The recent trend of lean structure, healthy eating habits and physical consciousness has led people turning towards vegetables, fat free diets and cereal based meal plans. The term nut is commonly used for a food composed of a hard shell and a seed which is generally edible and it is commercially very useful. According to botanists a nut is a type of fruit that has one seed covered with a hard and dry shell but the shell does not split after the maturation of the fruit. A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a protective outer covering which is known as the seed coat, usually with some stored food. The formation of seeds completes the process of reproduction in plants.
There are various types of nuts such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, coconuts, pistachios and Brazil nuts. Nuts have played a pivotal part of the human diet 78000 years ago. Nuts contain a large quantity of fats, vitamins and amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins and our body uses it as a source of energy.
Nuts are most healthy in their raw form as during the drying process 15% of the healthy oils that naturally occur in nuts are lost. The inclusion of nuts in our daily diets has amazing effects on our health. Nuts are inexpensive and easily available. They contain essential fatty acids, linolenic acids, monounsaturated fats and unsaturated fats. The term essential fatty acids refer to fatty acids required for biological processes and good health which our body can’t synthesize.
Linolenic acid is a type of fatty acid which is found in vegetable oils. Monounsaturated fats are fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats which are really beneficial to our heart when they are used to replace saturated fat. The low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level is low in those people who regularly eat nuts. LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol as it causes plaque, a thick, hard deposit that clogs arteries and makes them less flexible.
The habit of eating nuts enhances the level of HDL cholesterol which is known as good cholesterol as it helps to remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. A healthy level of HDL cholesterol lowers the chance of heart attack and stroke while high level of LDL cholesterol increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. The presence of heart healthy substances in nuts makes it really beneficial to our heart.
Omega 3 fatty acids are considered to be essential fatty acids. They are immensely necessary for health but our food is the only source of it as our body can’t produce it. It reduces the risk of heart disease and helps in brain function, growth and development. Reknown for its antioxidant properties, Omega 3 fatty acids are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids. It helps prevent diabetes, lower depression level, control blood cholesterol level, improve psychological function, prevent heart disease and lower the risk of cancer.
Flaxseeds and walnuts are the two main food sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Flaxseed oils, canola oil, soybeans, soybean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, purslane, perilla seed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, fish and fish oil are the major sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
A healthy skin diet includes Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to protect our heart from diseases. Vitamin E helps to neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals that damage collagen and reduces the chain reaction of free radicals. Our body can’t produce Vitamin E, therefore a diet for good health should include foods containing Vitamin E like brown rice, oatmeal, soybeans, sweet potatoes, wheat, watercress, almonds, spinach, avocado, peanuts, beet greens, mustard greens. Plaque development in our arteries causes chest pain and heart attack. Vitamin E helps to prevent the development of plaques.
An unsaturated fat is a fatty acid in which there is at least one double bond with in the fatty acid chain which is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats contain fat molecules that have one unsaturated carbon bond in the molecule. Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats which are really beneficial to our heart when they are used to replace saturated fat. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol levels in our blood that can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
L- arginine is an amino acid, a chemical building block which is immensely important for our body to make proteins. It is found in poultry, fish, red meat and dairy products. High blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension creates microscopic tears in the artery walls that turn into scar tissue and speeds up the hardening process of arteries.
Coronary artery disease begins with the damage to the inner layer of a coronary artery. L- arginine improves heart and blood vessel conditions and lowers the chance of cognitive heart failure, chest pain, coronary artery disease and high blood pressure.
Here is a list of nuts that are most beneficial to our health. Include these in your daily diet for improving overall health.
Walnuts contain polyunsaturated fatty acids of both Omega 3 and Omega 6 and mono-unsaturated fats but are completely cholesterol free. It is the nut of the tree of species genus Juglans. The two most common walnut species include the black walnut and the Persian or English walnut.
The black nut has good flavor but it is not popular in commercial nut production due to its hard shells and poor hulling characteristics. In commercial walnut productions English walnuts are immensely popular.
Walnuts are rich in antioxidants which help to protect our cells from free radical damage. Their health benefits include reduction of the chance of cancer and heart disease. Alpha lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is produced by our body and it also helps to transform glucose into energy. Walnuts are one of the most important sources of Alpha lipoic acid which helps turn alpha lipoic acid into Omega 3 fatty acids in our body.
Almond is an oval nutlike seed of the almond tree, growing in a woody shell, widely used as food. The almond is native to the Mediterranean region of the Middle East. In India it is known as badam. There health benefits of almonds include the reduction of the chance of heart attack, lowering cholesterol level, protecting artery walls from damage, helping to build strong teeth and bones, providing healthy fats, aiding weight loss, controlling level of blood sugar, improving brain function, nourishing the nervous system, alkalizing our body and reducing the chance cancer specially colon cancer. Almonds which help to improve the condition and appearance of our skin are rich in Vitamin E and also a very good source of Zinc.
The cashew nut comes from cashew apples that grow on tropical evergreen trees. It is an edible nut which is rich in oil and protein and should be roasted and shelled before it can be eaten. In the production of plastics it is used as a lubricant and insecticide and oil is extracted from the shells of the nut. Cashew Nuts are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Casher or “caju” in Portuguese is one most famous component in sweet dishes and they are a good source of potassium, zinc and rich in Vitamin C, iron. Cashew nuts have high protein and carbohydrate content that helps in the reduction of fat content. There are numerous health benefits of cashew nut such as protection from cancer and diseases. They are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic and palmitoleic acid which aid to prevent coronary artery disease and strokes.
The Brazil nut is native to South Africa and belongs to the family of Lecythidaceae. It is a large three sided nut with an edible kernel which is rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, Vitamin E, antioxidants and minerals and selenium. Polyunsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol levels in our blood that can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke which are really beneficial to our heart when they are used to replace saturated fat.
The nuts are good source of energy as they are high in calories. The presence of monounsaturated fatty acids like palmitoleic acid and oleic acid help to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol and enhance the level of HDL or good cholesterol. Due to the presence of rich antioxidants properties, it helps to protect our cells from damage.
The coconut tree is one of the members of the Arecaceae family. It is the large, oval, brown seed of a tropical palm consisting of a hard shell with edible white flesh inside and it contains a clear liquid. It grows mainly by coastal beaches and many tropical economies are dependant upon its products.
Being high in potassium and low in sodium, it reduces the levels of high blood pressure and lowers the chance of heart attack and heart diseases. It not only improves the cholesterol ratio in our body but also protects our arteries from damage. It helps in blood sugar control and also plays a pivotal role in weight management. Health benefits of this nut are various-it promotes hair growth and digestion and prevents infection.
A hazelnut is the nut of the hazel which belongs to the family of deciduous trees. It is a round brown hard shelled nut that is edible. Hazelnuts are loaded Vitamin E, B vitamins, manganese, copper and monounsaturates and help make skin glow and also increases the growth of our hair. It lowers the level of cholesterol and prevents heart diseases, and has the highest level of proanthocyanidin. Proanthocyanidins are very rich antioxidants and act as anti cancer and anti allergic agents. It lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, stroke, stress and depression.
It is high time to renovate our eating habits and include nuts in our daily diet in order to have a disease free healthy life.
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