With Diwali around the corner, festive fervour is setting in and you are once again faced with the enjoyable if challenging task of assembling a hamper.
From traditional mithais to contemporary cupcakes, deciding the contents of the perfect Diwali gift hamper can be quite daunting. But if you were to take advice from nutritionists, there is a staple they say you must have. Dry fruit and nuts have always been part of Deepawali gift hampers. And nutritionists insist they should remain so. Despite being relatively high in calories, nuts are nutritional powerhouses packed with healthy fats, fibre, proteins, and essential vitamins and minerals.
Also read: Open that dry fruits box for health benefits
They are high in good fats too, which protect the heart, and they contain zero cholesterol. A handful of nuts a day, in fact, along with the use of oils such as canola, mustard and olive, can healthily fulfil the body's daily fat requirement. The highfibre content in nuts increases satiety and lower the total calories consumed through the day.
Including nuts in your diet has multiple health benefits. These important health benefits, for instance, decrease the incidence and prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease in Asian Indians, who are markedly prone to developing these problems, says Dr Anoop Misra, chairman at the Fortis C-DOC centre for diabetes, obesity, metabolic diseases and endocrinology.
Adds Michelle McNeil, senior marketing director at the California Walnut Board and Commission: "Nuts are a healthy snacking option and are considered as a super food.Walnuts especially, reasons McNeil, are high in protein, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, trace minerals, lecithin and oils. Compared with other nuts,she says, walnuts are unique as they contain heart-healthy Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids."
Nutritionists, however, recommend eating nuts in their most natural form. This means it is best to have unsalted, raw nuts, since salt and oil not only increase the calorie count but also decrease the nutritive value of the nuts. In an age when more people are watching their weight by avoiding fats, including nuts in your diet can also prove to be a healthy source of good fats.
These days many of us are overcautious about fat, says Ritika Samaddar, regional head of dietetics at Max Healthcare. We try to omit fat completely from our diet. But this is not healthy. Consuming about 20 gm of visible fat daily from a healthy source like nuts is important in order for the body to function smoothly.
* Nuts have low levels of saturated (bad) fats
* High levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (good) fats
* No cholesterol
* Antioxidants and amino acids that strengthen immunity to help fight infections and diseases, and act as building blocks respectively
* Are high in dietary fibre Their plant protein makes them a good alternative to meat
* Are rich in Vitamins E and B Complex
* Are full of minerals such as magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, copper, selenium and potassium