Did you know that you can increase your life expectancy by about 2 years just by eating nuts regularly? It’s true! Eating a small handful five days a week or more will give you this wonderful health benefit.
The Global Burden of Disease study that has been referenced throughout this series on the Daily Dozen, calculated that not eating enough seeds and nuts is the third risk factor for death and disability in the world. It kills more people even than processed meat consumption and is thought to contribute to the deaths of millions of people every year.
A serving size is one quarter of a cup of nuts or seeds or two tablespoons of nut or seed butter. Be careful with the latter especially! A tablespoon is not that giant glob overhanging the spoon after digging into the peanut butter jar! Only one serving a day is the recommendation too.
While nuts do make great, tasty snacks on their own, I personally love to use them as good sources of fats to make great creamy plant based sauces. Soaking half a cup of cashews overnight softens them so they can be blended either with water or a plant based milk. This gives a wonderful thickness and flavour to things like vegetable curries or stews. Salads can be elevated by adding a ginger-peanut sauce or tahini-based goddess dressing. These healthy fats also markedly increase the absorption of all the phytonutrients found in the salad ingredients.
Some good choices include almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, sesame seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts. If you really want to compare, it does seem that walnuts have the edge in the “best nut” category. They have very high antioxidant and omega-3 levels and are excellent at suppressing cancer growth in laboratory tests. This was also confirmed in a large study of over seven thousand men and women.
Did you know that peanuts are not actually nuts? Technically they are legumes and they have protective effects against heart disease and fibrocystic breast disease.
I know many of you will be worrying about eating nuts and the effect on your weight. I definitely grew up with the idea that since nuts are so calorie-dense they should be avoided at all costs. There have now been many studies that have debunked this idea. The studies have mostly shown no weight gain or even sometimes some weight loss in regular nut eaters. There seem to be a few reasons for this - despite logic dictating that if you add extra calories weight gain should be inevitable.
There seem to be several mechanisms at work. Firstly, it seems that eating nuts helps people feel more satisfied and thus less likely to overeat generally. Secondly, eating nuts boosts ones’ metabolism resulting in more fat burn. Finally, there are also some poorly understood mechanisms at work, whereby some of the fats are excreted through the stool so not all the calories are absorbed.
Nuts may certainly be one of the easiest and most delicious of the Daily Dozen to check off your list each day. If you have diverticulosis and have been told to avoid nuts and seeds, be assured, studies have shown that this is incorrect advice and adding this healthy food group is actually protective for your bowel.