Nuts: One of Life’s Greatest Treasures


Picture A handful of tasty almonds. * This is part of a year-long weekly series called “52 Weeks to Eating better than Ever”. 
Click on the side bar for more information and to read the previous essays.

It may sound overly dramatic to say that nuts are one of life’s greatest treasures, but it’s true. They taste good, they’re easy to find, store well, and they’re good for you.  Most importantly, they are one of the best things to snack on.  Especially compared to all the terrible snacks they compete with, like potato chips, ritz crackers, granola bars, and so on.

Nuts are plant foods and contain protein and healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins and minerals, and are good for your cardiovascular system, and for your brain.  They contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (49–74% total fat), several B group vitamins (including folate), vitamin E, minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium, antioxidant minerals (selenium, manganese and copper) plus other phytochemicals such as antioxidant compounds (flavonoids and resveratrol) and plant sterols.
A nut is a simple dry fruit with one or two seeds in which the ovary wall becomes very hard at maturity, and in which the seed fuses with the ovary wall.  My home state of Alabama is where George Washington Carver of Tuskegee developed over 300 uses for the peanut, which is technically a legume but often thought of as a nut, and was once only thought to be food for poor people but is now known to be very healthy.  
Here are some basic tips about how to get the most out of nuts.

  • Try to eat a small handful of nuts every day.
  • Nuts have many uses so put them on salads, cereals, or use them as a snack.
  • Nuts are high in fat, and fat calories, so don’t go overboard.
  • Opt for the unsalted and unsweetened nuts. High amounts of sodium and sugar can cancel out the many health benefits of nuts, which in their natural state are very low in sodium.  
  • Think variety, since every nut is different mix it up to take in different vitamins and minerals.
  • Seeds are often thought of as nuts, even though they aren’t, but not to worry because they are good for you too.  
  • Add nuts to a meal containing carbohydrates, because when nuts, (or any other healthy protein or fat) are consumed with carbs, the glycemic response is lowered, and there is less sugar and insulin produced.  An example would be putting almond butter or peanut butter on whole wheat bread as a snack. 

Specifically, nuts contain:

  • Almonds: protein, calcium and vitamin E
  • Brazil nuts: Fiber and selenium: just two Brazil nuts a day provides 100% RDI for selenium for an adult
  • Cashews: iron
  • Chestnuts: Fiber and vitamin C (although much vitamin C is lost during cooking)
  • Hazelnuts: Fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin E
  • Macadamias: highest in monounsaturated fats, thiamin and manganese
  • Pecans: Fiber and antioxidants
  • Pine nuts: Vitamin E and the arginine amino acid
  • Pistachios: protein, potassium, plant sterols and the antioxidant resveratrol
  • Walnuts: alpha linoleic acid: plant omega 3 and antioxidants

It seems like many things that taste good aren’t always good for us.  Part of the struggle is to acquire a taste for things that are healthy, which happens with time.  With nuts though, we can indulge and enjoy from day one.  They taste great, are filling, and they are one of the healthiest things you can eat. 
Read Next:  52 Weeks to Eating Better Than Ever: An Introduction

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