Get ready to go nuts! According to a 2016 study, if you eat just one serving of nuts regularly, you could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause death by as much as 19%. One serving of nuts per day [28g or about a palmful] can deliver powerful heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory effects.
As much as 80% of nuts is fat, which makes them calorie-dense. Being aware of serving size is important. Typically, what fits into your palm is an appropriate serving for you. Also, consider consuming raw, unsalted nuts instead of roasted and salted varieties. The healthy oils are more likely to be intact in a raw state, as they are sensitive to heat.
Besides being packed with protein, most nuts contain a combination of these compounds:
- Unsaturated fats. The “good” fats in nuts — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower bad cholesterol levels.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Nuts are one of the best plant-based sources.
- Fiber. All nuts contain fiber, which can help clear toxins, excess hormones, and cholesterol. When fiber is consumed regularly as part of a diet low in saturated fat and trans fat, it can help you feel full and satisfied. Soluble fiber, the type found in nuts, promotes regularity and gut health.
- Vitamin E. Vitamin E may help reduce the risk of development of plaque in your arteries, which can narrow them and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. It is also a natural antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals and protect cells from their damaging effects.
- Plant sterols. Some nuts contain plant sterols, substances that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols have also been studied for their antioxidant effects. They are often added to food products, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.
- L-arginine. Nuts are also a source of L-arginine, which is an amino acid that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots. It may also help immune and hormone function.
Enjoy nuts as a snack with a piece of fruit or with your yogurt. Crush and add to salads or mix into hot dishes just before serving. Here are some of our favorite recipes that include nuts – feel free to switch it up to include your favorite varieties:
- Tofu with Roasted Vegetables and Pesto
- Cinnamon Bun Overnight Oats
- Roasted Sweet Potato and Kale Salad
- Zucchini Bread Smoothie
Resource: Aune, D., Keum, N., Giovannucci, E., Fadnes, L. T., Boffetta, P., Greenwood, D. C., … Norat, T. (2016). Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Medicine, 14, 207. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-016-0730-3
Written by: Julie Harrington, RDN
Reviewed and edited by: Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN