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Heart and Nuts

January 14th, 2015


Heart and Nuts

Health conscious people and weight watchers often say no to nuts because of the high calories. More importantly, they are hard to stop eating after one!

Many academic studies say, contrastingly, that nuts can help control weight.

Most nuts (except for chestnut) give 500-600 kilocalories per 100 grams. A study shows that people who eat nuts weigh less than those who don’t. A study conducted among 9,000 people in Spain found that people who eat nuts at least twice a week gain less weight that those who haven’t touched nuts in two years.

Moreover, there are studies that say adding nuts to the diet doesn’t contribute to weight gain. A study added almonds into daily diet, adding 344 kilocalories per day and not removing anything from the diet nor adding exercise. Those who received additional calories from almonds did not gain weight. Another similar study was done with peanuts and walnuts. A study in Australia concludes that adding nuts to the diet does not increase weight like we believed. Contrastingly, it might even help people shed some weight.

It was explained that fibre and protein in nuts make us feel full longer. Some smaller studies found that nut-based food helps burn calories better. Moreover, fat in nuts is not wholly absorbed into the body. About 4-17% leaves the body without absorption.

Certainly, many researches confirm that nuts can help with heart disease, especially by lowering cholesterol level. A medical journal wrote that eating 60-90 grams of almonds, pecans, peanuts or walnuts a day can lower LDL cholesterol, and might even increase HDL cholesterol. Other nuts may have the same effect, such as macadamia and pistachio.

Most nuts have unsaturated fat which helps keep cholesterol level at bay. Moreover, nuts are very nutritious, containing vitamin B, potassium, copper, magnesium, vitamin E and water soluble arginin, which is an amino acid that helps prevent blood clotting. There is also stenol which can help lower cholesterol level, and physiochemical anti-oxidants. Please be warned that if you are trying to lose weight or lower cholesterol level, do not eat more than 30-60 grams per day, or 1-2 handfuls. Stay away from flavoured nuts, whether with sugar, coconut milk or chocolate coat.

Vegetarian people also benefit greatly from nuts, which is a great protein source. If you buy packaged nuts, check out its salt content because sodium can cause high blood pressure. Nuts, like everything else in life, should be eaten in moderation. It can be really hard to stop. Before you know it, you are so full you are ready to burst, mostly through breaking winds!

All nuts are basically the same in terms of benefits, but some are more beneficial than others such as almond which is higher in vitamin E and calcium than other nuts.

Brazil nuts are high in selenium. Just a few per day give 200 micrograms of selenium, which is the amount that is reported to help lower risk for prostate cancer. Cashew nut is high in copper and zinc which help with the skin and immune system. Macadamia, the delicious nut, is highest in calories and fat content, while shell nut is lowest in both. Peanuts have many anti-oxidants like those found in grapes and red wine, and are highest in protein. Peanuts also have the important amino acid arginin. Walnuts have plenty of alpha-linolenic acid which is omega-3 fatty acid useful for the heart.

In conclusion, nuts are good for the health if

1. Consumed moderately, not too often

2. Eaten without flavour additives such as salt and sugar

3. Eaten in the right amoun

4. Eaten in variety


Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.


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