The 5 Best Nuts for Your Health

The 5 Best Nuts for Your Health

Written by Alex Reid
Posted April 3, 2014

Baseball season is upon us!

For many of my coworkers, there's nothing better than sitting back with a cold beer and a bag full of peanuts, watching the Baltimore Orioles pull out a win over the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

While I'm a bit more partial to soccer, I can totally understand the appeal of sitting under the spring sun, popping nut after salty nut into your mouth.

However, what I can't understand is America's obsession with the peanut...

Not only is it not a nut (it's a legume), but compared to most other actual nuts out there, they are rather bland and not really nutritious1:

- Peanuts contain lots of anti-nutrients known as “phytates”. These anti-nutrients bind to actual nutrients that the body needs, and renders them indigestible. Though to be fair, many tree nuts also contain a decent amount of phytates.

- Peanuts tend to contain more fattening carbs and less protein and healthy fats than other nuts do.

- Peanuts also contain lectins, which are natural pesticides the peanut makes itself. These pesticides not only help prevent insects from eating the nuts, but humans too — they can bind to the lining of your intestines, which can cause inflammation and trigger an autoimmune response (things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and arthritis).2

- Peanuts are prime growing spots for a type of fungus that produces aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are known cancer-causing chemicals (it's been shown to cause liver cancer in rats), and there is evidence that its consumption by humans is associated with liver cancer. There is also a link between the toxin and stunted growth in West African children.3

The fact is, there are much healthier and tastier options to peanuts.

So the next time you're sitting in front of the TV with a cold beer and a bag of nuts watching Chris Davis smash a homer, make sure it's a bag of these:

1) Macadamia: This nut native to Australia happens to be both my favorite nut and one of the most nutritious on this list. Not only is it relatively low in carbohydrates, but it's a significant source of healthy mono-unsaturated and saturated fats. It also has lower levels of heart-hurting polyunsaturated fats and is a high source of body-protective anti-oxidants. Macadamia nuts also happen to be great sources of manganese, copper, magnesium, thiamine, and iron.

2) Almonds: Probably the most popular nut (2nd most if you count the peanut as a nut), these nuts contain a relatively higher amount of protein than do the other nuts. Almonds are known for their rich vitamin E content. Vitamin E is a well-known antioxidant that is implicated in everything from a healthy heart to a supple immune system. In addition, almonds have been shown to possibly confer anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.4

3) Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts have made news in recent years because they happen to be a source of a very important nutrient — selenium. Apart from being another health-boosting anti-oxidant, selenium helps the body absorb vitamin E, process proteins, maintain thyroid health, and facilitate hair growth. In addition to their high selenium content, Brazil nuts are also a great source of thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese.

4) Pine nuts: Out of all the nuts, this is one of the richest sources of manganese. Manganese is another body-boosting mineral responsible for bone production, skin integrity, wound healing, kidney detox, and blood sugar maintenance5. Low levels of manganese have been associated with osteoporosis, diabetes, and epilepsy. Pine nuts also contain significant amounts of vitamins E and K, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper6.

5) Hazelnuts: Per ounce, these have some of the higher amounts of mono-unsaturated fat — the same kind of fat that provides olive oil with much of its heart-protecting benefits. Hazelnuts also happen to be some of the most concentrated sources of Proanthocyanidin, an anti-oxidant also found in red wine. This is the primary chemical in red wine linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and death7. You can also find high amounts of vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, copper, and manganese in this nut.

When selecting your nut, there are a few other things you'll want to look out for to maximize their health benefits.

First, you want to double check the kind of oil they're roasted in. A lot of the stuff processed by Big Food will be cooked in heart-damaging canola, cottonseed, or safflower oils.

You'll also want to be wary of flavored nuts. A lot of time, coatings contain corn products, artificial flavorings, and other chemicals (Emerald Almonds and Planters nuts are especially bad in this regard).

And while it's easy to down several handfuls of nuts when you're watching the game, those are calories that could easily add up if you're doing that for every game. Outside of game day, I would keep your daily nut intake to a handful.

Yours in health,

ken_signature

Ken Swearengen

P.S. Do you have any questions, concerns, or comments about this article or any other health topic? Please share them with me via Twitter @HealthwireKen, or "Like" our HealthWire Facebook page and post your message on our wall.

Notes:

[1] http://stupideasypaleo.com/2013/10/24/why-peanuts-make-people-go-crazy/

[2] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/lectins/

[3] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/aflatoxins-or-another-reason-to-shun-peanuts/#axzz2xdYcoI8l

[4] http://www.news-medical.net/news/20131127/Health-benefits-of-eating-almonds.aspx

[5] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=77

[6] http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/manganese/

[7] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v444/n7119/full/444566a.html

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