Good health in a nutshell
Not all fats are created equal… and nuts are packed with the healthy variety, so there’s nothing to stop you adding them to your every day, writes dietitian Ashleigh Feltham.
It is unfortunate that nuts are often given a bad rap because of their fat content. The good news is that the fats are of the healthy variety – polyunsaturated and monounsaturated – which can help your heart and brain work better and can even contribute to the maintenance of a healthy weight.
Healthy fats are heroes for brain function and health, with polyunsaturated fats supporting the structure of brain cells and helping the brain send signals. Walnuts also contain a large percentage of the plant form of omega-3 fat known as ALA, or alpha linoleic acid, which is an important fat for brain health.
The positive nutritional profile of nuts doesn’t end there. Nuts of are also full of vitamins and minerals for healthy bones, energy production and heart function. These include B vitamins, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, potassium and zinc. Nuts also contain arginine, which is a small part of the protein called amino acid, which helps your blood vessels stay dilated and can assist in the prevention of clots in your blood.
The antioxidants within nuts fight the stress and free radicals which occur simply through being alive, and also improve immune function. An additional bonus is that nuts are also low in sodium, which is another win for your heart and blood pressure.
The fibre that makes up a large component of nuts ‘feeds’ the healthy bacteria in your guts known as prebiotics, keeping them well fed and ‘happy’, which in turn promotes a healthy mind, because 90% of serotonin (aka ‘the happy hormone’) is produced in your guts. In addition to this, the soluble fibre in nuts reduces levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. But wait, there’s more! A third bonus of fibre is that it keeps you feeling fuller for longer and helps prevent the sudden ravenous hunger which can come shortly after eating low fibre snacks or meals.
Making a small handful, or around 30g, of unsalted nuts your regular go-to snack is a great way to beat the 3:30pm slump and journey to the kitchen for that doughnut or confectionary vending machine.
In addition to the link between the fibre in nuts and the production of serotonin, studies have suggested that nuts may contribute to lower rates of depression, improved mental performance and memory, slower mental decline and reduced risk or slower progression of Alzheimer’s disease. What’s not to love about nuts?!
Here are some ideas for ways to include nuts in your week:
- Add chopped nuts to your salad for some delicious crunch
- Mix some nuts into your bowl of morning porridge
- Roast some nuts in the oven to accompany vegies and roast dinners
- Make a wholesome smoothie with banana, nuts, yoghurt, and strawberries
- Add pine nuts or broken walnuts to meatballs or vegetable rissoles.
Many people need to reconsider the way they interpret the association between nuts and fat levels. The low-fat message should be thrown out with the empty nutshells. It is the type of fats that is important – and nuts are packed with the healthy varieties.
Ashleigh Feltham is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and owner of Feed Your Future Dietetics. She is also an experienced personal trainer group fitness instructor. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.