I love some nuts – basically all of them, with the exception of cashews. I’m partial to cashews but I think that’s because there was always an abundance of them in the kitchen when growing up. There’s a narrow shelf in my parents’ kitchen, about a metre and a half long, above the old slow-combustion oven. This shelf basically displays the food from a mini health food store. There are kilograms each of nuts and dried fruits, each in their own clear cylindrical container. Mixed fruit and nut, dried pear, huge chunks of dried pawpaw, cashews, enough cranberries that you could sugar overload on them, almonds and dates on the end. It’s a snacker’s heaven or nemesis depending on how you approach it!
Nuts are a great source of monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats which are associated with reduced cholesterol levels (total and LDL) and heart disease risk. They also contain phytosterols which act to reduce cholesterol levels by preventing cholesterol absorption. There is also evidence of further beneficial effects on oxidative stress and inflammation due to antioxidant properties, improved vascular health due to the dilating effect of arginine and improved control measures for those with type 2 diabetes. But wait, there’s more. They are also a source of fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium (just to name a few).
The question is though, at about 50-75% fat and 2500 kilojoules per 100g, surely nuts promote weight gain? Conversely to what you may be thinking, consuming some nuts isn’t associated with weight gain. The high energy content of nuts however needs to be considered in the context of your overall energy requirements, ensuring that it does not result in increased energy intake. To achieve this for example, you could try swapping unhealthy snack foods for some nuts. Of course, you don’t want to start eating a whole container of nuts each day. Rather the recommended serve size is 30 grams or a small handful. It can be difficult to know how much a handful of nuts weigh so consider that 8 almonds is approximately 10 g (250 kJ, 5.5 grams of fat) and ¼ cup of almonds is 30 grams (750 kJ, 16.5 grams of fat).
So basically, enjoy your nuts, just don’t go too nuts.
For those that are inclined, the following information outlines the nutritional content per 100g of commonly consumed varieties of raw nuts. As you can see, walnuts don’t follow the crowd as they have a higher amount of ALA polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), also known as omega 3. This is why you may often hear about the health benefits of walnuts in particular. Being a source of omega 3 they are also associated with anti-inflammatory effects as they influence the type of inflammatory mediators that are produced within the body.
|Variety/100g||Energy (kJ)||Protein (g)||Total Fat (g)||Saturated Fat (g)||MUFA (g)||PUFA LA (g)||PUFA ALA (g)||Carbohydrate (g)||Fibre (g)|
Source: NUTTAB 2010
Sabate J. et al. Nut consumption and blood lipid levels: a pooled analysis of 25 intervention trials. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(9)821-7
Sabate J. et al. Nuts and berries for heart health. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2010;12:397-406
Nutrition Australia. Nuts for health
Nuts for life for information on everything nuts!
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for information on fats
It’s a balancing act for information on energy intake and requirements