Nutty about nuts? Here's why they're the perfect snack
Nuts are a healthy, filling, 100% natural snack (we're not talking about the flavoured varieties!) packed with protein, antioxidants and other nutrients essential for health. We love nuts, in desserts and baking, in smoothies, on our porridge, as nut butter or just a handful as a post-workout snack. With so many different kinds of nuts to choose from, there's sure to be one that you like best, and nuts are pretty much the perfect snack – if you combine them with some fruit, even better!
Whether you're crazy about cashews, addicted to almonds or hungry for hazelnuts, here are a few reasons why nuts are the perfect snack and why we should all eat more of them.
Nuts can fight inflammation
Walnuts are the leaders of the nut world when it comes to antioxidant levels, which means they're great at protecting you from cellular damage that could lead to cancer, premature ageing and heart disease. They're also packed with omega-3 which can help fight inflammation. Since omega-3 fatty acids are usually found in fish, walnuts are a great alternative source if you're not a fish eater. Did you know the manganese found in walnuts can also help to reduce PMS symptoms?
Nuts can boost your brainpower
Nuts, particularly cashews, are rich in zinc and iron. We need iron to prevent anaemia, whilst zinc keeps vision healthy and is vital for a properly functioning immune system. A 1 oz. Serving of cashews can provide almost a quarter of your daily magnesium needs, which can help boost your memory and protect against memory loss in old age.
Nuts can make your heart healthier
After walnuts, pecans are the most antioxidant-rich nuts and they can help improve heart health by preventing plaque from forming in your arteries. According to a study by the Journal of Nutrition, pecans can lower your levels of LDL cholesterol by around 33% (1) and can boost brain health.
Nuts can protect against cancer
Turn to Brazil nuts if you're looking to reduce your risk of cancer. They're packed with selenium which could help protect against breast, prostate and bone cancer. Eat just one Brazil nut and you'll consume over 100% of your daily selenium intake. Limit yourself to just one or two portions though, as too much selenium can be harmful to health.
Nuts are a diet-friendly snack
If you're on a diet, you'd be forgiven for thinking that nuts aren't a great snack choice. Yet nuts can be a great option for a healthy post-workout or late night snack, and they won't make you pile on the pounds. Pick pistachios if you're counting calories; they're the lowest calorie nut with just 4 calories each (2). They are also a rich source of potassium and vitamin B6, a natural mood booster. Research by scientists from the University of Texas revealed eating just 2oz of pistachios a day could reduce your risk of lung cancer.
Nuts can keep your skin healthy
Many types of nuts, such as macadamias, almonds and walnuts, are packed with healthy fats and vitamin E, which can help maintain healthy skin. Vitamin E has even been shown to reduce dementia risk. Hazelnuts are rich in mono-unsaturated fats and vitamin E, and they're a great snack for anyone with type 2 diabetes (3).
Nuts are great for your digestion
Nuts are packed with fibre, particularly almonds, which contain around 3 grams of fibre per 1 oz serving. They can help balance blood sugar levels and raise the level of good bacteria in your gut, protecting your immune system (4).
Nuts are filling and nutritious
In case you needed any more reasons why nuts are the perfect snack, how about this? All nuts are a great source of protein, making them an excellent choice for vegetarians or vegans. Of course, all nuts are different – for example, almonds are rich in calcium, making them a great choice for anyone who doesn't eat dairy. Our run down of the benefits of nuts should help you choose the right ones to snack on:
- Brazil nuts – A great source of selenium so can boost immunity. They're a good choice for anyone with low thyroid function
- Cashews – A good source of protein, zinc and iron, so ideal for vegetarians – they taste great in stir fries!
- Chestnuts – Packed with starchy carbs, they have the lowest calories and fat of all nuts and are a source of B vitamins, which can boost your energy levels
- Hazelnuts – An excellent source of folate which can help regulate levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to Parkinsons and heart conditions
- Pecans – Can help lower cholesterol levels and are loaded with antioxidants and oleic acid (the same healthy fat found in avocados and olives). Also a great source of vitamin B6 which can fight fatigue and help you to feel more energetic
- Pistachios – Contain zeaxanthin and lutein which protect your eyes. Good levels of vitamin B6 can help to balance hormone levels and reduce PMS symptoms
- Macadamias – Contain one of the highest fat contents of all nuts, although it's healthy, mono-unsaturated fat. Also rich in fibre, calcium, potassium and magnesium
- Walnuts – Can help fight cancer and are a great source of heart-friendly fats that can help to lower 'bad' cholesterol (LDL). They're also a great vegan/vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Aren't nuts loaded with fat?
If you're concerned about fat content, you'll be pleased to know that most nuts are packed with good fats. However, some are lower in saturated fat than others:
Nuts with high levels of saturated fat:
- Brazil nuts
Nuts with medium levels of saturated fat:
Nuts with low levels of saturated fat:
We're totally nutty about nuts and we think they're the ideal snack whether you're trying to lose weight, build muscle, or are just looking for a healthy alternative to processed junk food. You'll find plenty of recipes including nuts on our recipes page.
READ THIS NEXT: 27 new ways to enjoy nut butter