Just how good for our health are nuts?

The Invercargill Eye - - YOUR HEALTH - Q:I’m just won­der­ing which type of nut is the health­i­est? Also, is it OK to have roasted nuts or is it bet­ter to eat them raw? Thank you, Daisy. A: Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this colum

This has been a re­ally com­mon ques­tion as I’ve been trav­el­ling through­out New Zealand on my cur­rent speak­ing tour en­ti­tled What am I sup­posed to eat? Nuts are a won­der­ful source of nour­ish­ing fats, min­er­als, pro­tein and fi­bre, so all nuts are nu­tri­ent­dense.

Nu­tri­tion­ally, raw nuts are best, as heat can lead to nu­tri­ent losses and de­creased an­tiox­i­dant ac­tiv­ity. The ex­tent to which nu­tri­ent losses oc­cur de­pends on how much heat they are ex­posed to; gen­er­ally, nu­tri­ent loss will in­crease with higher tem­per­a­tures and longer roast­ing times. An­other con­sid­er­a­tion is the po­ten­tial for the fats to be dam­aged or ox­i­dised in the roast­ing process. Polyun­sat­u­rated fats are much less sta­ble than mo­noun­sat­u­rated fats and sat­u­rated fats, so they can be eas­ily dam­aged when they are Email your ques­tions for Dr Libby to ask.dr­libby@fair­fax­me­dia.co.nz. Please note, only a se­lec­tion of ques­tions can be an­swered.

ex­posed to heat. But roasted nuts are still nu­tri­tious, so please don’t stop eat­ing them if you don’t like them raw. Per­haps avoid roast­ing ones rich in polyun­sat­u­rated fats, such as wal­nuts, pecans and brazil nuts.

One of the only real chal­lenges with nuts is that many of them are rich in polyun­sat­u­rated omega-6 fats which are in­flam­ma­tory in na­ture so you can over-con­sume them. Too many peo­ple to­day eat and drink al­mond-ev­ery­thing; al­mond milk, al­mond but­ter, al­mond ice­cream, and al­monds them­selves through­out the day and this can con­trib­ute too much omega-6 fat to the diet.

Wal­nuts are one of my favourite nuts, as they con­tain anti-in­flam­ma­tory omega-3 fatty acids that are great for our brain, heart and skin. Most omega-6 in­flam­ma­tory fats come from pro­cessed foods though, so it is most im­por­tant to min­imise/omit th­ese foods to not over-con­sume dam­aged omega-6 fats.

All nuts con­tain min­er­als (such as mag­ne­sium, cal­cium, iron and zinc). How­ever, lev­els can vary de­pend­ing on the type of nut. While most nuts con­tain very lit­tle se­le­nium, brazil nuts are a fan­tas­tic source. Se­le­nium is an an­tiox­i­dant that is crit­i­cal for healthy thy­roid and im­mune func­tion, and just two to four brazil nuts per day will meet your se­le­nium needs.

Nuts make a per­fect snack or ad­di­tion to your lunchtime meal. When you in­clude fats from whole food sources (such as nuts) in your meals, this slows the rate at which food leaves the stom­ach, which helps to keep you feel­ing fuller for longer. It also slows down how quickly the glu­cose in the meal is ab­sorbed in the body, keep­ing your en­ergy lev­els sta­ble and help­ing you to avoid an en­ergy roller­coaster.

If nuts nour­ish you and you digest them well, I can­not en­cour­age you enough to con­tinue eat­ing them reg­u­larly. Be­cause the min­eral con­tent and fatty acid com­po­si­tion can vary de­pend­ing on the type of nut, it’s wise to en­joy a mix­ture of nuts.

With that said, if I was to sug­gest just one or two types of nuts to in­clude reg­u­larly in your way of eat­ing, it would be brazil nuts for their se­le­nium con­tent and wal­nuts for the omega-3 fatty acids they con­tain.


All nuts con­tain min­er­als such as mag­ne­sium, cal­cium, iron and zinc. How­ever, lev­els can vary de­pend­ing on the type of nut.

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