Tasty Healthy Nutty
Often being mentioned as one of the food required to have a healthy heart, we are sure that nobody would say no to nuts, unless allergy is in the book. Coming in the picture with its large varieties and different, yummy flavors, nuts are always a good addition for a healthy finishing touch in or on a not-so-healthy food.
Being overlooked in its nutrition, nuts actually are little fellas with an ambitious health aid. There are many kinds of them, but this time we would like to focus on tree nuts.
Nuts in general are actually fruits with hard, wooden-textured shell that protects one or two seeds attached inside. Even though the real nuts are the tree nuts we are about to explore, healthy seeds like chia and poppy seed are often called nuts as well. Tree nuts are specific types of nuts from trees, among them are almond, pistachio, walnuts, pecans, cashew, macadamia, Brazilian nut, and hazelnut.
In general, nuts are the source for three major nutrients needed: healthy fats, protein, and fiber. The healthy fats are including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats with 49–74% total fat. Nuts of any kind are also the recommended food for daily protein intake for 30 gram, alongside fish, eggs, and legumes. Nuts are low in sodium and generally have carbs as natural sugar for natural energy. Each one of the tree nuts has its own specialty in nutrition, broken down below.
- Brazilian nut, originally from Brazil and its neighbors such as Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. Containing fiber and selenium, Brazilian nuts are both good for preventing constipation as well as maintaining nervous system health.
- Chestnut, is Christmas treat made immortal in one of classic Christmas’ carols. Originally from Greece, it was most commonly eaten in America and Europe, but nowadays also is imported from Asia as well. Raw chestnut is filled with fiber and vitamin C, but it can get lost in cooking process. It is also have a low Glycemic Index or GI, good for blood sugar level. It is also low in fat that makes it practically a grain.
- Almond, which is probably the most widely used of all tree nuts variety. It was first cultivated in Greece and brought to America by a Spanish missionary, but it is also originally from North Africa, West Asia, and Mediterranean region. It has been made into various healthy snack, jams, and even milk. It gives us the benefits of protein, calcium, and vitamin E, a guaranteed ticket to healthy skin and strong bones.
- Pistachio, the green almond that is related to cashew was first introduced to the wide attention in 1880 by a Syrian immigrant in US land. Until now, America is the second biggest producer of pistachio. Pistachio will give the body potassium, protein, plant sterols and the antioxidant resveratrol. This specific antioxidant will help body metabolism and fighting cancer.
- Hazelnut, a little late coming to US by 1940, hazelnut was originally from China. The name Hazel has become a type of color spectrum on its own while it was actually a reference to the shape of the nutshell. Hazelnuts are rich with fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamin E, the best nut for pregnancy and a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
- Walnut, which origin is still debated today. Some say it first belonged to Persians, but had already been cultivated in southeastern Europe and Asia to Himalaya. The Greek also had been using walnut oil since the fourth century B.C. Walnut was believed to be the King’s meal, we sure agree because of its richness in alpha linoleic acid that provides the plant-based natural omega-3 and antioxidant to fight free radicals.
- Pecans, is the All-American peanut that first recognized in Illinois, hence the name Carya illinoensis. Just like other tree nuts, pecans are also rich in fiber and antioxidant.
- Cashew, is a short-lived nuts related to pistachio. Cashew has a different characteristic compared to the other nuts, because it grows directly from apple cashew fruit, not inside a shell like other types. This makes it really vulnerable and cannot last more than 24 hours once it’s plucked out of the tree. That is why, the preserved cashew sold in the market often a bit pricey. It was first found in Brazil and brought to familiarity in India by Portuguese sailors. Cashew has us benefitting from plant-based iron and low Glycemic Index number, a solution for those having a blood sugar spike problem.
- Macadamia, better known as Hawaiian treats but originally found in Australia. It is high in monounsaturated fats, vitamin B1 or thiamin, and manganese. Vitamin B1 is the primary nutrient for the health of nervous system and eye, as well as cardiovascular. The manganese mineral in it is also crucial for bone and skin regeneration.
30 grams of these nuts translated into:
- 20 almonds
- 30 pistachio kernels
- 20 hazelnuts
- 9 walnut kernels
- 15 pecans
- 15 cashews
- 15 macadamias
Add some varieties by mixing the nuts, two of every type except for chestnut that cannot be eaten raw.
Nuts’ nutrition is slightly reduced when it is being roasted, especially the vitamins due to its unstable-in-heat nature. Many packaged nuts have already been sodium-added for flavor purpose. For the sake of healthy lifestyle, always go for the unsalted and roasted ones.
All in all, nuts have been, and always will be a little bit better food for heart and blood sugar. It is a maestro in lowering bad cholesterol thanks to the unsaturated fat and fibers, keeping the elasticity of blood vessels due to the presence of amino acid Arginine, and fighting body oxidation to cancer. Nuts and carbohydrates together will also help slowing the pace of meal entering the guts, causing the significant drop in blood glucose level, which is exactly what high-risked diabetes people need.
Keeping our body healthy while reaching the ideal weight are nuts’ goal (no pun intended). Those unsaturated fats will keep us fuller and help trapping the fat through the structural fibers, making it going straight to the humptydump.
Of course, all of these are off the table if we happen to have a nut allergy, but that’s about it. Nuts are definitely a healthy part of the whole food experience we shouldn’t let passed us by.