For a cracking good meal
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
Nuts are chock full of heart-healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They add a distinctive flavour to salads, soups, and other autumn recipes.
Once shunned for their notorious fat levels, nuts are today experiencing a serious renaissance. Rich in heart-healthy fats and a smorgasbord of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it’s now clear that enjoying nuts daily may promote good health.
A raft of research suggests that nuts may reduce the risk for developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, likely by helping to improve cholesterol and blood sugar numbers, respectively. So grab a handful for a healthy snack, toss them onto your yogurt, or try one of these savoury uses.
Many people are shocked by the calorie count of nuts. But groundbreaking new research suggests that they may not be so calorie-dense after all. A 2012 study determined that almonds actually deliver about 129 calories in a 1 oz (30 mL) serving, 30 percent fewer than previously thought.
A similar study conducted on pistachios found that these nuts may contain up to
5 percent fewer calories than what is listed on nutrition labels. The researchers surmise that strong cell membranes of plant foods such as tree nuts may lock in some of their macronutrients, including fat, thereby preventing them and the energy they provide from being fully absorbed through the digestive tract.
Further, a number of studies suggest that frequent nut eaters are actually more likely to be slimmer. A synergy of nutrients in nuts may help promote weight loss, and they may crowd out other less healthy snacks. Still, to keep your calorie intake in check, it’s best to limit your nut intake to around 2 oz (60 mL) daily, or about 22 almonds and 14 walnut halves.
While extra-virgin olive oil should be a pantry staple, consider shopping for nut oils as well. Made by pressing nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pecans, nut oils add different flavour nuances and health perks to salads, soups, and pestos. Because of their delicate nature, it’s best not to expose nut oils to high heat. They should be stored in the refrigerator once open to preserve freshness.
Toasting nuts serves to elevate their nutty flavour. To do so, spread the nuts out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and cook at 350 F (180 C) for 6 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. Be careful not to burn nuts, as it will ruin their flavour.
The various guises of nuts have some serious health credentials.
Almonds act as a prebiotic that could help improve digestive health and optimize immune function. Prebiotics act as a fuel source for beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut, thereby increasing their bacterial numbers.
This oft-overlooked giant of the nut family is a selenium powerhouse. Just one of these Amazonian nuts provides more than a day’s worth of this mineral, which is thought to reduce bladder cancer risk.
Buttery cashews are a good source of magnesium, an often under-consumed mineral that is an ally in the battle against colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Also called filberts, creamy hazelnuts are deliciously high in fibre, which slows down digestion and absorbs water in the gut. Plus, fibre is a great tool to help trick our stomachs into thinking that we’re fuller than we actually are.
These Hawaiian treasures contain a high percentage of cholesterol-slashing monounsaturated fat, making them a champion for heart health.
Though technically a legume, they’re still rich in muscle-building protein and satiety-boosting fibre.
These delicious nuts are a stellar source of antioxidants, which combat disease-promoting oxidative stress in the body.
These tasty treasures contain higher amounts of the antioxidant lutein than other nuts. Also found in leafy green vegetables, lutein is stored in the retina where it helps maintain good vision.
High in omega-3 fats, walnuts are a great snack for anyone working to maintain a heart-healthy diet. Frequent consumption has also been shown in a recent study to slash type 2 diabetes risk by up to 24 percent.