Go nuts over nuts for good health

New Zealand’s favourite well­be­ing ex­pert Dr Libby an­swers read­ers’ ques­tions about living a health­ier life.

South Waikato News - - OPINION / KI O¯KU NEI WHAKAARO -

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 ask.dr­libby@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz. 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.

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