The inhabitants of Ancient Rome referred to nuts as the “food of the gods” because of the various nutritional properties that these fruits possess. At that time, nuts were associated with an iron health and an elephant’s memory. But why are nuts so great and how do the various types differ? These are the most popular nuts and their properties.
The best-known nuts are: walnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and chestnuts.
All nuts are composed of less than 50% water. Among their most remarkable properties is their large energy source, their richness in protein and vitamins, and their high amount of beneficial fats such as omega 3 and omega 6. They are also an excellent source of trace elements such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, as well as fibre.
Their benefits are so numerous that the World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of 50 grams.
Some medical studies have shown that the regular consumption of nuts is vital for maintaining good mental health in the elderly, reducing the odds of breast cancer, and lowering cholesterol levels.
But these benefits are only small sample of the enormous potential that these foods have shown in medical research. Perhaps the most shocking result is extracted from a study carried out by several North American institutions which suggest that eating a handful of nuts a day may reduce mortality rates by as much as 20%.
What nuts should I eat?
Although doctors usually recommend the inclusion of nuts in a varied and regular diet, due to their specific components these foods can help us in more specific ways to fight against certain health issues:
Constipation and intestinal transit difficulties
Walnuts and pistachios should become two of the most common foods in your diet if you suffer from these two annoying ailments. The reason is simple: if you want your digestive tract to function properly again, you should provide it with the right amount of fibre, increase the amount of water you ingest, and be more physically active.
A bad diet rich in saturated fats and sugars, together with a sedentary lifestyle, has led to an increasingly obese society with high cholesterol levels.
The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids present in almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts manage to control these risks and look after blood vessels. It should be noted that the walnut is the nut that provides the most omega 3, an amino acid that reduces blood pressure.
Contrary to what was believed only a few years ago, nuts do not lead to obesity if consumed as part of a varied and healthy diet.
Specifically: walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts have hunger quenching powers that, along with the contribution of healthy fats, encourage the consumer to abandon other less recommendable foods.
A study reveals that pistachios, cashews and pine nuts have the ability to control blood levels of fats and glucose in people with type 2 diabetes. As they are rich in trace elements such as magnesium (an insulin adjuvant), their effect is also preventative against this type of diabetes.
If we want to maintain a healthy brain and prevent dementia and other types of cognitive pathologies, almonds and hazelnuts should be part of our daily life. They are rich in vitamin E and their power lies precisely in their capacity to delay the deterioration of these mental functions.
Unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients, and their ability to lower cholesterol levels (LDL), make nuts excellent foods for maintaining a healthy heart.
Nuts are appropriate in this respect because they can also help reduce the risk of blood clots and improve arteries’ lining. Consuming 30 grams of hazelnuts a day has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and arteriosclerosis.
Once again, walnuts stand out as the nut that can help the most. They are a source of phytoestrogens, as are pistachios, so they reduce the most annoying symptoms of hot flushes.
Pumpkin seeds help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy due to their high zinc content. They also contain fatty acids, cucurbic acid, minerals and 24.5% protein. But the benefits of these pips do not stop there – they also help to regulate insulin, improve the quality of sleep, and regulate mood and sexual functions in men.
Tiredness and muscular pains
Brazil nuts come from the para tree. It grows in the Amazon forests and provides us with a large amount of magnesium. Its consumption will help us fight fatigue and relax the muscles.
Its enormous amount of proteins makes it perfect for high performance athletes. However, this fruit should not be overconsumed as it contains high levels of selenium, which is very slightly radioactive.