In a society that jumps at news of the next weight loss “magic bullet” and cherishes every purported quick fix to the modern day ailments that pervade our communities, one tried-and-true nutritional philosophy has consistently been shown to help mindful individuals achieve and maintain lasting health and wellness: consuming a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals. But, one very important component of our balanced diet – fat – has been demonized by misguided media outlets and has led countless people astray in their quest for weight loss, health and wellness. Well, I’m here to reclaim our admonished friend and provide a few good reasons why one of the richest sources of quality fat should be integrated into every healthy diet.
Nuts, nature’s hidden harbinger of health, help all those wishing to maintain a high-quality, nutrient-dense and well-balanced diet through their uncanny ability to:
1. Accelerate Weight Loss – Fiber-rich nuts provide that “oh-so-good” full feeling that will help us stick to even the strictest of dietary regimens. An added bonus, fiber helps cleanse the digestive tract and improves regularity.
2. Arrest Food Binges – Traditionally, when we try and lose weight, the first thing we cut is dietary fat. Eliminating fat creates a nutrient imbalance and jump-starts our internal “corrective” mechanism, which produces cravings to correct the imbalance. A pint of ice cream and two KitKat bars later…
3. Foster Happiness - Eating nuts stimulates serotonin production, which provides feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Now, we will feel as good as we look as a result of all the weight we’ve just lost.
4. Improve Heart Health – In addition to an otherwise prudent diet, eating nuts has been shown to decrease LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which lowers the risk of heart disease. So much so that the FDA has actually issued a statement saying that we only need to consume 1.5 ounces of nuts each day to improve our heart health. That’s equivalent to a shot and a half of tequila, folks.
5. Provide Omega-3s – Walnuts, pecans and pine nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower triglycerides and improve memory. Also, obtaining omega-3 from nuts is particularly important for those who limit or avoid animal foods, as there are very few plant sources that contain this essential fatty acid (flax, chia and hemp are a few other non-nutty sources).
6. Manage Insulin and Diabetes – Consuming mixed nuts in exchange for carbohydrates has been reported to greatly improve blood glucose levels in individuals with Type II Diabetes. Eating nuts instead of grains or starches is also beneficial for those genetically predisposed or insulin sensitive in their efforts to prevent the development of Diabetes. Avoiding wild changes in blood glucose also prevents mood swings that can follow carb-heavy snacks.
7. Reduce Environmental Stress - Nuts are a rich source of antioxidants, which help eliminate the free radicals our bodies produce in response to environmental and physical stress. The natural byproducts of exercise and pollution, free radicals are detrimental to our cell and tissue structure and can have a disastrous effect on our health.
Even though we now know the many benefits of including high-quality nuts in our diet, we must remain mindful of how many of these little gems we eat. Although the beneficial fats found in nuts are an important consideration in any healthy diet, it is fairly easy to over consume these energy dense snacks, which may have a few undesirable outcomes (namely, weight gain). Best to follow the tried-and-true mantra, “everything in moderation,” where moderation is 1.5 to 2 ounces per day.
Nuts, when consumed mindfully, provide a wide variety of benefits for those attempting to maintain a healthy, balanced and nutrient-dense diet and should be included in every diet aimed at total health and wellness.