Nut lovers, I have very good news for you. Nuts are not just a delicious snack, but they also help to prolong lives!
We have heard about many benefits of nuts before. But it is reassuring that the benefits of nuts have been confirmed by a very thorough study, the results of which were published in the recent BBC article.
A ten-year study conducted by the Dutch university analyzed diets of more than 120 thousand (!) people. It concluded that those eating at least 10g (about a third of an ounce) of nuts a day had almost 25% lower chances of dying than those who didn’t consume nuts. At the same time, consumption of nuts was found to prevent some illnesses, such as diabetes, respiratory diseases, etc.
So, why eating nuts is healthy? The answer is quite simple: nuts contain essential fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, proteins and vitamins, among many other things. The good thing is that you can eat them as a standalone snack or add some to your salad.
But a word of caution: while peanut was found to be beneficial, peanut butter was not as it contains lots of salt and trans fats. Obviously, those with nut allergies should watch out.
But before you reach for your favorite nuts in your kitchen cupboard, you should consider several things outlined below:
What type of nuts should you eat?
I will not talk about benefits of each type of nuts here as I plan to cover those in the upcoming articles. Since nuts should be eaten as snacks, my advice would be to eat the type you like, unless you have allergies or digestion issues with certain types of nuts. I prefer eating almonds, pecans, walnuts and macadamia because just because I like their taste.
What is more important is that you should try eating raw nuts as opposed to processed ones. Processed nuts often contain high amounts of salt, gluten, yeast, artificial flavorings, MSG (monosodium glutamate!), sugar, artificial colors and many other nasty things, which I am sure you don’t want to poison your body with. Also, try buying organic nuts.
How to eat them?
Have you heard of soaking nuts? Well, I haven’t until I went to a couple of Middle Eastern restaurants where they served soaked almonds as an appetizer. The cool thing was that I could peel off the skin of almonds. Soaked and and without the skin they tasted delicious!
Besides the taste factor, there are also very good reasons why you should soak nuts before eating them. Soaking nuts helps to remove some of the bad things they contain, among which the following are worth highlighting:
- Phytic acid: binds with minerals (calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, etc.) in your GI tract and prevents those minerals from being properly absorbed. This may lead to mineral deficiencies.
- Enzyme inhibitors: as the name suggests, they may significantly slow down the activity of enzymes in your body. We all have various enzymes, which help to digest proteins, starch and other foods in our body. If those enzymes do not work properly, we get indigestion. Therefore, some people have stomach aches and get bloated after eating nuts.
- Tannins: You may have heard about antiviral and antioxidant effects of tannins, but the chances are you are consuming enough tannins from other foods. The reason to avoid tannins include constipation, indigestion and, sometimes, migraines.
- Goitrogens: suppress the function of the thyroid glands and may cause enlargement of the thyroid (goiter).
By soaking nuts, you will make sure that you get all benefits of nuts while minimizing potential “side effects”. So, how is the soaking done? Here are easy steps for soaking nuts:
- Rinse nuts in water.
- Add filtered water enough to cover nuts by at least 1/2 inch. You can add some salt to the water but not too much.
- Soak for 6-12 hours. Don’t forget to drain and replace water every 3-4 hours.
- Drain the soak water and rinse thoroughly.
- Dehydrate at very low temperatures (below 150 degrees Fahrenheit, preferably around 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit).
The last step is optional. I prefer not too dehydrate almonds, for example. Also, don’t forget to store those nuts in the fridge once you soaked and dehydrated them.
How much you should eat them?
Nuts contain high levels of omega-6. Human body uses the same enzymes for metabolism of omega-3 and omega-6; eating too much of omega-6 may negatively affect metabolism of omega-3. Therefore, as everything is good in moderation, eating a handful (1/4 cup) of nuts several times a week should be sufficient.
And one more thing: make sure that you eat nuts not just for the sake of nutrients they have. Don’t forget that they taste nice as well!