Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nuts About Nuts?

Many of us grew up with the notion that all nuts are oily and make you break out, and thus are bad for your health. This notion is not directly true but we’ll talk about that later in this post. Don’t totally discount nuts. Besides the fact that they contain oils, there is so much more to nuts. There are so many different kinds, flavors, shapes, sizes; some are better for you than others. But all in all nuts do contain positives as well. What are they?

Protein Powerhouse: Nuts, when eaten in moderation, just like many other natural foods, are great for you. They contain a ton of protein, which the muscles need to recover after workouts. So if you're working out, add this to your list as a great source of protein.
Good vs. bad cholesterol: Nuts usually contain good monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which promote the good kinds of cholesterol.  According to the FDA, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. So they can’t be all bad, right?
Brain power: Nuts have also been known to increase mental capability. They help you focus and think more clearly.

Negatives of the nuts readily available to us
Loss of good oils: Nuts are created in shells for a reason. The shells protect the nutrients. This is not to say that they are bad when unshelled, but it they have been sitting that way for a while, they may have lost all their good nutrients. And a lot of the nuts available to us are shelled and have been sitting that way for ages.
Salt: We all know that processed nuts are usually roasted with tons of salt. This salt is good for the manufacturers because it increases our addiction to the product, but it is bad for us because salt in that quantity really holds no nutritional value, and just makes us eat more than we should. Plus, salt makes you bloated as well.
Calories: All nuts are high in calories, no doubt. Some have less than others, but they are mostly high. So when I say nuts are great for you, I don’t mean go cray-cray. I mean eat them in moderation. Nowadays, some nuts come pre-packaged into 100 calorie packs. And if you’re in Nigeria (or somewhere else where you can readily get freshly roasted unsalted nuts in their shells), you have it really good, but make sure you buy little quantities so you don’t go ‘nuts’ with it.

So what’s this about nuts and acne?
Well, the truth is that nuts themselves don’t directly cause acne. In fact, studies from several organizations like the American Academy of Dermatology and the Journal of the American Medical Association have come up with results that show that diet does not directly affect acne. So why do you break out after eating some foods, including nuts? Foods that are high in protein and fat content are usually difficult for the body to digest. If these foods don’t digest properly, the body automatically produces certain antibodies. These antibodies tend to inflame sebaceous glands and may cause pimples. So though the nuts themselves don’t cause pimples, they could lead to pimples if they are not properly digested. How can you avoid this? Try roasted rather than raw nuts because the roasting decomposes some of the protein.

So what are some of the best kinds of nuts?
Walnuts: Highest in omega-3 fatty acids, so they help to lower cholesterol
Almonds: Contain calcium in addition to the protein, so they help build strong bones
Chestnuts: Contain the least calories of any nuts
Pecans: Contain over 19 vitamins and minerals

In summary, what am I saying? Don’t eliminate nuts from your diet because you think they contain a lot of calories. Rather, eat a little bit only lightly salted (or better yet, unsalted) because they do contain a lot of other health benefits. Limit your consumption though – moderation is key – especially if you are trying to lose weight, because they do contain a ton of calories that only help to pile on those pounds in the wrong places.

So, what are your favorite nuts?

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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