Raw or roasted, these crunchy treats are nutritional wonders. Although each unique type of nut comes with its own package of nutrients, phytonutrients, and other health-promoting compounds, learn about 5 we wouldn't dare overlook.
Pistachios have superpowers.
Anti-inflammatory super powers, to be more specific.
Research shows they can improve the health of your arteries and endothelium. In one study conducted on adults with dyslipidemia, half of the subjects followed basic guidelines for lifestyle changes to improve their health. The other half followed the lifestyle change guidelines plus 1.5 ounces of pistachios daily for 3 months.
What were the results?
In 3 months, the group with lifestyle changes showed no change in their health status. The group with daily pistachio consumption significantly boosted HDL ("good") cholesterol while reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol, total cholesterol, and fasting blood sugar. The pistachio group also had better arterial function and structure. Using various techniques, researchers found their arteries to be more flexible and their endothelium functioning more efficiently.
One of the reasons pistachios are so effective at taming inflammation is due to their rich lutein content. Lutein is an antioxidant that can help prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which leads to the buildup of plaque and the development of atherosclerosis.
The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published another neat finding - they help control blood sugar levels. Just two ounces of pistachios eaten with a high-carb meal significantly lowers the blood sugar spike that would normally follow a high-carb meal.
Almonds and cashews help fight that sluggish feeling
Why? They're a great source of magnesium, an overlooked mineral we just don't get enough of these days. That's unfortunate because it's involved in more than 300 chemical processes in our body, including the system that provides our cells with energy. How energized can you possibly feel if 300+ reactions are slacking off?
If you have low magnesium levels, listen to your heart. Low mag levels are strongly linked to diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and high cholesterol.
When it comes to antioxidants, hazelnuts with skins intact rank right up there with red wine and dark chocolate. They have more proanthocyanidins (PACs) than any other nut. PACs are a type of polyphenol found to be 20x more potent than vitamin C and 50x more than vitamin E. Remember, don't remove the skin. Skinless hazelnuts have 3x less antioxidants than those with skin intact.
Pecans aren't just for making pie. Protect your brain with pecans. Their rich vitamin E content can protect your nervous system by shielding neurons from chronic degenerative conditions. They are also high in ellagic acid, a unique anti-cancer phytonutrient that may slow the growth of some tumors caused by carcinogens.
Toast and toss them in a salad, blend them into a shake, or top a nonfat yogurt with them.
Whether it's almond butter, almond milk, almond flour, or just plain almonds, these little guys will revolutionize your diet. How? They'll fill your fiber gaps, sneak in some protein, and protect your heart. They outshine all other nuts with their fiber content at 5 grams in just 1.5 ounces. They are also one of the most nutrient-dense nuts around, ranking as one of the highest protein nuts (9 grams in 1.5 ounces). Given their cholesterol-lowering effects, they surely deserve a place in your daily meal plan.
Make sure to eat a variety of nuts. No matter what kind they are, they'll help you live longer. When researchers examined the diets of 200,000+ people in the US and China, groups that ate the most nuts reduced their risk of early death from heart disease by about 20%.
With all the healthy attributes of nuts in mind, though, remember one vital principle. Moderation. Stay within a flexible 1.5 to 2 ounce boundary (about 1/4 cup or a palmful) and you'll reap plenty of benefits.
An easy way to sneak in more nuts in your day is with a high-quality EnergyFirst protein bar. Check out our Stark Raving Peanutz Permalean protein bar.
Also, boost your health and blood sugar control with a natural protein shake. EnergyFirst ProEnergy whey protein isolate mixes great with a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter. Find tasty recipes here.
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