When it comes to your diet, be sure to go a little nutty. Why? Nuts are good for you.
For starters, the fats in nuts have been shown to support a healthy heart and healthy cholesterol levels. Those benefits are so impressive that in 2003, the FDA approved health claims for the following nuts: almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and some pine nuts. They stated that “scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts. . . may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
That’s not all for these nutritional powerhouses, though. They’re also great sources of several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Studies indicate that the antioxidants in nuts may decrease the risk of heart disease and other unhealthy conditions. Almonds and peanuts, for example, are excellent sources of vitamin E, one of the most lipid-soluble antioxidants in our cells. The antioxidant function of vitamin E may slow the effects of oxidative stress and support healthy aging, joints, eyes, blood sugar levels and immunity.
Then there’s the weight factor. Including nuts in your diet may support a healthy body weight because of their higher protein and fiber content, which help to make a person feel fuller for longer. Likewise, nut consumption has also been linked to healthier blood sugar and insulin levels, helping to combat feelings of hunger.
But wait, there’s more. Newer research points towards a link between eating nuts and higher levels of serotonin in those with metabolic syndrome who are at high risk for heart disease. In short, for the first time ever, researchers “determined that nut consumption boosted serotonin levels to promote satiety and happiness.” Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that can decrease feelings of hunger, while boosting spirits and supporting a positive mood—and just one ounce of nuts daily will produce these health-supporting benefits.
That’s significant, too, because metabolic syndrome is definitely an ominous force to be reckoned with. Metabolic syndrome is generally defined as a cluster of risk factors that can pave the way to diabetes (affecting 24 million Americans with almost 60 million pre-diabetics), heart disease (affecting 16 million Americans) or stroke (affecting 6 million Americans). One expert says, “The presence of the metabolic syndrome leads to a two- to five-fold increased risk for coronary heart disease or strokes and a five-fold increased risk for diabetes as compared to its absence.”
Here’s what the researchers from the Biomarkers & NutriMetabolomics Research Group of the University of Barcelona in Spain found. The researchers put 22 patients with diagnosed metabolic syndrome on a nut-enriched diet for 12 weeks and compared them to another group of 20 patients, who were told to avoid nuts.
Dr. Cristina Andres-Lacueva, lead author of the study, observed, “Dietary changes may help patients shed the excess weight and become healthier. The regular consumption of nuts, which are jam-packed with healthful nutrients such as healthy fats (unsaturated fatty acids) and antioxidants (polyphenols), have been recommended to fight the metabolic abnormalities associated with metabolic syndrome."
Additionally, the study’s authors concluded that one ounce of nuts eaten daily “reduced levels of substances in the body associated with inflammation and other cardiovascular risk factors in patients with metabolic syndrome."
Now that’s what I call nutrition—and health benefits—in a nutshell!