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Going Nuts for Your Health

Nuts are wonderful (unless you’re allergic, then not so much). From the pungently sweet peanut sauces for satay and rojak to the sprinkle of pine nuts on top of a well-made salad, and from the humble peanut butter spread to its more flamboyant cousin the chocolate hazelnut, we really do put nuts on almost anything and everything. Those little golden nuggets can add salty, savoury and delightful crunch to every morsel of food.

Question is, should you be going nuts for your health?

Scientifically speaking, nuts have many purported health benefits. From peanuts and chestnuts to pistachios and walnuts, it is clear that there are many varieties of nuts to pick and choose from. However, not all nuts are created equal: each is different in terms of nutritional value and it’s also important how they are prepared (note: deep-frying is a bad idea).

The following is a veritable list of nuts that you can consider including into your diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Walnuts

Did you know that adding just a couple of walnuts to your daily diet has health benefits? This curious looking nut is known as a great source of the omega-3 fatty acids, which is a healthy unsaturated fat that supports cardiovascular health. Walnuts are high in antioxidants as well, which helps to protect your body against illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Walnuts also have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties and can help prevent damage at the cellular level. Research has also shown that walnuts are good for brain health, so they may come in handy when you’re cramming for a big exam. Last but not least, walnuts can potentially contribute to your weight-management strategy.

Ways to Enjoy It

  • Toss into a waldorf salad
  • Bake in a banana walnut bread
  • Crush into your morning cereal

 

Almonds

Almonds can lower blood sugar levels, have anti-inflammatory properties and when coupled with a low-calorie diet, can support you in your weight-loss goals. They can also boost your gut health by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria. It is said that almonds are best consumed after they are soaked in water, and with its brown peel removed. Apparently, the almond peel contains tannin that, when consumed, prevents nutrients from being absorbed. Soaking the almonds before eating them also aids with fat digestion.

Ways to Enjoy It

  • With a warm bowl of oatmeal, together with raisins and pumpkin seeds
  • Eaten plain as a healthy snack, preferably soaked overnight and with skin removed
  • In a delicious pancake made from almond flour

 

Pistachios

For those in search of a healthy, low-calorie snack, pay attention: Just under four calories per nut, pistachios have the lowest calories in the nut family. This tasty nut is replete with Vitamin B6, which is anti-inflammatory and therefore a great snack for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis; and Vitamin E, which is great for the skin. Being magnesium-rich, it also supports bone health and blood pressure. Most significantly, pistachios contain the amino acid l-arginine, which is an essential nutrient to promote healthy blood flow and strong cardiovascular function. Pop between five to seven pistachios a days and you are doing yourself a world of good.

Ways to Enjoy It

  • Crushed and sprinkled on ice cream
  • Blended in a pesto with basil leaves and olive oil
  • As added crunch in a spinach and watermelon salad

 

Cashews

Cashews are the brain food in the nut family.

These crescent-shaped goodies are actually relatively lower in fat when compared to other nuts, although their smooth and creamy texture may lead you to believe otherwise. Furthermore, the fat is what is considered the good kind, consisting mainly of unsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which research has shown to support the development of healthy brain cells. Furthermore, cashews are also high in magnesium, which may help to prevent memory loss. Consume up to four or five cashews a day and enjoy the health benefits.

Ways to Enjoy It

  • In a chicken and cashew stir fry
  • In a homemade cashew butter
  • In a caesar salad

 

Hazelnuts

Consume hazelnuts and you’ll be doing the environment a favour. These nuts are hardy, able to grow and survive better than many other plants under harsh conditions, and they do not need a lot of maintenance. Hazelnut trees also have strong and large roots, which make these hardy trees effective for preventing soil erosion.

Hazelnuts are very often the nut of choice when it comes to chocolate-covered delights. So delicious, and luckily, so very good for you! The Vitamin A it contains is great for eye health, while Vitamin E helps to keep skin soft, supple and hydrated. It’s also rich in Vitamin C, and together with Vitamin A, gives hazelnuts powerful antioxidant properties, which can help to hold back the signs of ageing by slowing down the development of wrinkles and laugh lines.

Ways to Enjoy It

  • As a chocolate hazelnut spread on bread
  • Crushed and blended as a powder to add to your protein shake
  • Baked in a hazelnut and blueberry muffin for breakfast

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