Health nuts

For most of my early years in Singapore, I snacked on peanuts – which Singaporeans love – whether in shells, salted or with a drink at the bar. But hold the peanuts for now.

Almonds, walnuts, cashews and pistachios were imported and sold in 200g cans, and cost much more then. Pistachios were especially popular – I suspect because they were generously salted, and the most expensive and impressive at dinner parties. But it was not until I lived in Sydney in the 1980s that I saw almonds and walnuts sold loosely at some fruit and vegetable markets and delicatessens. I tried a few then and only ate them occasionally. 

Fortunately In the last 10 or so years, almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamias and pistachios – mostly imported from the USA and Vietnam – are now much cheaper, very fresh and abundant at supermarkets. Paula Goodyer’s 2012 article “Salute the Kernel” in The Sydney Morning Herald got me interested: 

“A handful of almonds, cashews or pistachios each day can be good for your heart and waistline.”

I never knew. Paula quoted Lisa Yates in the article, a dietitian and a Fellow of Dietitians Australia:

“Nuts also contain an amino acid called arginine that’s important for producing nitric oxide. This helps keep the artery walls relaxed, which in turn helps keep blood pressure healthy.” 

Now that plant protein is becoming popular, nuts must be included in a vegan and dairy-free diet for our bodies to function properly. Professor Luigi Fontana in his recent book The Path to Longevity, explains why nuts are so beneficial to the cardiovascular system:

“Nuts and seeds are nutritional powerhouses that most of us forget to consume regularly. They are a great natural source of amino acids and fatty acids (mostly healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) and dietary fibre as well.

“They also provide a wide variety of essential vitamins (B group vitamins, folic acid, Vitamin E); important minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc (including the antioxidant minerals selenium, manganese and copper); plus other key phytochemicals such as flavonoids, resveratrol and plant sterols.” 

Fontana, L. (2020). ‘The path to longevity: How to reach 100 with the health and stamina of a 40-year-old’, p.119. Richmond, Victoria: Hardie Grant Books.

Fontana recommends soaking harder nuts like almonds in water overnight to make them easier to digest.

Incidentally, you will have noticed the promotion of resveratrol as the key antioxidant in red wine, which only encourages people to drink more! Obviously, you shouldn’t be doing that – but maybe try the new ‘Zero Alcohol’ red wines on the market: such as this one with added grape skin extract (GSE or resveratrol) and which is low in sugar.  

I take my container of almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds everywhere, whether out shopping or travelling. I snack on them in between meals rather than on a pack of chips or banana bread; this has kept my weight in check, and will do the same for you. Adding nuts to a slice of cake or portion of dark chocolate lowers the glycaemic index (GI) which might also help keep your blood-glucose levels healthy – especially important for controlling the ‘sugar rush’ we get for something sweet. 

AVOID PEANUTS. They aren’t nuts but legumes (like beans and peas), and most destructive to the human system … [for] their extremely acid action not only on the digestive system but on the whole body.”

(Walker, N.W. (1940/1970). ‘Diet & Salad’, p.146. Norwalk Press: Summertown, Tennessee.)

The good nuts 

The most nutritious nuts for overall health (including gut health) are: 

  • Walnuts – highest in antioxidants & Omega 3 fatty acids, helps fight cancer, including colon and breast cancers
  • Almonds – highest in calcium, vitamin E & monounsaturated fats (eat with skin-on!) 
  • Pecans – rich in plant sterols, with heart-friendly oleic acid
  • Pistachios – lowest in fat, rich in phytosterols, lutein & zeaxanthin (both protect the eyes)
  • Cashews – rich in magnesium & plant sterols
  • Macadamias – high in monounsaturated fats to help manage cholesterol
  • Brazil nuts – richest natural source of selenium, supports immunity & helps wound-healing (but only 1–3 per day)
  • Pine nuts – rich in vitamin E, supports healthy skin & is anti-ageing.

Nuts make great snacks because they are already a highly concentrated, natural food with a high fat and protein content – and best taken on an empty stomach. This allows their nutrients to be absorbed more efficiently. And always eat them RAW: never salted or roasted. Isn’t it time you were a health nut?? 

2 thoughts on “Health nuts

  1. rosblatt

    My Mum told me many years ago that a handful of nuts helped retain the oils in your body, or words to that effect.

    Sent from my iPhone


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