From breakfast to dinner to snacks, tree nuts are popular across the globe. They can be eaten whole (fresh or roasted), in spreads and butters, used as a source for gluten-free flour, and blended into smoothies or dessert recipes. Nut oils are used for cooking and are even found in skincare and haircare products. But what exactly is a nut? And what makes nuts so good for our health?
Tree nuts are dry fruits with one seed that becomes hard at maturity. With the exception of chestnuts, which have a different nutrient profile and higher level of starch, the most popular edible tree nuts are almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews. Other favorites include pecans, macadamia, and Brazil nuts. And then there’s the peanut: even though it grows from the ground rather than on a tree and is technically a legume, its nutrient profile is considerably similar to tree nuts.
What Makes Nuts Good for Health?
Nuts are low in carbohydrates and high in vegetable protein, fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. They are low in saturated fat and a rich source of ‘healthy’ fats, mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs and PUFAs). Studies show that nuts . . .
- protect the heart, helping reduce risk for cardiovascular disease
- support cellular defenses against free radicals that damage cells and are implicated in chronic disease
- balance insulin levels, which relates to lower risk for Type 2 Diabetes
- support healthy brain tissue
- reduce inflammation
- help maintain healthy cholesterol level
- help maintain a healthy body weight
Epidemiological studies show regular consumption of nuts is linked to lower risk of all-cause mortality. High nut intake is associated with better overall cognition at older ages. In particular, walnuts are high in an essential fatty acid, named Omega-3 fatty acid, important to brain function. Pistachio nuts have been associated with significant gamma brain wave activity, critical for cognitive processing, memory, learning and perception.
It’s clear that tree nuts make an indispensable contribution to a well-balanced diet for omnivores and vegetarians alike. So, find a nut you love and make it part of your daily diet.
And if you’re sold on nuts, check out my guide on how to make your own nut milk!