Nuts and seeds are some of nature’s ideal foods for humans and the best way for us to get our healthy fats. They can satiate true hunger better than oils because they are rich in critical nutrients and fibers and have one-quarter the calories of an equal amount of oil. They should be part of your healthy eating-style. Many people perceive raw nuts as high-fat, high-calorie foods that should be avoided or consumed in only token amounts. The important role of raw nuts and seeds in the American diet has been almost completely ignored by nutritional advisers, and their absence is a huge flaw in American cuisine. The results of recent research have changed this perception completely. Today, more and more researchers are finally aware that it is not fat in general that is the villain, but saturated fat, trans fat, and fats consumed in a processed form. Fats from avocado, raw nuts, and seeds are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that not only offer unique health benefits, but also maintain the freshness of the food, preventing rancidity of the fat within.
Recent evidence shows that the frequent consumption of nuts is strongly protective against heart disease. It has been shown that people eating nuts daily, or more than once a day, had a 59 percent lower risk of fatal coronary heart disease.1 In addition, several clinical studies have observed beneficial effects of diets high in nuts on lowering cholesterol levels. The beneficial effects of nut consumption observed in clinical and epidemiologic studies underscore the importance of distinguishing different types of fat. One study estimated that every exchange of one ounce of saturated fat to one once of nut-fat from consuming a whole nut was associated with a 45 percent reduction in heart disease risk.2
Study after study shows that raw nuts and seeds not only lower cholesterol, but also extend lifespan and protect against common diseases of aging. They also provide a good source of protein, which makes up about 15 to 25 percent of their calories.3 Nuts’ hard shells also keep them well protected from pesticides and environmental pollution. Raw nuts and seeds, not the salted or roasted variety, provide the most health benefits.
Over the last few years, the health benefits of seeds also have become more apparent. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed, hempseeds, chia seeds, or other seeds can supply those hard-to find omega-3 fats that protect against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.4 Seeds are also rich in lignans, a type of fiber asso ciated with a reduced risk of both breast cancer and prostate cancer. In addition, seeds are a good source of iron, zinc, calcium, protein, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin E, and folate. The plant goes to great effort in producing and protecting its seed, filling each genetic package with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential oils, and enzymes.
While nuts and seeds have great health benefits, they are higher in calories and fat compared to vegetables, beans, and fruits so they should be consumed in smaller amounts. Nuts and seeds contain about 175 calories per ounce, and a handful could be a little over one ounce. For most of us, they are not a food that should be eaten in unlimited quantity. Unless you are thin and exercising frequently, hold your consumption of raw nuts and seeds to less than two ounces a day.
This is an excerpt from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat For Health.
1. Kahn HA, Phillips RI, Snowdon DA, Choi W. Association between reported diet and all cause mortality: Twenty-one year follow up on 27,530 adult Seventh-Day Adventists. Am J Epidemiol 1984;119:775-787.
2. Hu FB, Stampfer MJ. Nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a review of epidemiologic evidence. Curr Atheroscler Rep 1999 Nov;1(3):204-209.
3. Ellsworth JL, Kushi LH, Folsom AR, et al. Frequent nut intake and risk of death from coronary heart disease and all causes in postmenopausal women: the Iowa Women’s Health Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2001;11(6):372-377. Kris-Etherton PM, Zhao G, Binkoski AE, et al. The effects of nuts on coronary heart disease risk. Nutr Rev. 2001;59(4):103-111.
4. Simopoulos AP. Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70 (3):56S-69S.
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