In the world of “plant-based eating” nuts are considered to be among the best – high quality nutrients, incredible versatility, satisfying, and not to mention delicious! Here, Lucy-Ann breaks down which nuts are the healthiest with some intriguing nutritional insights…
Often referred to as a ‘nut’, the almond is actually a seed. They are a seed residing in the fruit from an almond tree, closely related to cherry, peach and apricot trees.
Almonds are considered a protein-rich food in its raw, unsalted form whilst also holding high levels of monounsaturated fat – a healthy fat. There are also a plethora of other nutritional qualities such as biotin, a B vitamin (also referred to as Vitamin H) which has a fundamental role in metabolism of fats, carbohydrates and proteins.
Biotin acts as a coenzyme which helps to translate food into energy through facilitating the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats into glucose, as well as boiling down proteins into amino acids. Vitamin E is also present, as well as being a “beautifying” food, it is also a fat-soluble antioxidant – this protects the skin from sunlight and other environmental chemicals.
Your body loves these!
With heightened Vitamin E content and the “good” monounsaturated fat, almonds are considered closely linked to heart health with their ability to lower LDL cholesterol – the harmful kind. As a major result of all nuts, the regular consumption of them steadies blood sugar levels, with almond being associated with reducing Diabetes risk in particular.
The almond also retains a wealth of minerals including magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, iron and fibre. The same monounsaturated fat oleic acid is found in olive oil. This oleic acid is the most researched of all the fats being famed for its cholesterol-lowering qualities and heart protection. It is also found in olive, macadamia nuts and avocados and is an integral element to the Mediterranean diet – widely considered to be the healthiest in the world.
Antioxidants and energy
The trace minerals, manganese and copper, are a plentiful commodity in the almond, it is paramount in activating superoxide dismutase – a key enzyme which flattens out damaging chemicals produced within the mitochondria of cells (the “energy factories” where we burn calories and produce energy). Another B vitamin called B2 (otherwise known as riboflavin) is involved in energy metabolism – responsible for protecting cells from free radical damage and creating energy. The humble almond supplies us with essential B vitamins, so it is considered a complete and natural “energy food”.
Tasty ways to include almonds in the diet
- Add sliced almonds to coconut infused Thai dishes or stir-fried vegetables
- For a mid-morning snack add a small portion of almonds to fresh apple
- Throw together almonds with wholegrain rice/quinoa, fresh mint, garden peas and raisins
- Chop almonds and mix them in with fresh fruits, natural yoghurt or mueslis
- A knob of almond butter swirled in with a breakfast smoothie can help boost mineral and protein content.
A small handful (around 25g) of Brazil nuts is considered to be a balanced small meal containing carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, fibre, protein, essential antioxidants and minerals. Alongside macadamia nuts and walnuts, Brazils are one of the highest fat-containing nuts with a vast majority being unsaturated and efficiently used by the body.
Brazil nuts have high selenium content, an asset regarded as its most notable nutritional contents. Selenium’s role is as an essential antioxidant mineral being closely linked to reducing risks of cancer and heart disease. Due to depleted soils this is a lacking quality in modern diets.
Brazil nuts are an excellent choice for people with challenged immune systems often riddled with coughs and colds. This is due to selenium’s supporting qualities for the immune system found in its heightened amount of zinc which is crucial for immunity.
Magnesium deficiency is a very common case among people which brazil nuts help alleviate with their high quality contents of this mineral. The deficiency is linked to insomnia, heart disease, stress and poor muscle function, meaning we could all do with an increased dosage of magnesium content. Seeds, spinach, dark leaf greens, chickpeas and bananas also are noted for great magnesium contents.
Here’s a little run down of the specific nutrients which you’ll find in Brazil nuts, a small 25g snack provides you with…
- 102mg Magnesium
- 17g fat
- 170 calories
- 42mg calcium
- 4g protein
- 1mg zinc
- 64ug selenium
- 1g CHO
- 1g fibre
So there you can see just how nutritious these nuts can be! Head here for part 2!