Guest blog post
Author: Leonie Wright
Nuts, do you love them as much as I do? I really, really like them. If I am not careful, I can keep on eating them. And how about you?
But it’s not really a problem isn’t it, if you eat too many, I might hear you say. Unfortunately, that is not entirely true.
Because, as with almost everything, nuts have healthy and less healthy properties.
In this blog, I will explain which nuts are best and why, and I will give you tips on how you can (continue to) eat nuts sensibly.
The 9 most common and most popular nuts are:
Almonds, Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, Pecan nuts, Walnuts, Cashew nuts, Macadamia’s, pistachio nuts and peanuts.
Why is it that nuts are generally so healthy?
- They are high in protein and are a good meat replacement.
- Most of the fat in nuts is good fat. It is consisting of mono-saturated fat as well as omega -6 and -3 polyunsaturated fat. However, they do contain some saturated fat.
- They also pack in a number of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium and vitamin E.
- They are good sources of fibre.
- And they make you feel satiated (full) so they keep you going for a while.
Each nut has different health benefits:
- Almonds, high in fibre, protein and vitamin e, can help balance cholesterol, decrease belly fat, improve insulin sensitivity, enhance memory and protect against breast cancer.
- Hazelnuts reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol drop triglycerides, boost vitamin E, copper and manganese
- Brazil nuts, high in selenium, help balance cholesterol, combat cancer and fight inflammation
- Pecan nuts, decrease cholesterol levels, boost antioxidant levels
- Walnuts, provide omega-3, may improve brain function, balance cholesterol and blood pressure
- Cashew nuts, good anti-oxidant, reduce the risk of chronic disease, provide healthy fats
- Macadamia’s, boost heart health, reduce inflammation and balance cholesterol
- Pistachio nuts, help improve blood lipid levels, balance cholesterol and blood sugar, boost motor function
The nuts printed in bold are the ones I recommend for my clients as they are the best.
Almonds are my favourite; I love them, and they are so versatile.
You can eat them on their own, use them in savoury and sweet dishes and they are super healthy.
For some cooking inspiration:
- Cantuccini Recipe
- Vegan Brownie Recipe with Cocoa Powder
- Vegan Chocolate Mousse Recipe
- Sugar-free sweet potato brownies with almonds & chocolate
- Vegan chocolate cookies with almonds
You can even make almond flour from them. They are real vitamin bombs. Make sure to take the brown almonds because the healthy substances are mainly in the skin. Moreover, almonds are not acidifying like some other nuts.
Compared with other nutrient- and energy-dense foods, almonds have a remarkably small carbon footprint — and could eventually become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
Too fat? Too much sugar?
Most nuts are very healthy but some more so than others.
Take the macadamia nut, for example, it’s quite fat, in fact, it’s the fattest among all nuts. You easily eat too many and if you want to watch your weight, it’s not a good nut to have.
The cashew nut is not fat but contains a lot of carbohydrates which can cause a fluctuation in blood sugar levels which increases the production of insulin, also known as the fat-storage hormone. The more insulin there is in the body, the more chance there is of becoming overweight.
Pistachio nuts haven’t got a lot of flavours when you eat them raw and are therefore always roasted. Unfortunately, they are often roasted in the wrong oil.
And the peanut? Did you know that it isn’t a nut at all! Peanuts are legumes growing underground in their pods. They are filled with aflatoxins (produced by a fungus that grows in the moist soil where peanuts are planted), a cancer-causing carcinogen that is a naturally occurring toxic metabolite. On top of that, peanuts contain a lot of omega 6 which can cause inflammation.
How can you enjoy all these nuts the most? I advise making a mix of your favourite ones. And if you are a fan of the less healthy nuts, then only add a few of them to your mix. That won’t be a problem. After all, it’s important to enjoy your food, only then can you maintain a healthy lifestyle. Occasionally eating a bit too much fat really isn’t a problem.
Nuts, eat them in moderation
Although nuts are very healthy, you must be careful not to eat too many as you will eat too much fat. A handful of nuts is the maximum portion I would recommend a day.
But how big is your hand? That is why I always weigh my nuts and not have more than 30 grams. If you weigh them once and find a lovely bowl, that is exactly the right size to serve them in, you don’t need to weigh them every time.
If you’re vegetarian and you eat nuts as a meat substitute, you can have a little more; 45 grams. Because vegetarians don’t eat meat their intake of saturated fats will be lower and then eating a few extra nuts will not matter.
I like them raw!
You can eat nuts raw. They may be a bit tougher, but that means you automatically eat less of them. Raw nuts contain all the healthy nutrients and vitamins that are largely lost during the roasting process.
A disadvantage of raw nuts is that they contain phytic acid which prevents the absorption of other healthy nutrients. This might surprise you. So another reason not to eat too many.
Most nuts are roasted. Very tasty but less healthy. Why? Because most nuts are roasted in sunflower oil which is high in Omega 6 and, as I mentioned above, can cause inflammations.
That is why we don’t use sunflower oil in the EatWright Plan; we prefer extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or small amounts of unsalted grass-fed butter.
Another reason why roasted nuts are not as healthy as raw nuts is that the nuts are roasted at a very high temperature which may damage their healthy fat, reduce their nutrient content and lead to the formation of a harmful substance called acrylamide.
Roasting: do it yourself!
By roasting your own nuts, you ensure that the phytic acid will become harmless. Roast the nuts on a very low heat, in a pan with a thick bottom and without oil as nuts naturally contain fat. You have to turn the nuts over regularly and that will take a bit of time; this really is slow cooking. Fewer nutrients are lost by roasting at a low temperature. You can also season the nuts with some Himalayan salt or spices like curry and chilli if you fancy a bit more taste.
No matter how healthy nuts are, they can still contribute to weight gain when used excessively. But of course, eating too many nuts is not the only reason. There are many more reasons why people are overweight. Often, it’s due to other foods they eat, the lack of exercise, not drinking enough water, not getting enough sleep or a health condition.
About the Author:
Leonie Wright is the Founder of EatWright, which informs, motivates and encourages people to look at food as a way to improve their health, fitness and waistline forever.