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Know Your Nuts - Benefits & Quantities

Nature often seems determined to prove the old adage that 'good things come in small packages' to be completely true, and the nutritional power of nuts provides a perfect example of this. They are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and the famous 'friendly fats', which provide you with energy without clogging up your arteries. However, there are so many different types of nuts available, and each has their own unique flavor, texture and, of course, different health benefits. This guide will look at each type of nut individually, establish the health benefits of each, and finish up with some suggestions about how you can mix them all up to give yourself the perfect snack you can eat regularly!
Mixed Nuts

Nuts - The Bottom Line

Nuts HeartScientists have reported that nuts can actually help protect against heart disease, and that a serving of just 0.5oz (13-14g) of nuts a day could decrease the risk of a heart attack by around 30%. Nuts are so good for the heart because they are absolutely jammed with Omega-3 fatty acids, the much discussed 'friendly fats' that are essential for good health. They can lower elevated levels of triglyceride and cholesterol, both common causes of heart problems, and they provide your body with high amounts of energy, but very little in the way of harmful by-products. They have also been shown to help curb stiffness and joint pain, and aid the function of anti-inflammatories, so they are an excellent dietary choice for people who suffer with arthritis.


That's not to say that you shouldn't exercise some caution when adding nuts to your diet. They are high in calories, so if you eat too many without exercising sufficiently, you could gain weight. However, scientists have found that nuts can actually help you control your weight because people who eat more nuts, tend to eat less overall. Those who regularly snack on nuts, snack less on unhealthy alternatives like chocolate, candy and baked goods, and will typically eat less at meal times.


The cell structure of nuts also means that they pass through the body without depositing fat everywhere - unlike saturated fats found in processed food, animal fats and dairy products. As long as you are sensible, you can eat nuts regularly and gain from all the benefits they offer, without putting on weight.


Different Types of Nuts

There are several different types of nuts, and you can buy them all individually from grocery stores, supermarkets or health shops. You can also buy ready made bags of mixed nuts, but we recommend that you are careful when doing so. Always try to buy nuts in their purest form if you can - unsalted, unroasted, fresh nuts are the best option. The easiest way to ensure you get as many benefits as possible from these bitesize nutritional superstars is to put together your own mixture, but to do that you will need to know what each type of nut can offer.


1. Brazil Nuts

Brazil Nuts

Main Benefits:

  • One of the best providers of selenium, an antioxidant that's great for your immune system. Just one Brazil nut will provide your body with its entire daily recommended amount of this helpful mineral.
  • They are one of the best nuts for men to eat, as they have been shown to help protect against prostate cancer. They can also help boost fertility.
  • Rich in vitamin E, which helps support cell membranes and protects the skin from harmful free radicals.
  • They provide gluten-free protein, and often form a key part of gluten-free recipes.
  • They offer an instant source of energy due to their fat content, and remain the staple dietary energy giver used by many Amazonian tribes to this day. They are great for active people looking for a boost before (or during) a work out, long hike or run.

A Word of Caution:

  • They are one of the higher calorie nuts, and contain 190 calories per 1oz (28 grams), so should be consumed in moderation, especially by less active people.
  • Although most of the fat found in Brazils is 'friendly', they contain a higher level of saturated fat than other nuts.

Know Your Quantities:

  • 6-8 Brazil Nuts = 1oz (28 grams) approximately.

2. Peanuts


Main Benefits:

  • Peanuts (biologically a legume, but they look like a nut and are treated like a nut) are fantastic for the brain because they are high in folate. Folate has been shown to be essential for brain development, and can help protect you from cognitive decline.
  • They are packed with other b-complex vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and vitamin B-6, which provide a whole range of benefits for your heart, cholesterol, energy levels, stress relief and red blood cell production.
  • They're an excellent source of resveratrol, another great antioxidant that has been found to protect the body against cancers, heart disease, Alzheimers and reduce the risk of a stroke.
  • They're in zinc, copper and iron, all essential minerals for your blood, bones, immune system and metabolism.

A Word of Caution:

  • Although they are packed with friendly fats, they are still high in calories so you shouldn't eat handful after handful.
  • Peanuts are often sold when shelled and salted, which tempers some of their benefits. Try to buy them in a pure form, and shell them yourself at home.

Know Your Quantities:

  • 28 peanuts = 1oz (28g) approximately

3. Walnuts


Main Benefits:

  • All nuts contain heart healthy fats, but walnuts may just be the very best for your heart. They contain very high amounts of a fatty acid called ALA, which can help regulate your heart rate and stop it from 'quivering'.
  • A 2006 study found walnuts to be as effective as olive oil in reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after you eat fatty meat.
  • They're packed with omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, especially omega-3, which helps protect neural cells and keeps the nerves in the brain working sharply.
  • They're rich in friendly fats, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart problems.

A Word of Caution:

  • Cooking walnuts diminishes the majority of their wide ranging benefits, so you should try to eat them raw, or only add them to a meal towards the end of the cooking process.

Know Your Quantities:

14 halves of walnuts = 1oz (28g) approximately.


4. Almonds



Main Benefits:

  • The best source of protein of all the types of nut available. Protein supports a huge range of functions within the body, and the protein contained within almonds is gluten-free as well.
  • 70% of their fat content is the healthiest, mono-saturated type of fat you can consume. That's a great means of giving yourself energy, the healthy way!
  • Along with Brazils, they are the richest sources of oleic acid you can find - important for protection against heart disease.
  • They're a rich source of many other vitamins and minerals, and especially calcium - the essential mineral for healthy teeth and bones.

A Word of Caution:

  • Almonds are quite hard to digest in their raw state, so it's easy to get indigestion after eating them. Soak them in milk overnight before consuming them to reduce this problem.

Know Your Quantities:

20-24 almonds = 1oz (28g) approximately.


5. Cashews

Cashew Nuts

Main Benefits:

  • Cashews contain a number of nutrients that encourage good skin health, and support the formation of collagen to keep the skin supple and youthful.
  • They're one of the most abundant sources of numerous minerals, including copper, magnesium and calcium, so they are great for general bone health.
  • They're a rich source of soluble dietary fiber, that can aid digestion and support energy levels.
  • Like other nuts, they're a rich source of heart-friendly, monosaturated fats.

A Word of Caution:

  • Having one of the highest calorie counts, cashews can be fattening if eaten excessively. This is particularly true if they are consumed as part of Chinese or Indian meals, where other ingredients can outweigh the benefits of cashews.

Know Your Quantities:

16-18 nuts = 1oz of cashews approximately.


6. Macadamias


Main Benefits:

  • Macadamias are considered to be one of the most nutrient-rich nuts (possibly the most nutrient-rich of all) - they provide a range of health benefits for just about every function in the body.
  • Their complex mix of Omega fatty acids supports memory, concentration and nerve function, so they are great if you need to study, read or work hard on a task.
  • They're an excellent source of selenium, second only to Brazils, and high in iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc, supporting healthy bones, blood cells, skin and arteries.
  • They're another great source of energy, while being gluten free and rich in monosaturated friendly fats.

A Word of Caution:

  • They have the highest calorie count of any nut, and should be consumed in moderation, despite the presence of high levels of friendly fats.
  • They are very rich and creamy, so can upset your stomach if you eat too many.

Putting Together Your Own Nut Mix

We've established that nuts are one nature's great gifts to humankind, providing a rich range of friendly, heart-healthy fats, huge supplies of energy and numerous vitamins and minerals that help your body function at its best. But how many nuts should you eat and in what combination?

British nutritionist Vicki Edgson advises that 0.5 oz (13-14g) a day is a good starting point, although you can add more if you are particularly active and need energy to burn. Nuts should always be high on your list of snacks. Try this 0.5oz (13-14g) combination for starters:

  • 1 Macadamias
  • 6 Almonds
  • 1 Brazil Nut
  • 3 Walnuts
  • 3 Cashews
  • 6 Peanuts

Throw in some raisins and sultanas to liven up the mix, and you have a fantastic, energy-rich snack ready in seconds. Enjoy!


Sources: nutrition-and-you.com and The Daily Mail

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