Understanding the benefits of nuts and seeds
Article date: 13 May 2014
The key to a healthy way of living when it comes to what you eat is ensuring you're getting all the vital nutrients your body needs, which is sometimes easier said than done.
We often hear about how certain 'superfoods' can make a significant difference to our wellbeing and it's well worth finding out more about which of these you should be looking to consume on a regular basis.
One of the groups that many of us probably don't eat enough from is nuts and seeds - although there's no reason why this should be the case. Easy to incorporate into a diet as a snack or an accompaniment in a salad, they are a fantastic natural source of a range of minerals, vitamins, proteins, fibre and fat.
With such a wide range of different nuts to choose from, it can often be a daunting task to try and figure out what's the best to suit your needs. There is no generic 'healthiest nut', as each has its own benefits - so understanding what nutrients are contained within the different varieties is a useful piece of knowledge to have.
Containing the same amount of calcium found in milk, this nut can be particularly effective for those who are lactose-intolerant. In addition to this, almonds are packed with vitamin E, magnesium, fibre and selenium, helping to lower bad cholesterol and promote healthy skin. Some scientific studies also claim their consumption can contribute towards the prevention of cancer.
As well as offering anti-oxidant qualities, pecans increase good cholesterol levels in the body as a result of the oleic acid they store. Like almonds, they also offer the benefits associated with calcium, magnesium and vitamin E, while they also contain vitamin A, folic acid, zinc, manganese, lutein and zea-xanthin - the latter of which has been proven to remove harmful oxygen free radicals that can go on to cause cause diseases, infections and cancers.
High in monounsaturated fats, cashews are particularly helpful to diabetics when it comes to reducing triglyceride levels, which could otherwise contribute to the development of heart disease.
Cashews also contain plenty of calories and can provide you with a natural energy boost, while they are rich in copper, zinc, iron and magnesium.
However, they may not be as suitable for cancer patients, as they can potentially contain fungus.
In order to gain the most nutrients from walnuts, they are best eaten without removing the skin. This is because the outer layer of this nut is rich in phenols, which can make your heart healthier. They also supply the body with ellagic acid - an antioxidant that helps to fight cancer.
Sprinkled over a salad, these can be delicious - and that's not the only plus point to be had. They contain pinolenic acid, which is an essential fatty acid and can be used as part of a weight-loss strategy through its appetite-suppressing qualities.
With plenty of vitamin E, palmitoleic acid and oleic acid, Brazil nuts are effective in helping to lower levels of bad cholesterol. Another added bonus is that they contain significantly large proportions of selenium and just one or two of these nuts per day can contribute towards the prevention of a number of conditions, including liver cirrhosis, coronary artery disease and different cancers.
There are numerous seeds you can easily add to your diet, all of which offer a range of health benefits. Flax and sunflower seeds, for example, both protect against heart disease and cancer, while pumpkin seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids and can provide a boost to your immune system.
Apricot and apples seeds also have extremely high anti-cancer properties. Sesame seeds, meanwhile, have been linked by scientists to protection against arthritis, migraines and asthma.
Of course, focusing on one specific type probably isn't the best strategy, so try to incorporate a range of nuts and seeds into your diet throughout the week. Your body will surely thank you for it!