Why eat nuts?
Nuts are often viewed cautiously by those on a fitness regime due to their high fat content, but their cardioprotective and other health benefits make them an important component of any diet.
The risks of coronary heart disease and non-fatal myocardial infarction drastically reduce in those who eat nuts on a regular basis, regular being nearly every day rather than once a week.
Nuts are perfect for those on a paleo or vegan diet, as they contain fibre, which encourages healthy bowel function and high levels of protein and fat, which promote satiety.
They have a low glycaemic load, are high in antioxidants, vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients which offer an array of health-giving properties.
How to buy nuts
It goes without saying that all nuts should be raw and organic and preferably unshelled when bought. Dry or honey-roasted nuts should be avoided as the commercial nut roasting process often involves deep frying in a saturated fat, which is linked with high levels of LDL cholesterol.
Nuts cooked at a high temperature will lose most of their health benefits as the natural oils will be damaged. Store them in an airtight container, preferably in the fridge and if you chop nuts, always do it just before you eat them or the fats they contain will oxidise and some health benefit will be lost.
How you can use nuts: butter, milk and salads!
All nuts can be made into delicious butters in a blender or food processor. I like to add a spoon of coconut oil and some cinnamon to add a bit of flavour.
It’s also very easy to make nut milk! It’s important to soak nuts, at least for a couple of hours before you make milk or eat them to remove any toxic substances or nutritional inhibitors such as phytates, polyphenols, goitrogens and enzyme inhibitors. If you soak nuts overnight, then the nut milk you make won’t last very long, a couple of days at the most.
To make a litre of nut milk, use 4 tablespoons soaked nuts with a litre of water, blend in a Vitamix or blender and strain through a muslin cloth (a nut bag or a pair of clean tights!). You can also chop nuts to add a bit of texture and flavour to salads.
How many is too many?
With all nuts, look at how many you are eating! Just because a food high in fat is healthy doesn’t mean it won’t make you put on weight if you eat it in excess. I would classify a serving as a handful, about 25-30g, which is not that many. Instead of eating a whole bag in one go, try and vary your snacks and include kale chips, celery sticks, carrots or apples to your regime.
Another thing to note is that most nuts contain high levels of l-arginine, an amino acid which positively impacts hypertension as it converts to nitric oxide, allowing blood vessels to relax. L-arginine is not good in high levels for those that have the herpes virus and have a tendency to suffer frequent outbreaks so during breakout time, try and keep your high arginine foods to a minimum.
To find out which nuts I recommend, read the rest of the article on Watchfit here.