Are you looking for an easy (and tasty) way to elevate your nutrition? Well say hello to nuts! When it comes to the healthy-eating discussion, I’d say that nuts deserve a lot more fanfare. Understandably, we hear often about eating our fruits and veggies, our legumes and whole grains. But nuts are nutritional superstars in their own right. Read on for the top 5 likely reasons why.
Nuts are an important source of vitamin E. And almonds are actually among the foods highest in this vitamin. One ounce of almonds contains a whopping 37% of the Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a group of fat-soluble compounds with distinctive antioxidant activities. Vitamin E is involved in immune function and other important activities, some of which may contribute to better cardiovascular health.
Vitamins are essential to our nutrition. Because our bodies cannot produce them in adequate amounts, we need to ensure we consume foods that contain them. In addition to vitamin E, nuts contain niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and folate. So of the 13 vitamins essential to life, nuts supply us with seven of them. That’s a strong start, I’d say.
There are 20 minerals that are essential to our health and wellbeing. They are involved in many of our systems, from red blood cell formation to bone remodeling.
Where do nuts stand on their ability to supply us with these vital minerals? Nuts contain over half of them! The list includes iron, zinc, copper, calcium, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, chromium and sulphur. It’s quite an impressive lineup.
Very interestingly, nuts are among the most naturally antioxidant-rich foods¹. To be honest, I haven’t been thinking of nuts as antioxidant powerhouses, but I am now!
Here’s why antioxidants matter:
- Free radicals are generated through our bodies’ normal processes, and also by certain lifestyle choices (e.g. smoking and alcohol consumption) along with environmental pollutants.
- Free radicals lead to oxidative damage in our bodies.
- Free radicals are inactivated by antioxidants, thus protecting our cells from oxidative damage.
- By reducing oxidative damage, research is showing we may reduce our risk of many diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
You can look up your favourite nuts in The Antioxidant Food Table to see where they stand. And in case you’re wondering, walnuts come out on top!
4. Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
Not only do nuts have the most antioxidants, but they also have the lowest glycemic index and glycemic load of any whole plant food¹. Essentially, this means our blood sugar won’t spike much after we eat nuts.
Reducing our blood sugar spikes and levels is an important aspect of disease prevention. We automatically associate chronically elevated blood sugars with diabetes, but consider that elevated blood sugars (which often go unnoticed or ignored) put us at increased risk of serious health issues including high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease and glaucoma (see here). Chronically high blood glucose may also be linked to Alzheimer’s.
5. Healthful Fats
Nuts are low in saturated fats and free from cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats or polyunsaturated fatty acids are the predominate fats in nuts. Check, check and check!
Remember how walnuts have the most antioxidants? Well it so happens they are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important components of the membrane that surrounds every cell in our bodies. Our bodies cannot make omega-3s, so reliable sources in our diet are important. That’s why I add some chopped walnuts to my breakfast bowl every morning.
Just imagine…a simple handful of nuts is just bursting with goodness! Nuts can strongly contribute to our physical wellbeing, with virtually no downside. Whichever nut you prefer, today’s the day to give it some love. We know it’s going to love you right back.
(1) Davis, Brenda, and Vesanto Melina. Becoming Vegan. Book Publishing Company, 2014.