December 8, 2017

Going Nuts for Nuts This Winter

Nuts are extremely beneficial parts of any diet, and they contain a wide variety of health benefits that include their ability to balance cholesterol levels, increase heart health, boost immunity and an arsenal of other details.

Continuing from my video earlier in the week, nuts can be an integral feature of your weight loss and fitness plan. The nutritional value and accessibility of nuts around the world made it an important part of hunter/gatherer culture for thousands of years, so culturally, they have continued to play a major role in cuisine.



The many health benefits of nuts are due to the rich variety of vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that are found in many of them. More specifically, the benefits come from the dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, linoleic acid, flavonoids, antioxidants, carotene, L-arginine, vitamin E, plant sterols, and minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese. The impressive list of healthy attributes in dozens of nut varieties contributes to many of the health benefits, which are explained below.



Cancer Prevention

One of the best aspects of nuts is their high content of healthy fats, which sounds like an oxymoron to some people, but there are beneficial forms of fat that the body requires, and nuts are a wonderful source of these polyunsaturated fats called omega-3 fatty acids, more specifically, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). This type of fatty acid has certain anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to reduce the chances of colon, prostate, and breast cancer in test subjects. Furthermore, the high level of dietary fiber in nuts promotes good bowel movements and digestion, which reduces the chances of certain types of gastrointestinal cancers.


Prevent Digestive Issues

Every single variety of nut has a high content of fiber, which is one of the more beneficial and versatile elements found in food. First of all, fiber is important in the digestive process, because it adds bulk to the stool. This means that bowel movements move through the digestive tract smoothly because the fiber stimulates peristaltic motion in the smooth muscle of the intestine. When stool moves freely through the system, constipation is reduced, and regular bowel movements can begin. This reduces the chances of developing various digestive conditions like hemorrhoids or polyps, including more serious diseases like cancer. Furthermore, fiber acts to scrub out excess cholesterol from the body, particularly the damaging omega-6 fatty acids.


Weight Loss

Fiber present in nuts makes the body feel full and inhibits the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which keeps obese people from overeating. This makes nuts a valuable part of weight loss regimens. Along with fiber in the battle against the bulge, nuts contain a powerhouse of nutrients and beneficial vitamins, without adding too many calories to the diet. Obviously, nuts that are heavily salted or dipped in chocolate lose some of this weight loss advantage.


Increased Heart Health

Perhaps the most important attribute of nuts in terms of overall health is its impact on the cardiovascular system. This happens in a number of ways. First of all, nuts contain a large amount of “good cholesterol”, also known as HDL cholesterol, so while many people things of cholesterol as bad no matter what, let this be a lesson to you. This beneficial type of cholesterol actually reduces the presence of dangerous cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the blood and ensures that they do not bind on the walls of arteries and blood vessels. In this way, nuts reduce the chance of blood clots and atherosclerosis from seriously harming your cardiovascular system.


Treat Mental Disorders

Nuts also combat the debilitating effects of mental disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression due to its omega-3 fatty acid content. These compounds are also good at reducing rheumatoid arthritis, since it is anti-inflammatory in nature, which increases the flow of blood to the brain, further increasing healthy cognitive function.


A Few Words of Caution

Unfortunately, despite all of the health benefits of nuts, there is a downside. Nuts tend to be a highly allergenic substance, and it can manifest in a variety of ways. Being allergic to one nut is not the same as another, so you must be careful whenever you eat a new type of nut. If you are allergic the reactions can range from mild to extremely severe and include skin and facial irritation, swelling of the throat, respiratory malfunctions, anaphylactic shock, heart arrhythmia, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastric discomfort. As long as you are aware of what your body can and can’t handle, nuts are an extremely valuable boost to your overall health! Watch out for our Recipe Series from 3 And A Half Cafe coming up, which will include delicious and healthy treats made from some nuts discussed here today.