Nutrition in a Nutshell
Shalini Mitra
December , 2016

Nuts or dry fruits can be delicious part of a wholesome diet simply because theirs is a nutritious nature. With today’s busy lifestyles, nuts are a convenient, tasty, and easy snack that contributes to a healthy lifestyle. In addition to their great taste, tree nuts and peanuts are cholesterol-free and full of important nutrients, including protein and fiber. They’re also a delicious way to get vitamins such as folic acid, niacin, and vitamins E and B6, and minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus, potassium and protein.

While nuts are high in fat and calories, research shows that people who eat nuts tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of many diseases compared to people who don’t eat nuts. In fact, the New England Journal of Medicine published findings that show that eating a handful of nuts a day could possibly extend your life. Many people mistakenly believe that nuts contain cholesterol. According to gastroenterologist Dr. Sundeep Lakhtakia, “There is no cholesterol in nuts because they are a plant product and cholesterol is found only in animal products. Nuts are easily digested and exercise a cleansing effect on the blood and the digestive tract.”

Studies indicate that nuts may play an important role in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease. In one study, researchers found that, although the benefits were greatest for frequent nut eaters, those who ate nuts even once a week had 25% less heart disease than those who avoided nuts completely. While more research is needed, this effect may be due in part to the fat profile of nuts.

Oftentimes, the simplest foods are best for your health, and this is certainly the case for nuts, in which mother nature has crafted a nearly perfect package of protein, healthy fats, fiber, plant sterols, antioxidants, and many vitamins and minerals. Among nuts, walnuts are king, as research shows they may boost your health in a number of ways. Eating just one ounce of walnuts a day (that’s about seven shelled walnuts) may be all it takes to take advantage of their beneficial properties. One-quarter cup of walnuts, for instance, provides more than 100 percent of the daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amounts of copper, manganese, molybdenum, and biotin. Walnuts may help reduce not only the risk of prostate cancer, but breast cancer as well. Walnuts contain several unique and powerful antioxidants that are available in only a few commonly eaten foods. Adding healthful amounts of nuts such as walnuts to your diet can help you to maintain your ideal weight over time.

Buttery yet rich-flavored pecans are one of the popular edible tree-nuts. They are enriched with many health-benefiting nutrients, minerals, vitamins that are essential for optimum health. The nuts are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid and an excellent source of phenolic antioxidants. Regular addition of pecan nuts in the diet helps to decrease bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol levels in the blood. Research studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in dietary-fiber, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants would help to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes by favoring healthy blood lipid profile.

Cashews are clearly the leader of the dry fruits in terms of quality and image. They are an excellent source of protein and fibre. Almost unaffordable for a common man cashew is mostly eaten raw but it finds an important place in traditional cooking. Like peanuts, cashew nuts are often salted. This added sodium content may contribute to increased blood pressure. So buy plain roasted cashew nuts without added salt. Combining cashews with other nuts and dried fruits makes a healthy snack. Right before taking off the heat, add cashews to healthy sautéed vegetables. Dried form of grapes, raisins have high nourishing qualities because of their sugar content. Raisins can contain up to 72% sugar most of which is fructose and glucose. They also contain about 3% protein and 3.7%–6.8% dietary fiber. As a rich source of iron, raisins enrich blood and are useful in anemia and also in gaining weight. In Ayurveda, black raisins are used for restoration of sexual vigour. Raisin varieties depend on the type of grape used, and are made in a variety of sizes and colours including green, black, blue, purple, and yellow. The routine consumption of raisins (three times a day) may significantly lower blood pressure, especially when compared to eating other common snacks.

Wonderfully delicious pistachio nuts have long been revered as the symbol of wellness and robust health since ancient times. Together with walnuts, almonds, and cashew, they offer good sources of protein, fats, and minerals to inhabitants living around otherwise dry and arid regions of Central, West and South Asia. Pistachios are excellent sources of vitamin-E. Vitamin E is a powerful lipid-soluble antioxidant essential for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes of mucosa and skin. Research studies suggest that these compounds may help remove toxic free-radicals from the body, and thus, protect it from diseases, cancers, and infections.

The date provides natural sugar in the form of glucose and fructose and therefore is a food of high nutritional value. “Crush dates in the same water in which they have been soaked overnight after removing the seeds and taken at least twice a week strengthen the heart” says Fortis Hospitals heart specialist Dr. Mohan Bagga. Also, the nicotine content in dates is an excellent remedy for intestinal disturbances and it is a good laxative too.

The almond, known as the king of nuts, is a highly nutritious food. The medicinal virtues of almonds arise chiefly from dynamic action of copper, iron, phosphorus and vitamin B1. They help the formation of new blood cells, hemoglobin and play a major role in maintaining the smooth physiological functions of brain, nerves, bones, heart and liver. They strengthen the muscles and therefore, prolong life.

Almonds should be thoroughly chewed and they should not be eaten immediately after meals. They are a very concentrated food, with high calorific value. Almonds are, therefore, a useful food remedy for anemia. Along with other nuts, almonds can be sprinkled over breakfasts and desserts, particularly muesli, or ice cream-based dishes.

Nuts certainly have a place in a healthy diet. According to one particular study, those who eat nuts as little as once a week, have 25% less heart disease than those who avoid nuts completely. Eaten alone or added to entrees, salads, baked goods and desserts, nuts provide wonderful texture and flavours.

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