For Your Health, It’s About What “Nut” To Do…

“Crazy” and “nutty” as words for something frantic or over-the-top might be falling out of favor because they may contribute to the trivialization of mental health concerns…and their negative connotations certainly do edible nuts a disservice! Nuts are incredibly rich in some of the most essential nutrients and have been valued as excellent foods for thousands of years.

Archeological findings lead scientists to believe that nuts have been a popular food source dating as far back as 50,000 B.C. According to some historians, almonds, mentioned in the old testament of the bible, were the earliest cultivated food. Simply because of their fondness for it, Romans called walnuts “food for the gods.” The cashew, popular in the Philippines, originated in Brazil but already had been cultivated since the 16th century in India and Africa. It was the Spanish who first brought this nut to the shores of the Philippines. It is said that nuts were the first universal “convenient” food source because of the ease in transporting them and their relatively longer shelf-life.

Nuts quickly became a popular trading product for this ease, flavor, and ability to provide satiety (feeling of fullness), but most importantly, for their nutritional value and benefits to the human body. They’re even great for the skin — keep in mind that skin and food allergies involve different cells and don’t always correlate (get a patch test for skin allergies and a prick test for food). All this goodness paved the way for how popular and indispensable nuts remain in the culinary world and in human diets around the globe.

Here are my top 5 picks of nutritiously-rich nuts, with their corresponding nutrient values, benefits, and recommendations:

ALMOND

1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 161

How do almonds benefit the body?
  • Beneficial impact on blood sugar due to a good amount and combination of fat, protein and carbohydrates;
  • Consumption can help improve lipid profile in the long run;
  • Impacts oxidative damage (vitamin E as antioxidant) and satiety level;
  • Improves proper energy metabolism (B2 and magnesium);
  • Helps in the growth and development of body organs (copper and phosphorus);
  • Aids in proper metabolism of nutrients and nerve function (manganese and magnesium
  • Improves digestion (fiber content)

Although almonds are great in general, over consumption can block proper absorption of some minerals due to its content of phytic acid, known to be an anti-nutrient when ingested (it is actually beneficial in skincare as a chelating agent that promotes antioxidant activity by reducing lipid peroxidation and free radical generation). Almonds also have a high ratio of omega 6 to 3 (omega 3 is considered the healthy and anti-inflammatory fat), which could lead to imbalances. It is therefore important to not overdo it and balance out your intake by consuming a variety of omega 3-rich foods such as fatty fish and fortified eggs.

How can almonds be added to your diet?
  1. As a topping for salads, cereals or breakfast grains, cooked foods
  2. As a spread by using almond butter
  3. As a substitute for refined flour
  4. As an ingredient when making desserts
  5. Added to smoothies or drinks
  6. As a healthy, on-the-go snack

CASHEW

1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 155

How do cashews benefit the body?
  • Contain compounds, such as lutein and zeaxthanin, that fight against eyesight and macular degeneration;
  • Keep blood vessels, nerves, immune system, and bones healthy (copper and iron);
  • May help in wound healing and proper taste and smell (zinc);
  • Support proper metabolism of nutrients (magnesium and phosphorus)

As much as cashews are a great addition to the diet, if you’re on a low-carb diet, be cautious. Cashews are higher in carbohydrates than any other type of nut. Cashews also have a more anaphylactic (a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal) effect than peanuts. If you’re not allergic, and if consumed in proper amounts, cashews are highly beneficial to the body considering their nutrient content.

How can cashews be added to your diet?
  1. As a healthy, energy-giving snack
  2. As a substitute ingredient in sauces that require thickness or richness in taste;
  3. As a topping for salads, breakfast cereals or grains, and cooked dishes;
  4. Added to smoothies or baked products

WALNUT

1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 183

How do walnuts benefit the body?
  • Fight against oxidation damage (omega 3);
  • Reduce risk factors by helping to lower blood pressure and blood glucose;
  • Help maintain cognitive function with positive effects on brain health due to rich amounts of healthy fats and phytochemicals;
  • Aid for reaching satiety level faster

Historically, walnuts are the most popular type of nut consumed. This remains true today. However, they can still pose a threat to those who have nut allergies.

How can walnuts be added to your diet?
  1. May be added to any dish
  2. As a lone snack or mixed with other snacks
  3. As an ingredient for cooking or baking
  4. May be ground up to create dough
  5. As a delicious, nutritious diet food that quickly helps you feel full

PECAN

1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 193

How do pecans benefit the body?
  • Reduce risk of heart disease (presence of polyphenol compounds);
  • Help improve triglycerides and elevate HDL (high oleic acid content);
  • Improve digestion and help cleanse gastrointestinal system (fiber);
  • May help reduce risk of certain cancers like breast and colon (healthy fats and fiber);
  • Aid in proper nerve conduction and brain function as well as boost immunity (manganese);
  • Reduce inflammatory indicators in the body (presence of minerals)

Although the pecan has very positive attributes, do take into consideration that the ratio between omega 6 and omega 3 is one of the highest among nuts. This obvious imbalance may cause inflammation. Keep inflammation at bay by eating lots of food that is rich in omega 3 such as fish, egg, and certain seeds. Typically, people allergic to nuts may also find this nut a threat.

How can pecans be added to your diet?
  1. Great addition to meals
  2. As an ingredient in baking products
  3. As part of a healthy snack
  4. As a substitute ingredient to enrich sauces
  5. As a food to aid in weight loss

PISTACHIO

1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 156

How do pistachios benefit the body?
  • Reduce triglycerides level;
  • Positive impact on exercise performance and oxidative stress levels after exercise;
  • Prevent macular degenerations (great for eye health);
  • Rich in antioxidants;
  • Help lower cholesterol and blood pressure;
  • Aid in weight loss (low in calories but high in protein);
  • Promote healthy blood vessels (presence of minerals);
  • May lower blood sugar (low glycemic index)

As much as they are delicious to eat, pistachios can also be challenging because they need to be shelled before eating. They can also be allergenic and may contain aflatoxins (mold) that may be beyond what is safe. Caution is key.

How can pistachios be added to your diet?
  1. Great ingredient in dishes and desserts
  2. May be sprinkled on favorite breakfast cereals, salads, or yogurt
  3. As part of healthy snack or food, especially after a workout session
  4. As part of weight loss food

PILI

1 serving = 1 oz/ 28 g
Calories: 204

How do pili nuts benefit the body?
  • Help improve hearth health and cognitive development (presence of omega fatty acids);
  • Improve or maintain bone health (presence of minerals);
  • Regulate blood sugar levels (presence of fat and proteins);
  • May help relax blood vessels and lower hypertension (magnesium);
  • Reduce inflammation (presence of antioxidants);
  • Aid in lowering LDL levels (presence of omega fatty acids);
  • Aid in weight loss while boosting energy levels

Rich, delicious, packed with nutrient goodness, and abundantly found in the Philippines, pili nuts are heavenly to eat but lack the fiber that the other nuts are known for. Make sure to add fiber-rich food in your diet. The pili nut is also high in calories so control your portions.

How can pili nuts be added to your diet?

The same way you would use other nuts. Just take note of how much you consume to keep your health goals in check.

In a nutshell:

Nuts have remained part of the human diet for centuries. Their benefits to the body cannot be ignored. They are considered one of the best diet foods to help you control weight. While there are concerns with portion control, the good news is that their satiety means they make you feel full faster and stay feeling full for longer. Make sure to check with your allergist so that you can eat them safely, and then definitely dive into the wonderful world of nuts!

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Check out the other posts related to health and nutrition:

Eat Right, Exercise, Daily Skincare Regimen: Healthy Habits to Look & Feel Your Best

Your Skin Wants You To EAT Your Antioxidants

Your Skin Wants You To Exercise Daily: 30-Day Healthy Skin Challenge


Nutrition & Lifestyle Counselor Ginny Sinense-Marksl, RN-D, is a graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman and a member of National Kidney Foundation in the USA. She’s been an avid student and practitioner of health and nutrition her entire adult life — professionally, for 20 years. Her passion is for overall wellbeing, other than just health and fitness, and she is a frequent speaker at corporate wellness events. She believes health is our life power and that we should take any chance that we get to optimize it!

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