Are you a nut eater? What kind of nuts do you enjoy? Do you worry that you’re eating the “wrong” kind or eating too many of them? Does it matter if they’re roasted or raw or salted/unsalted? Will they make you gain weight? Should they just be included as a snack? These are the kinds of questions about nuts that I’m often asked about as a dietitian. We’re going to look at why they’re good for us and the latest research, which ones you might like to include, and how much we need for good health with a few ideas and tips thrown in too.
In a nutshell, there’s awesome evidence to encourage us to eat a handful (30g) of nuts every day. Nuts are good for your weight, your heart, brain, gut microbiome, cholesterol, also for longevity plus a whole lot more! They’re especially effective in the diabetes, heart health and management triangle in which so many of us get caught.
A serve of nuts is 30g or a handful or as many that will fit in an espresso cup or on a small square post-it note. As Rosemary Stanton constantly reminds us, understanding serve sizes is critically important to our nation’s health. The word “moderation” can mean different things to different people, so watch those portion sizes. Saying that, you’re better to choose a nutritious food like fruit or nuts than junk food or empty calories if you’re going to snack beyond your daily needs.
Asking which kind of nut is the most nutritious is a bit like asking is a carrot or a tomato more nutritious, as the different types of nuts contain different amounts of a variety of nutrients. Nuts are a great mix of proteins, good fats, fibre and low-GI carbohydrates as well as being packed full of key vitamins and minerals that we need for well-being.
Brazil nuts are high in selenium for mental health; walnuts are high in omega-3s to help fight inflammation. Almonds and pistachios are great for your gut microbiome. Chestnut extract and flour (its nutrient profile being more similar to a grain) also appears to help protect the bacteria as it makes its way to the large intestine where it does its good work.
Generally speaking, as they’re so high in nutrients, a handful of mixed nuts will give you the greatest variety of nutrients. So choose to eat the ones you enjoy. In terms of whether it matters if they’re roasted or raw, salted or unsalted, dry roasting and lightly salting them won’t affect the cardio-protective nature of nuts, so it’s really about your taste preference and fitting them in with your personal health concerns. Generally speaking, if you only like salted nuts then it’s better to include salted nuts rather than not eat nuts at all.
Nut butters can also be a great way to enjoy nuts, especially if you have chewing difficulties. Where possible aim for nut butters that are 100% nuts. I saw recently that Kraft had a new one made from 100% roasted peanuts that tasted wonderful compared with the no salt/no sugar variety. Cashew nut butter on toast with fresh strawberries sliced on top is a flavour sensation! A 30g serve of nuts works out at about 1.5 tablespoons of nut butter.
Check out the Nuts For Life website www.nutsforlife.com.au for wonderful recipes and ideas on new and inspired ways to use nuts.