Nuts are a highly versatile food with a ton of health benefits. From heart health to weight management, nuts carry a lot of nutritional power in a tiny package.
Heart Health and Disease Prevention
Nuts are rich in antioxidants, which protect your cells from free radicals and help to prevent heart disease, cancer, and other aging-related diseases. 1 2 3 Free radicals are atoms or molecules made up of unpaired electrons that seek out electrons in the body to pair with. In doing so, free radicals damage cells, DNA, and proteins, which can lead to disease. 4 All nuts fight free radicals and prevent damage to cells, but walnuts are particularly effective.5
In addition to fighting free radicals in the body, nuts also contribute to heart health by lowering cholesterol. 6 Studies have shown that nuts lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides while promoting good (HDL) cholesterol. 7 8 9
All nuts have a relatively high fiber content, and because of this are effective in promoting weight loss. 10 This is because the high fiber content in nuts reduces the amount of calories that your body absorbs and also promotes the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), resulting in better gut health and less weight gain. 11 12 The fiber content of almonds, pistachios, pecans, and hazelnuts is especially high, so try adding these nuts to your diet more regularly if you are trying to lose weight. Nuts are calorie dense, however, so be sure to watch portion size when consuming them.
Nuts can be enjoyed raw on their own as a snack or added to a number of sweet and savory recipes. Here is a simple recipe that includes walnuts, nut butter, and is loaded with other nutritious ingredients.
Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University
As good sources of brain-fueling polyunsaturated fats, the nuts and seeds in this Brain Bar recipe give it its name. Combined with the filling fiber of oats, these slightly sweet and savory, protein-packed snacks will keep the satisfaction lasting.
1 1⁄4 cup rolled oats
3⁄4 cup chopped, pitted dates
3⁄4 cup walnut halves
1⁄3 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1⁄4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp. flax seeds
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1⁄3 cup unsalted almond butter or cashew butter
1⁄4 cup honey
1 medium orange, zested
1⁄3 cup dark chocolate chips
Add oats, dates, and walnuts to a food processor and blend until contents are broken down into smaller pieces. Pulse in cranberries or cherries, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds and salt.
Add almond or cashew butter, honey and orange zest, and blend until the mixture is completely moist and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. If the mixture is too crumbly, blend in some additional honey. Pulse in chocolate chips.
Divide the mixture among 12 lightly greased or paper-lined standard-size muffin cups, and press down firmly to pack in the contents. Place the tray in the freezer for about 30 minutes to firm molds. Unmold the cups and store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
If you are interested in learning more about the role of nutrition in disease prevention, a career in naturopathic medicine may be the right fit for you.