Nuts for health nuts

By: Dr. Philip S. Chua October 19,2015 - 07:39 AM

Are nuts good for us?

Yes, they are, according to clinical investigations upon which the US-FDA based its approval in 1997 for nuts and whole-oat foods to carry the labels “touting possible heart benefits.” While animal fats are bad for us, the fats in nuts are the healthy unsaturated fats, which reduce the risk of heart attacks. Food items like oatmeal and those whole grains made from wheat, bran, etc., besides providing high fiber in our diet (which reduces the risk for colon cancer) also helps lower the cholesterol in our blood, which protects the cardiovascular system.

The study on 31,208 Adventists showed that those who ate nuts 1 to 4 times a week had 27 percent lower risk of dying from heart ailment compared to those who had nuts once a week. Those who consumed nuts 5 or more times a week had almost half (48 percent) reduction in the risk. This study considered and adjusted for standard risk factors such as gender, age, blood pressure, smoking, exercise, and other foods like fruits, cheese, legumes and meats.

This clinical investigation also revealed on these same subjects (years later) that those who ate nuts every day lived almost 4 years longer than those who rarely ate nuts. Two other similar researches, the Nurse’s Health Study, involving 86,016 women followed for 14 years, and the Iowa Women’s Health Study, showed similar results.

Those subjects in the study who consumed five or more ounces of nuts a week showed a reduction in their risk of death from heart attack by 35 percent, even after considering (adjusting or) other factors such as smoking, alcohol, obesity, blood pressure, dietary fats, fiber, vegetables, vitamin E intake. A more significant reduction of 52 percent was noted among those who did not drink alcoholic beverages and those who did not smoke. A 57% reduction in their risk of a fatal heart disease was seen among those who ingest nuts frequently compared to those who did not.

Why are nuts good for our body?

Some of the reasons why nuts are healthy for us are: (1) Nuts contain a protein which is high in arginine, a precursor of nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator that relaxes and opens arteries that improves blood circulation to organs, like the heart, brain, kidneys, liver, etc.; (2) The fats in nuts are unsaturated fats, the good fats; (3) Almonds and walnuts help lower serum cholesterol level; (4) Walnuts have high alpha-linoleic acid (essential n-3 or omega) fatty acid that is cardio-protective by reducing heart disease and deadly arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm); and (5) A good source of dietary fibers. Nuts contain vegetable proteins, potassium, vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium and copper.

Do nuts cause obesity?

One of the reasons why some people do not eat nuts regularly is the mistaken notion that the fats in nuts are like the unhealthy saturated fats in red meat and egg yolk. The fats in nuts are the unsaturated kind that is healthier for our body. Nuts have been found to speed up satiety during a meal, making us feel fuller and satisfied sooner, thus helping control our calorie intake. The recommended amount is one to two ounces a day.

How about peanut butter?

Modern peanut butter contains hydrogenated fats which makes it less ideal and only weakly beneficial to our cardiovascular system. The old-fashioned peanut butter did not contain hydrogenated fats and are as good as the nuts themselves. Peanuts, unlike the other nuts, are really a legume.

Which nuts and seeds are good?

The variety of nuts and seeds commercially available are all good. They are peanuts, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, filberts, hazelnuts, cashews, pecan, macadamia, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame and flax seeds, either raw or roasted, alone or as topping for desserts, in salads or in a recipe. Peanut butter, almond butter and tahini, as long as they are not hydrogenated, are also healthy for us.

Is macadamia nut unhealthy?

Macadamia nuts are high in fats and had a bad reputation in the past because of this. However, science has shown that between 78 to 86 percent of the fat is monounsaturated, which is good for us. Monounsaturated fat helps lower blood cholesterol and lowers our risk for developing heart disease and stroke. In addition, macadamia contains  palmitoleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that may speed up fat metabolism which reduces the body’s ability to store fat. Macadamia nuts have a better taste than olive oil or canola oil and, hence, a favorite of top chefs. It can also be cooked at higher temperature without losing its great flavor.

What are the healthy contents of nuts?

Cashew nuts contains zinc, copper, magnesium, which are beneficial  to nerve, muscle and  bone function. Walnuts have plant-based omega 3, good for improving cognitive function and memory, and also boost the immune system. Almonds have more fiber than most nuts. Pistachios have carotenoids (beta-carotene), lutein, zeaxanthin, which improve vision. Peanuts had the phytochemical, resveratrol found in red wine, which reduces risk for heart disease, kidney illnesses and even cancer. They are all high in protein.

Are honey-coated nuts good?

Nuts coated in honey or caramelized with sugar lose some of the potency of the good ingredients they have as  the health benefits are lessened from the added processing and high sugar content. Nuts are best consumed fresh from roasting without additives. Instead of sweets, cakes, bread, for snacks, nuts daily are the healthier alternative, with coffee, tea, or filtered water, rather than soft drinks, which are toxic to our body.

*The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people, especially parents, whose way of life inevitably impacts the health of their children, to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities, and achieve a happier and more productive life for themselves and for their offspring. My articles are general medical information for the public and not intended to be applicable to, or appropriate for, anyone. The data, statistics, and personal commentaries presented here are not a substitute for, or inferred to be superior to, the professional opinion and recommendation of your physician, who knows your total condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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TAGS: health, obesity
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