There are very few people who don’t like nuts of any kind. But there are too many myths surrounding this super healthy food. Sure, most nuts are calorific, but they cause trouble only if you eat too many of them. In the right portions, they are an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet as they provide good quality protein and good fats that actually help your heart’s health.
Of course, it pays to be careful because their delicious crunchiness makes it very easy to overeat them. So what is the right portion? It’s very simple: an ounce a day of a mix of at least two types of nuts. This will give you approximately 150-180 calories and 5-7 grams protein.
Nuts make a perfect snack. They are rich in both protein and fibre, so they keep you full for longer. Plus they help cut cravings and so they are any weight-watcher’s friend. Studies have shown that nuts help boost metabolism and that nut eaters tend to weigh less. Clearly, eating nuts is a definitive ‘Stay Thin Habit’ for everyone to inculcate.
Good to know: Almonds are a great source of trace minerals like copper (essential for nerve function and immunity), and manganese (essential for blood clotting and healthy bones). They are good for diabetics too, as they assist in blood sugar control and also have loads of magnesium that most diabetics tend to be deficient in. Magnesium also has the effect of lowering blood pressure.
Bonus: The vitamin E in almonds helps your heart and also keeps the collagen fibre in your skin intact, thus preventing wrinkling and other signs of ageing. This is the simplest anti-ageing technique of all!
Best way to have: There is no right or wrong way of eating almonds. Have them both ways: soaked as well as straight from the packet.
Another way to have: Almond flour.
Good to know: Pistachios are rich in the antioxidant gamma-tocopherol, a form of cancer-fighting vitamin E, and are an excellent source of phytosterols – plant compounds that help lower levels of bad cholesterol. They also contain cancer-fighting antioxidants, particularly the carotenoids beta-carotene and lutein (which gives the kernel its colour).
Bonus: They deliver vitamin B6, a mood lifting vitamin. Plus they contain more potassium than other nuts, which can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. That’s why you feel happy eating them.
Best way to have: Just shell them and eat.
Another way to have: They go well with desserts, so sprinkle on mango kulfi, kheer, and even lassi.
Good to know: Walnuts are loaded with good fat. They are also one of the very few vegetarian food sources of Alpha Linolenic acid, which helps prevent disorders like heart disease and diabetes and keeps your brain active, memory intact and Alzheimer’s away. Walnuts are also rich in a form of vitamin E which is important to keep your heart ticking and cancer away.
Bonus: Walnuts increase melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep in the body.
Best way to have: Begin your day with them - just pop a few into your mouth, or dice them and add to your cereals and fruit. Or team them with a few raisins or anjeer to make a delightful chewy after meal bite.
Another way to have: There is no loss of nutrients when they are toasted. So try walnut pudding.
Good to know: The amount of good monosaturated fats in peanuts is comparable to almonds. In fact everything else is comparable too – calories, protein and fats. Also, the cholesterol-lowering effects of peanuts are well reported. FYI: peanuts also contain oleic acid, the healthful fat that olive oil is famous for, at a much lower cost. And these humble nuts are loaded in resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Bonus: Peanuts have even higher antioxidant content than some fruits.
Bonus: Peanuts have even higher antioxidant content than some fruits.
Best way to have: Unsalted and dry-roasted. Avoid peanuts coated with a sweet or salty glaze.
Another way to have: As peanut butter.
Good to know: Though cashew nuts tend to be higher in calories than other nuts, around half their fat is of the heart-healthy, monounsaturated kind. Plus cashews are particularly rich in iron and zinc and magnesium.
Bonus: Cashews also hold a small amount of an antioxidant which boosts your eyes’ ability to filter the sun’s UV rays and thus helps prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Best way to have: Sprinkle chopped nuts four or five times a week on cereal, yoghurt, salads, vegetables, chicken or fish, pastas, stir-fries, or cream soups. Or put in soups and in whole grain cookies.
Another way to have: Make cashew nut milk. Put nuts in a blender with some water, and a sweetener (maybe honey) and maybe a little vanilla, blend well. It is delicious.
Try these other nuts too
* Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that may protect against breast, bone and prostate cancer.
* Pecans are very high in fibre and thiamin, magnesium, iron, zinc and vitamin E, and are loaded with antioxidants.
* Hazelnuts contain the plant sterol beta-sitosterol, which helps to lower cholesterol.
*Pine nuts are appetite suppressants. Fatty acids in these cone-shaped nuts lead to the release of high amounts of cholecystokinin (CCK), an appetite-suppressing hormone.
Kavita Devgan is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People
From HT Brunch, April 3, 2016
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