Go nuts over nuts for good health
New Zealand’s favourite wellbeing expert Dr Libby answers readers’ questions about living a healthier life.
Question: What are the healthiest nuts to eat? I have heard some are good for you and some are not. Is this true? Thanks, Margie. Hi Margie, in my eyes all nuts are healthy! Nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, brazils and macadamias are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which support heart health.
My favourite type of nut would have to be the walnut because of the omega-3, anti-inflammatory fat content – an essential fatty acid critical for the health of our brain, heart and skin.
All nuts are a rich source of fibre, protein and of course fat, making them incredibly satiating and a perfect snack for between meals or as an addition to your lunch time meal.
Nuts are a good source of B vitamins and contain vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium. Brazil nuts have the added bonus of containing selenium, a trace mineral essential in small amounts each day, that can be hard to obtain from other foods.
When choosing nuts look for raw, unroasted and unsalted nuts. Roasting nuts damages some of the B vitamins present, and some are roasted using poor quality oils that can take away from your health. Soaking nuts before consumption can be highly beneficial and make them easy to digest.
Peanuts are often classed as a tree nut, however peanuts actually fall into the legume category. Peanuts themselves are quite a nourishing whole food, high in protein, fibre and B vitamins, however because they are grown underground they are prone to a type of fungus called Aspergilus.
This fungus is a source of aflotoxin, which is highly carcinogenic and harmful to your health.
Peanuts intended for consumption are monitored and need to fall under the ‘‘safe’’ level to be able to be sold. However the long term effects of exposure to small amounts of this aflotoxin is unknown. Question: I get cramps in my toes each night when I get into bed? Could this be related to my diet? Thanks, Sue. Hi Sue, what you are describing is a classic symptom of magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is responsible for letting the muscle fibres in our muscles relax, as well as managing blood pressure, normal blood glucose and bone health.
You can try to increase the following magnesium-containing foods in your diet: Pumpkin seeds, dark green leafy greens, cashews, quinoa, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
Try to consume at least two to three palm sized servings of some of these foods each day to get your daily recommended intake (400mg) of magnesium.
Caffeine interferes with the absorption of magnesium so it is best to minimise your consumption of caffeine-containing foods and drinks, particularly close to the consumption of magnesium-rich foods.
You may like to try a magnesium supplement if you have trouble getting enough through your diet.
Always follow the advice of a qualified practitioner when taking supplements.
Email your questions for Dr Libby to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered. Dr Libby is a a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.
Nuts can play an important part in a healthy diet.