(NaturalNews) Nuts are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and more and they offer a wide variety of health benefits, particularly for the heart and cardiovascular system. However, many people avoid nuts due to the nuts being potentially fattening. Such concerns could easily be addressed by substituting nuts for another menu item or else cutting down on other menu item portions.
Cutting back on other food items may be easier than you think: recent studies have found that eating nuts actually helps curb appetite due to nuts increasing serotonin levels. Nuts have plenty of fiber which makes you feel fuller. Fiber is also heart healthy and is thought to play a role in preventing diabetes.
Nuts are rich in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and they contain vitamin E, which may help stop the development of plaque in the arteries. Arterial plaque can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease, or a heart attack.
Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, a substance that improves artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots. Some nuts also contain healthy plant sterols.
The healthiest nuts
There are a lot of good choices.
Walnuts may be considered the king of nuts for health benefits according to U.S. researchers. Walnuts contain the highest combination of more healthful and higher quality antioxidants. Antioxidants in walnuts were two to 15 times as potent as vitamin E - renowned for its powerful antioxidant effects which protect the body against free radical damage which causes disease. Reportedly, it only takes about seven walnuts a day to get their potential health benefits.
Many studies have demonstrated the health benefits of almonds. Almonds are high in antioxidants, are a good source of protein and have ample amounts of magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron as well as vitamin E. Like other nuts, almonds also provide a good source of monounsaturated fat - the good fat that is needed for heart health.
Brazil nuts are another must. A recent study conducted at the University of Illinois suggested that Brazil nuts may play a vital role in preventing breast cancer. According to the scientists who carried out the study, this benefit is probably a result of the high amounts of selenium they contain.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize harmful free radicals that can attack healthy cells and increase the risk of serious conditions like heart disease and cancer - including breast, and lung, bowel, and prostate cancer.
Cashew nuts are a significant source of iron, which is essential for red blood cell function and enzyme activity. They also contain magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.
Even though peanuts are not certifiably nuts, their nutritional properties resemble that of actual nuts so closely that they are commonly referred to as nuts. Peanuts are a great source of concentrated protein. They are also rich in potassium and are packed with vitamins, especially niacin and other B vitamins. The vitamins in peanuts help maintain healthy skin, hair, and muscle tone.
Nut oils contain many, but not all, the benefits of raw nuts. Nut oils contain saturated as well as unsaturated fats. They are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, but lack the fiber found in whole nuts. Consider using nut oils in homemade salad dressing or in cooking. Nut oil, if overheated, can become bitter. Just like with nuts, nut oil is high in calories, thus it may be best to use nut oil in moderation.
For the best health benefits, nuts should be organic, non-irradiated, and raw.
Tony Isaacs, is a natural health author, advocate and researcher who hosts The Best Years in Life website for those who wish to avoid prescription drugs and mainstream managed illness and live longer, healthier and happier lives naturally. Mr. Isaacs is the author of books and articles about natural health, longevity and beating cancer including "Cancer's Natural Enemy" and is working on a major book project due to be published later this year.