Diets of Mediterranean countries have been studied extensively due to the notably lower incidences for chronic diseases and longer life expectancy of those populations. The Mediterranean diet pyramid recommends daily consumption of nuts (providing you do not have an allergy).
Results show that the incidence of heart disease is lower in people who eat nuts regularly (more than 5 times per week).
Nuts are a healthy and tasty alternative snack food and are often included as part of weight loss diets.
Not surprisingly therefore, tree nuts have enjoyed some excellent media coverage due to their healthy attributes. Here is a summary of the reasons why:
A certain amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. Fat is a source of essential fatty acids, which the body can’t make itself.
Fat helps the body absorb vitamins A, D and E (micronutrients). These vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they can only be absorbed with the help of fats.
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
These are the ‘good fats’ associated with reducing cholesterol, enhancing high density lipoproteins and suppressing low density lipoproteins. Cholesterol and lipoprotein levels are indicators of the risk of heart disease.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are bioactive lipids which modulate inflammation and immunity. They gained recognition in nutritional therapy of various gastrointestinal (GI) diseases.
Proteins are fundamental structural and functional elements within every cell of the body and are involved in a wide range of metabolic interactions. All cells and tissues contain proteins; therefore, they are essential for growth and repair and the maintenance of good health.
They play an important role in muscle structure, connective tissues and blood plasma development. Proteins are also a source of energy.
Proteins found in nuts are low in Lysine and high in Arginine. This ratio can lower cholesterol, reduce blood clotting & improve relaxation of veins.
Carbohydrates are key components in the diet, comprising sugars, starchy carbohydrates and dietary fibre. Starchy carbohydrates provide an important source of energy, and fibre is important for digestive health. Nuts are lower in sugars and rich in dietary fibres.
Promotes satiety, provides roughage, slows digestion, promotes desirable intestinal bacteria. Can also reduce incidences of the lowest gastrointestinal tract diseases.
Helps regulate the immune system and fight infection.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
A co-enzyme which enhances blood circulation, releases energy from carbohydrates, helps blood formation and is good for the nervous system.
Vitamin B3 (niacin)
Aids cell respiration and is important for metabolism.
Known as the anti-stress vitamin. Important in the role of secretion of hormones, assisting metabolism, fighting allergies and maintaining skin, muscles and nerves.
Makes haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to tissues. Involved in protein metabolism and helps keep blood glucose levels in a normal range.
Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid (Folates)
Makes DNA and RDA, reduces risk of birth defects and is necessary for red blood cells.
Is particularly prevalent in most tree nuts and is an important antioxidant. As such it can decrease risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Also good for healthy blood cells and tissues.
Is essential for bone growth and mineralization. Calcium plays a role in muscle (including cardiac muscle) contraction, neurotransmitter secretion, digestion and blood coagulation (clotting).
Helps carry oxygen around body and keep bones, blood vessels and nerves healthy.
Helps carry oxygen around body
Useful in building of bones, making protein, releasing energy and regulating temperature.
Good for bones and teeth. Helps energy metabolism and the transport of nutrients.
Helps maintain water balance & distribution, beneficial for muscle & nerve formation, good for the heart & kidneys, helps regulate blood pressure.
Recognised as having an anti cancer effect and is also an anti-inflammatory agent.
Assists in healing of wounds and is important in the development of the reproductive system.
Many act as anti oxidants, which protect cells by binding to free radicals and transforming them into non-damaging compounds and repairing cell damage. They can thereby reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, boost our immune system and slow the ageing process. Phytochemicals include: flavonoids, selenium, beta sitosterol and sitosterol.