One handful is packed with essential nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants.
We have all heard the benefits of eating more fiber. Increased fiber consumption is associated with a reduction in heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and colon cancer. Greater fiber intake is good for bowel health and encourages regularity. We are advised to consume whole grains— the seeds of grasses— as breads and breakfast cereals, even if they taste like cardboard with a bit of sugar added. Primitive humans enjoyed a diet much higher in total fiber and prebiotic fiber than modern humans do without harmful grains. How? They obtained fiber from legumes, tubers, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds – not grains. The belief that grains must be among our sources of fiber is a recent notion, and it’s one that is at odds with human nutrition over the past 2.5 million years. Much of the fibers provided by grains are of the indigestible cellulose form – the same polysaccharide structure found in wood. Cellulose and related fibers are indigestible by humans and indigestible by bowel flora, and therefore they pass through, yielding “bulk” that has been associated with bowel health. Minus grains, plentiful cellulose-type fibers can be obtained from nuts and seeds to reach the 30 grams or so per day advised by most health agencies.
Nuts are packed with vitamins and minerals. The list of vitamins includes several B group vitamins (including folate). They are a great sources of Vitamin E. Nuts are full of minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. They contain antioxidant minerals (selenium, manganese and copper), along with other phytochemicals such as antioxidant compounds (flavonoids and resveratrol).
Eating a handful a day of (most) nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios may reduce your risk of heart disease. Nuts improve the fats in your bloodstream, helping to balance your cholesterol.
Choose raw nuts and seeds whenever possible. By doing so, you will avoid the hydrogenated cottonseed or hydrogenated soybean oil used to roast nuts, as well as the wheat flour, cornstarch, and maltodextrin used to coat them.
The nutritional benefits vary from nut to nut. Let’s break it down…
Let’s take a deeper look at a couple of nuts…
Have you ever noticed that a shelled walnut resembles the shape of the human brain? Walnuts support brain health. They contain a high concentration of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. DHA has been shown to protect brain health in newborns, improve cognitive performance in adults, and lessen the effects of dementia. Walnuts also contain Vitamin E and l-arginine (powerful amino acid), both of which improve vascular health and help to prevent heart disease. They contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an anti-inflammatory, plant-based omega-3 fat that deters the formation of blood clots. They are also a tremendous source of antioxidants and are used in the natural treatment of prostate cancer.
Maybe almonds should be heart shaped? They contain monounsaturated fats which help to lower the risk of heart disease. The high level of Vitamin E in almonds protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals which helps prevent the development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Almonds contain magnesium that acts as a calcium channel blocker, which improves blood flow. Almonds are also great source of calcium. Calcium is responsible for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, nerve signaling, and muscle contraction.
Replace those unhealthy grains with products made from nuts
Almond meal and almond flour are our preferred wheat flour replacements. Almond meal is ground from whole almonds, while almond flour is ground from blanched almonds. Anyone unfamiliar with almond meal or flour will be pleasantly surprised at the wonderful baked products you can create with them. I like to reserve the almond flour for when the lightest texture is desired, such as in a cake or pound cake. I use the coarser and less costly almond meal for everyday use. Try Wheat Belly All-Purpose Baking Mix