NUTS – HEALTH BENEFITS*
A nut is a fruit consisting of a hard or tough shell around an edible kernel (Oxford English Dictionary).
In common usage, the word "nut or nuts" refers to the edible kernel, available after the surrounding hard or tough shell has been removed, if it is present.
Culinary nuts are divided into fruits or seeds in one of four categories:
- True, or botanical nuts: dry, hard shelled, un-compartmentalised fruit that do not split on maturity to release seeds:
- Drupes: fleshy fruit surrounding a stone, or pit, containing a seed (also called a kernel):
- Pecan (hickory)
- Gymnosperm seeds: naked seeds with no enclosure:
- Cycads such as Burrawang nut
- Ginkgo nut
- Pine nut
- Angiosperm seeds: un-enclosed seeds within a larger fruit:
- Brazil nut
- Macadamia nut
Nuts for Health
In the past, it has been recommended to avoid (at least too many) nuts. This was mostly because they are high in fat and kilojoules. But nuts are a great source of protein, fibre, healthy fats (no cholesterol), minerals and vitamins.
Research has shown that people who ate nuts seven or more times a week were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease when compared with those who did not eat them at all.
How Does Eating Nuts Help Your Heart?
People who eat nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet can lower the low density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol level in their blood. High levels of LDL is one of the primary risk factors of heart disease.
Eating nuts may reduce the risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also appear to improve the health of the lining of the arteries.
Most nuts are a good source of fibre, potassium, zinc and iron, and they are high in polyunsaturated fats.
Calcium, magnesium, and potassium have an important role in blood pressure control. Pistachio and Brazil nuts have the highest amount of these heart-healthy minerals.
- High protein
- Unsaturated fats
- Zero cholesterol
- Omega-3 fatty acids: nuts are one of the best plant based sources of the essential omega-3 fatty acids. They are high in walnuts
- Fibre: helps reduce blood cholesterol
- Vitamin E: helps stop the development of plaques in arteries
- Plant sterols: help lower blood cholesterol
- L-arginine: improves the health of arterial walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots.
The following table sets out details of the nutritional content of seven nuts that are worth consuming regularly for their health benefits. ( - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference).
|Total fat g|
It is of interest that the above database does not list apricot kernels/seeds/nuts. Why is this? It is likely that it is because they are deemed poisonous due to the presence of a bound molecule of cyanide in Laetrile or amygdalin or vitamin B17. For more on this interesting subject visit
All nuts contain the following minerals in varying amounts: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Essentially, nuts contain no vitamin D and very low levels of vitamin C (if any). The other vitamins are present, especially vitamin E.
Brazil nuts have a very high selenium content. This is an antioxidant which helps reinforce immunity.
Cashews are a very good source of magnesium, as are almonds.
Nuts are more than a good snack. Eating them is a good way to boost your health, protect you from heart disease and even add years to your life. The nuts should be fresh, raw, and unsalted whenever possible.
The role of nuts in longevity has been documented in the Blue Zones (see my March 2015 newsletter The Blue Zones – Where there is Great Longevity and Health).
*Copyright 2016: The Huntly Centre.
Disclaimer: All material in the huntlycentre.com.au website is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Consult a health professional regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations expressed herein, with respect to your symptoms or medical condition.
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