I do believe that a small handful of unsalted nuts every day is a great addition to a wholesome diet. Packed with protein, fibre and essential fats, if used correctly nuts can be hugely beneficial. In moderation they make a great snack, especially as a replacement to crisps or other processed items.
Their high protein content means they are a fabulous source of energy and many of the micro-nutrients make them great for our skin, take the vitamin E content of almonds for example.
Studies show that increased nut consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of major chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. More recently, researchers at Harvard posed the question; "Do all the health benefits of nuts translate into greater longevity?"
Their research suggests that daily nut consumers had fewer deaths from cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, even after controlling other lifestyle factors. Nut consumers lived significantly longer, whether they were older or younger, overweight or slim, whether they exercised more, smoked, drank alcohol or ate other foods that are thought to affect mortality.
There is of course the ‘fat’ question. The concern that frequent nut consumption can result in weight gain. However, that’s not what the Harvard researchers found. In fact, other studies have associated nut consumption with a slimmer waist, a lower chance of weight gain and lower risk of obesity.
How nuts do we have to go? I like to keep to the ‘5 a day’ motto as it’s easy to remember - five large nuts per day and no more. Overeating can put pressure on the digestive system and for IBS sufferers, they may wish to avoid whole nuts entirely as these can irritate an inflamed gut. I suggest grinding nuts in a mini-chopper until a fine powder is formed and then sprinkling this onto yogurt or pop into a smoothie. This, of course, does not replace your 5 a day from fruit and vegetables.
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