Nutty professors (literally, not metaphorically) and researchers have recently been lauding the health benefits of nuts. Current research suggests that nuts should definitely be consumed regularly as part of a healthy diet. In fact, there’s a bunch of reasons why you should include a daily serve of nuts in your diet. Nuts are a nutritional powerhouse and are a rich source of fibre, protein, folate, calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants.
A recent Australian review of over 100 studies spanning 20 years found that consuming nuts regularly is associated with a 30-50% reduced risk of heart disease1. And more good news is that this benefit was observed without any weight gain. This is possibly due to nuts having a satiating effect. Evidence also shows that people who regularly eat nuts have a reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes compared with those who don’t2. And nut eaters are generally healthier too. A meta-analysis published earlier this year concluded that people with a higher intake of nuts had a 40%reduced risk of dying from heart disease and 14% reduced risk for cancer when compared with those who consumed nuts less than once a week3.
Nuts are extremely versatile and can be enjoyed in countless ways. They can be consumed as a snack, added to breakfast smoothies or cereal bowls, made into a butter or paste and smeared on grainy crackers or toast, added to stir-fries or salads. And they work really well whole, chopped or ground in healthy baked goods. Just be sure to exercise some portion control – about 30 grams or 10-15 nuts is equal to one serve; that’s based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines4.
Lastly, should you activate your nuts? The answer is a resounding ‘No’. For the uninitiated, activating nuts involves soaking them and then leaving them out to dry; a process that can take up to 24 hours. Some would have you believe that activating nuts denatures phytates, (a so-called anti-nutrient and phytochemical naturally present in nuts as well as legumes), thereby making the other nutrients in the nut more bioavailable. However, there is no evidence to support this theory. In fact, phytates have some cancer-fighting properties, which is a good thing! Plus soaking your nuts is time-consuming and inconvenient. And, if you purchase them already activated, the price tag is grossly inflated. You’d have to be an activated nutter to bother.
Nuts get my tick of approval. Just don’t activate mine, please.
- Li TY, Brennan AM, Wedick NM, Mantzoros C, Rifai N, Hu FB. Regular consumption of nuts is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in women with type 2 diabetes. J Nutr. 2009 Jul;139(7):1333-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19420347
- Afshin A, Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, Mozaffarian D. Consumption of nuts and legumes and risk of incident ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jun 4. pii: ajcn.076901. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24898241
- Grosso G, Yang J, Marventano S, Micek A, Gabano F, Kales SN. Nut consumption on all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015. 101 (4) 783-93
- National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. eatforhealth.gov.au