March is #nuts30days30ways when the Australian Tree Nut Industry encourages everyone to develop a healthy nut habit by eating a 30g handful of nuts every day in March. Australians are eating on average just 6g of nuts a day well short of the recommended 30g serve.
Tree nuts such as almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts, are often the forgotten cousins in the heart healthy diet family tree. Fruits, vegetables and wholegrains are routinely recommended but nuts are so often overlooked. Why is that? These highly nutritious foods are so worthy of the health halo that surrounds fruits and vegetables. Let’s take a look at how nuts help protect the heart and yes, surprisingly, help with managing weight.
Large population studies consistently show that eating a handful of nuts (30g) regular reduces the risk of developing heart disease by 30-50% as well as reduce death from heart disease. It seems it’s the combination of nut nutrients working together that protects the heart:
Nuts contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (10) which help regulate cholesterol production. On average 60g or two handfuls of nuts a day results in a significant drop in total cholesterol and an even higher one if you are overweight.
Nuts contain the amino acid arginine which converts to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels which in turn can reduce blood pressure.
Fibre and plant sterols
These reduce cholesterol re-absorption in the gut excreting it from the body.(14,15)
Antioxidant vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals
Nuts, particularly their skins, contain a range of antioxidants including: vitamin E, selenium, copper, manganese, zinc and phytochemicals such as polyphenols like resveratrol found in red wine. These all help boost the body’s own defensive antioxidant enzyme systems while having anti-inflammatory effects.
Glycemic Index lowering effect and improving insulin sensitivity
Chronic inflammation can lead to insulin resistance which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Adding nuts to carbohydrate rich meals slows the rise in blood glucose improves insulin sensitivity and reduces diabetes risk. If you have diabetes you have twice the risk of heart disease so nuts are a dietary essential for you.
In general if you eat nuts you gain less weight and are more likely to have a normal body mass index (BMI). This is because nuts:
Satisfy hunger & reduce appetite
The protein and fibre in nuts keep you feeling fuller for longer. Plus healthy fats helps release satiety hormones in your digestive system which also curbs hunger. Eating a snack of nuts means you have less desire to overeat later in the day, helping to reduce your overall daily energy intake.
Fewer kilojoules absorbed
As a whole food rich with fibre, the digestion and absorption of the energy in nuts is incomplete. It’s estimated that between 5 and 15% of the energy in nuts is not absorbed. Some of the fat in nuts passes through your system trapped in the nuts’ fibrous structure.
Increased metabolic rate
The physical effort the body uses to digest nuts also increases energy expenditure, which is estimated to be around 10% of the energy the nuts contain.
Low glycemic index effect
A slower rise in blood glucose helps satisfy the appetite for longer meaning you eat less overall so add nuts to meals especially if they contain carbohydrates eg bread, rice and pasta.
People who enjoy their weight management diet are more likely to stick with it for longer and have greater success.
How much and how often
So we need at least a 30g serve of nuts a day and 30g equals:
10 Brazil nuts
2 tb pine nuts
30 pistachio kernels
a handful of mixed nuts
In a nut shell……..
Nuts are an essential plant food we need every day so join us for #nuts30days30ways. The unique combination of nutrients all work together to: lower cholesterol and blood glucose, reduce the risk of developing heart disease and Type 2 diabetes plus help manage body weight. So nuts are definitely worthy carrying the health halo.
For more information and recipes visit www.nutsforlife.com.au or follow T @nutsforlife , FB @nuts4Life and I @nuts_for_life and search for #nuts30days30ways
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2) National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/Copyright%20update/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines(1).pdf
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Program Manager Nuts for Life
• An Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian
• 20 years experience in nutrition communications, strategy development and implementation and event management
• Over 15 years experience in marketing and public relations and still has her finger on the pulse by working part-time in clinical practice
• Since 2005 Lisa has been the Program Manager and Dietitian to Nuts for Life – a health promotion program from the Australian Tree Nut Industry with Almond Board of Australia as one of its founding financial contributors.
• Lisa is a columnist for Medical Observer and 6minutes GP publications
• Lisa has a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Biochemistry and Pharmacology as well as a Masters Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics both from the University of Sydney.