Nuts are currently in the spotlight because of their health benefits, and rightly so. Like seeds, the small, discrete nut packs a powerful nutritional punch, and can help you get the vitamins and minerals you need to have a healthy and balanced diet. This month, Kelly McCabe, Registered Dietitian at Eat and Think, has given us the low-down on six of the best nuts out there, and the one nut you should think of cutting down on.
All nuts have a slightly different nutritional composition and will offer different health benefits if eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet. Although nuts are high in fat, it is predominantly the heart-healthy monounsaturated variety. If you’re watching your weight you should aim for no more than one small handful per day.
Almonds are packed full of fibre, calcium and protein, and contain plant sterols that may help to lower cholesterol levels. They are also, like many other nuts, a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Try this recipe for a delicious raspberry and almond granola that will help you get your daily nuts first thing.
Just 2-3 Brazil nuts per day provide the right amount of selenium – a mineral needed to support immune function. We can’t get selenium from many other dietary sources in the UK so this is an easy tip that can help the whole family.
Cashews are a good source of protein, iron and zinc. They make an excellent alternative protein source for vegetarians and vegans, or people trying to cut down on their meat intake. Try adding a handful to a stir-fry, or, if soaked and blended, mix in with milkshakes, smoothies and soups. Try this recipe for a filling cashew, carrot and coriander soup.
Despite being completely delicious, peanuts are considered to be one of the least healthy nuts because they contain the highest proportion of saturated fat. It’s not recommended that you eat large quantities of peanuts and, subsequently, peanut butter. Instead, try using different nut butters made from almonds or cashews to get all the nut-goodness without the bad fats.
Like almonds, pecans may also help to lower cholesterol levels because they contain plant sterols. They also provide certain B-vitamins, which are essential for energy production.
Pistachios are an excellent source of fibre, iron and vitamin B6. Sprinkling crushed pistachios on yoghurt, porridge or even rolling chopped dates or figs in them makes a healthy sweet-treat.
Walnuts are a plant source of the omega-3 fatty acids (usually found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel), which have been found to help lower inflammation. Following an anti-inflammatory diet may help to lower our risk of certain conditions including cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
Overall, all the nuts, except peanuts, have a range of health benefits. It is important, therefore, to include a variety of them in your diet on a regular basis. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make your own nut and seed mix – combining a selection of the nuts recommended above and the seeds here. Store this in a jar in the fridge and snack on a handful each day.