From my perspective, the regular consumption of nuts is probably one of the most important dietary decisions that MOST people can and should be making on a daily basis.
I believe that nuts fall into a group of foods that rank behind fruits and veggies as the most healthy out there.
Unless you have medical cause not to, eating a handful of nuts or seeds a day is invaluable from a nutritional perspective.
Find that hard to believe? Let me explain why:
1. They contain the EXACT nutrients we need more of: The last time Health & Stats Canada checked, there was a significant portion of Canadian adults that fell short in their consumption of dietary fibre, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Guess which food contain all four of these nutrients in respectable amounts? Nuts.
2. In tandem with fruit, they are the perfect snack: Most Canadian’s don’t eat enough fruits and veggies, which is why I am a HUGE advocate for a handful nuts and and a medium-sized piece of fruit as the ultimate healthy snack on a daily basis. Minimally processed, dense in fibre and nutrients, including both sweet & savoury flavour profiles and with limitless built-in variability so you never get bored ( you can mix/match any nut/seed + fruit variety under the sun!). For vegan/vegetarian readers, there is an extra benefit to consuming this combination of foods. The iron found in nuts is better absorbed in the presence of Vitamin C ( which is found in many varieties of fruit – especially strawberries, oranges, kiwi).
3. They may contain calories, but they will also save you calories later: A handful ( ~ 1/4 cup) of your favourite nut or seed variety contains about 175 calories. If you couple it with a medium-sized piece of fruit ( 75 calories) , as I discuss above, you are looking are 250 calories ( which is nutritionally superior and less calories than your average granola bar + 100 gram cup of yogurt).
You will be hard pressed to find a more nutrient PACKED 250 calories anywhere else.
Why do I say nuts/seeds will probably save you calories later? Most importantly they will help to keep you feeling full. They contain a very rare combination of both protein and fibre which are known to be particularly satiating.
Think 250 calories is a lot? Just for reference, a buttered bagel at your local coffee shop could easily tally up 500 calories.
If you have trouble controlling the amount of nuts you eat, trying buying them in the shell and cracking them yourself!
4. They don’t have to cost you a fortune: No one is saying that you need to go out and purchase the branded, nicely packaged gourmet varieties which may cost you a pretty penny. If financial restraints are holding you back, keep in mind that when you enjoy modest serving sizes, a relatively small number of nuts will last you a long time. Purchasing them in bulk is always a good idea, and failing that, go for sunflower seeds which tend to one of the cheapest varieties of nut/seed out there.
5. They will keep you healthy: In addition to the fibre & nutrients that I’ve already mentioned, nuts are among the richest sources of dietary antioxidants and also contain heart healthy fats ( including monounsaturated fats and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats) that will help you fend off chronic diseases, especially those of the heart. Read on below to find out why that is so important.
Eating Nuts Regularly Will Save Your Life!
Technically speaking, cancer is the #1 killer of Canadians.
However, when you break down the statistics more closely you will see that it is lung cancer that accounts for the largest % of most cancer-related deaths.
Lung-cancer has strong environmental component ( ie: exposure to cigarette smoke).
Behind lung-cancer, cardiovascular disease is the #2 cause of death in Canada, and technically the #1 cause of death that has a very strong dietary component.
Incorporating nuts into one’s diet can help play a role in fending off heart disease in part because nuts can play a contributing role in helping people to better manage their blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels.
This is especially important for men above the age of 65, who are at the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.
Can’t eat Nuts/Seeds for medical reasons?
Have a nut allergy, work in a nut-free space or just don’t plain enjoy nuts? Don’t sweat it!
I’ve selected a few other foods that are nutritionally very similar to nuts and can help fill a similar role in your diet.
The Best Of The Rest
2. Seeds ( such as sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, ground flax etc)
3. Olives & Their Oil
4. Soy ( tofu, edamame, soy milk etc)
If a handful of nuts a day won’t work, make sure you incorporate at least a serving of the foods of above in your diet on a regular basis, especially in place of less healthy alternatives. Just don’t go overboard on healthy fats!
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH