pistachios and chestnuts, and their seeds are usually encased in hard shells.
Seed nuts from herbaceous plants, such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame, do not usually have hard shells and are mostly flat or oval in shape. Seed nuts are often used in baking or as seasoning.
Nutrients in nuts
Nuts are nutrient-dense foods with a variety of wholesome components.
Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid, linoleic acid, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids can lower the cholesterol level in human blood, which is good for blood vessels.
Nuts are a good source of plant-based protein, containing various amino acids that support the normal growth and tissue repair of the body. Studies have shown that nuts’ protein content vary greatly among different varieties, ranging from 4.89 percent to 36.0 percent.
Nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium. These nutrients play an important role in maintaining normal bodily functions. For example, vitamin E acts as an antioxidant to help protect the body from free radical damage, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer; whereas minerals are responsible for healthy bones, blood and nervous system.
Nuts contain dietary fibers. They can increase satiety, support intestinal health and promote digestion.
Bioactive substances in nuts, such as polyphenols and flavonoids, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which are conducive to disease prevention.
It should be noted that nuts are high in calories, and should not be consumed excessively. In addition, there are some nuts that should be eaten with caution — almonds and cashews may cause allergic reactions.
Benefits of eating nuts
A moderate intake of nuts has several health benefits.
Supplementing nutrients needed by the human body: Nuts can provide protein, healthy fat, fiber and various vitamins and minerals that people need.
Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease: The unsaturated fatty acids and plant sterols found in nuts are able to lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, thereby decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Helping control blood sugar: Nuts are low GI foods, rich in dietary fiber and unsaturated fatty acids, and can slow down the digestion rate of food in the digestive system and help control blood sugar.
Promoting intestinal health: The dietary fiber present in nuts can promote intestinal peristalsis and increase stool accumulation, helping prevent constipation and colon cancer.
Helping weight control: Nuts are proved to be rich in protein, healthy fat and fiber, which are able to satisfy hunger for a long time and preclude people from eating more high-calorie foods.
Boosting bone health: Nuts have calcium, magnesium and zinc. These minerals are good for bone health.
Improving brain function: The vitamin E, magnesium and dietary fiber found in nuts are thought to improve brain function and prevent Alzheimer's and cognitive decline.
In addition, nuts promote oral muscle movement, and help maintain the chewing function of the elderly. However, when the elderly eat nuts, they should control their intake to avoid indigestion.
A key point is moderate consumption. It is recommended to eat an average of 50-70g of nuts per week, or an average of about 10g per day (1 small handful, about 1 walnut or 5-7 almonds).
Natural nuts do not need much seasoning. It is better to choose plain nuts without added oil, salt and sugar.
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