You’d Be Crazy to Turn Down the Multiple Health Benefits of these Nuts and Legumes
When it comes to health benefits, nuts rate highly. This is not just anecdotal. Big studies involving almost 200,000 people have found significant effects. By significant, I mean that people who eat nuts live longer. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that all-cause deaths were up to 20% lower in people who ate a small portion of nuts each day!
The picture gets more interesting. Different nuts have different health benefits. Some are broadly shared – for example antioxidants are present in many types. Others are specific. Some nuts help your brain, others your blood and still others help reduce the incidence of cancer.
You’ll find two different views of the benefits of nuts below.
- Health Benefits View: Here I have use Cholesterol, Antioxidant and Blood Health as the key categories, and discussed which nuts are best for each.
- Nut-By-Nut: After that, you’ll find a list of 10 popular nuts (which includes Peanuts, a popular Legume), along with the known health benefits of each.
At the end of the page, some quick advice on bringing the health benefits of nuts into your own daily routine.
Fitness and Nuts: Health Benefits
#1 – Cholesterol
Many nuts contain fats. The good news is that this is good fat – as in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These have significant benefits. They will help lower cholesterol, specifically the ‘Bad’ LDL cholesterol. That is associated with heart-disease and all sorts of other nasties.
The best nuts for keeping your bad cholesterol in check are almonds, which are also high in fibre, and macadamia nuts. You’ll get benefits from a range of nuts, though not as marked.
#2 – Blood Health
Of course, less cholesterol is great for your circulatory system. This is not the only way that nuts will benefit the red stuff. Peanuts contain an amino acid called arginine. This has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Hazelnuts contain ‘PCAs’, an antioxidant which has known benefits for your circulation. Pistachio nuts have been found to stabilise blood sugar levels (important for diabetics or those at risk of this). Finally, the humble Cashew helps red blood cells, the high copper levels assisting Iron absorption.
#3 – Cancer Reduction
Antioxidants, which reduce free-radicals, are found in almost all nut types. Some nuts have been clinically studied in the context of cancer prevention / reduction. Note that any claims are in the context of large populations, cancer is too complex a topic to be prevented by a single nut. Brazil nuts have been found to reduce cancer incidence by a not insignificant 7% in clinical studies. Pecans are also extra high in those cancer reducing antioxidants.
Fitness Fans Guide to Nuts: Nut by Nut
#1 – Brazil Nuts
You’ll find a long list of benefits for Brazil Nuts. The stand out one is a mineral called Selenium. This helps keep the immune system healthy – and is thought to be responsible for the anti-cancer properties of this nut. In addition, Brazil nuts are packed full of healthy fats. They also contain essential minerals, including Iron, Copper and Magnesium.
#2 – Walnuts
If you can get through the hard shell, then this popular xmas treat will help with your brain. Studies have highlighted that walnuts have a role in reducing Alzheimer’s disease. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, and those ‘good fats’, which replace that bad cholesterol that can lead to heart and circulatory problems.
#3 – Peanuts
I know, I know, these are officially ‘legumes’. Now that is out the way, this humble nut has some big benefits. Peanuts have a higher protein level than most of the nuts listed here. They also have high levels of Arginine. This is an amino acid, which has a role in reducing blood pressure. Peanuts do have high levels of fat – so make sure you don’t overdo it.
#4 – Almonds
Many people losing weight swear by Almonds. They are high in fibre, which is a great digestion aid. Almonds are also known for reducing cholesterol. When you add in the high calcium levels, you end up with a versatile nut! Almonds replace dairy milk for many people.
#5 – Pistachio Nuts
Unlike most nuts, these are normally solid with their shells still on. This has a side-benefit, that they are difficult to ‘wolf down’. There are especially high levels of anti-oxidants in Pistachio nuts. These also have a role in stabilising blood sugar levels. Studies have gone as far as to say that these nuts can help lower the risk of diabetes.
#7 – Cashew Nuts
Compared to many other types of nut, Cashews are low fat. They have a unique property of super high copper levels. In turn, copper helps facilitate the uptake of Iron, which has multiple roles (notably in red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body). Collagen can also be found in cashews. This has a role in healthy bones and teeth.
#8 – Hazelnuts
Nuts ohh hazelnuts, Cadbury take them, and they cover them in chocolate. Now, I’m not recommending you eat chocolate (for any health-related reasons at least). You will find some surprising benefits from eating Hazelnuts though. They are high in Foliate. This is otherwise known as Vitamin-B. You will also find high levels of a type of antioxidant known as ‘PCA’ in hazelnuts, in turn, this is great for your blood.
#9 – Pecan Nuts
I’m not sure that ‘replacing your multi-vitamins’ is entirely accurate – though pecan nuts do contain a lot of different healthy substances. These include high levels of vitamin E, as well as folic acid, and minerals including magnesium, potassium and zinc.
#10 – Macadamia Nuts
Studies have empirically demonstrated that these nuts reduce cholesterol. This is not the only benefit; these nuts also have a long list of vitamins and minerals associated with them. Notably, you’ll find both vitamin A and B.
Fitness and Nuts: Don’t Go Nuts with Your Portion Sizes
Before you go on a nut-eating frenzy to cram in as many of the positive effects as possible, you need to keep some other factors in mind.
Nuts are generally high in calories and high in fat.
This means too many will have negative effects. If have a calorie surplus, you’ll be storing it… an excess of fatty deposits is usually opposed to your overall health and fitness goals. Keep your portions small and mix nuts to get a mix of the benefits. These made perfect replacements for snacks and avoiding the bad effects of those snacks can be just as big a boost as the positives from the nuts themselves.
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