Nuts are an amazing addition to any diet. They are loaded with proteins and healthy fats, among other nutrients. Although they are high in calories, this means you really don’t need to eat a lot of them to get the very best out of the fats they have. And once you get past any initial concerns you may have about their fat content (which are completely unfounded, trust me), you will grow to love them. Take for instance…
Walnuts are loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, like all nuts, but in particular they are loaded with omega 3 oils in the form of ALA. Omega 3 fatty acids are amazing for our heart health. They lower our bad cholesterol and raise our good cholesterol, as well as fight triglycerides and inflammation. Overall they boost our arteries’ health and are probably the best way of avoiding heart disease, hypertension, and even strokes.
Almonds come with countless healthy vitamins suspended in their oils, many of which are known to prevent cancer. A handful of almonds a day goes a long way to providing us with immune-system boosting vitamins A, C, and E, as well as loads of different B vitamins. All of this improves how our immune system works and allows it to fight back harder than ever against things like cancer cells.
Macadamia nuts had long been hated by fitness and diet experts for their ridiculously high fat content. Even biting into one, they squeak rather than crunch, they are that oily. But ever since finding out about the health benefits of monounsaturated fatty acids, we have been hearing grudging acknowledgement from all but the most fat-hating of gurus that actually macadamia nuts are great for us. Their high fat content is a blessing, not a curse!
Bonus feature: Peanuts
Peanuts are not actually a nut. They are a weird kind of legume that grows underground, but tastes like a nut so we sort of roll with it. The fats in peanuts are actually nothing special. They’re the same fats we see in other nuts, with no bias towards amazingly healthy ones. But peanuts have a secret benefit. They have a high amount of fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin E, which are great for good skin, hair and eyes, but also for keeping our organs and immune system in perfect working order.
How we eat nuts will affect their health properties. As the fats in nuts are largely monounsaturated, we do not want to cook them. In roasted nuts, or even boiled nuts, the oils we found so healthy begin to break down, oxidize, and turn toxic. And oxidized monounsaturated fats are as bad for us as trans fats. In fact, that is how a lot of trans fat loaded oils are made: healthy nut and seed oils are heated at high temperatures and blended to give us vegetable oils, that are terrible for our hearts. So first of all, eat them raw.
Secondly, do not combine your fats with easy carbs. Simple carbs are terrible for us, but all too often we add them to our nuts in the form of trail mixes, barks, and even cakes. When we eat too many carbs we mess with our blood sugar levels, which increases inflammation and our risk of heart disease. That means that by adding candy to your trail mix, you are undoing all the great work your nuts did.
Last of all, don’t load your nuts with salt. The connection is not as well understood as we used to think, but in people with normal and high blood pressure, eating salt has been found to raise their blood pressure further. Elevated blood pressure is a strong marker for inflammation, and contributes to heart disease and strokes. Again, by adding salt to your nuts you are undoing their work.
So how should we eat nuts? Cold pressed nut oils are an excellent choice, as are natural raw nut butters. You can also add crushed nuts to breakfast cereals, salads, or on top of any given dish. If you’re really looking for a nut fix, try a “Paleo cereal”: mixed chopped nuts in almond milk. Yum!