What’s your go-to snack? Nutritionists all agree; nuts are loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, antioxidants, and lots of minerals, unlike a bag of chips. They are also low in calories with a hint of saltiness and crunch that makes them irresistible.
Beyond the crunch they offer, nuts are linked to several health benefits, including weight control and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Even though peanuts aren’t a tree nut, they have many of the same benefits tree nuts do, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. They’re also the least expensive nut, making them budget-friendly.
Getting More Health Benefits from Nuts
Choosing a handful of nuts over a bag of chips is only the start. If you want to maximize the health benefits you get from nuts, there are ways to do that. Nuts contain a natural compound called phytic acid, also known as phytate.
Phytic acid has antioxidant properties, but these natural substances also reduce the absorption of some minerals, including calcium and zinc. Ideally, you’d like to reduce the phytate content of nuts. You can do this by sprouting nuts before eating them.
If you don’t like the idea of sprouting nuts, another way to reduce their phytate content is to soak them overnight. Here’s how to do that:
- Place nuts in a medium-sized bowl.
- Add a tablespoon of salt to 4 cups of filtered water.
- Pour the water over the nuts until they’re completely covered.
- Place the bowl in a warm place and let it sit overnight.
- In the morning, use a strainer to remove the water from the nuts.
- Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake at the lowest temperature until they’re dry.
- Make sure the nuts are completely dry to prevent the growth of aflatoxins.
- Place the nuts in an airtight container and store them in a cool place.
By reducing the phytic acid content of nuts, you’ll discover they’re easier on your digestive tract. Some people experience indigestion when they eat nuts. Pre-soaking reduces the odds of this happening, and you may discover that pre-soaking makes eating them easier on your tummy. It also ensures you’re maximizing the minerals you get from each nut you eat. Most nuts are rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and zinc.
Here are Some Other Tips to Maximize the Health Benefits of Nuts
Buy nuts in their shells. You’ll get to crack them open yourself and enjoy the experience. It’s a way to eat more mindfully rather than grabbing a handful and tossing them in your mouth. Also, you can store nuts longer if you buy them unshelled since the shell protects them against rancidity.
When you buy shelled nuts, be sure to check the bins at the store and pick out those that have no cracks or holes. If you buy shelled nuts in the bulk bins, give them a whiff and make sure they smell fresh and aren’t already rancid. You don’t always know how long nuts have been sitting in a bin before purchasing them.
Store Them in a Way That Preserves Their Freshness
Store your nuts properly too. Put them in the refrigerator or freezer where they’ll stay fresh for longer. If you do decide to store nuts out of the fridge, make sure they stay dry. If nuts become wet or damp, aflatoxins can grow on them.
Aflatoxins are toxins that are produced by a fungus, Aspergillus flavus. They are mainly known for contaminating crops of peanuts and other crops during storage, but tree nuts can be contaminated with them too. These compounds are risky to health and have been linked to liver cancer.
Imported nuts from other countries tend to be higher in aflatoxins since the United States closely monitors for aflatoxins in nuts and sets allowable limits. However, they can grow on nuts in your home if you store them in a damp environment.
Don’t Overdo the Salt
Salt is an important health mineral in our diet and it has been used for thousands of years to add flavor and preserve food, but you don’t want too much of it. Buy unsalted nuts and condiments if you have hypertension. Fortunately, nuts also contain potassium and magnesium which has a beneficial effect on blood pressure and heart health.
When you’re in the mood for some nuts, it’s easy to eat nuts and a lot of them. Some people are salt sensitive and experience a rise in blood pressure when they consume too much sodium. The combination of salt and fat also makes it harder to stop eating them. So, put aside a handful and put the container away.
Don’t Eat Just One Kind of Nut
Eat a variety of nuts since each has its own unique nutritional benefits. For example, macadamia nuts are highest in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats while walnuts contain the most omega-3 fats, linked with heart and brain health. Peanuts are the highest in protein.
Take small portions (a few nuts) and don’t go overboard. Nuts are good for you and just like any food, you should enjoy them in moderation. They’re calorie-dense but also rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. So, you’re getting nutrition with those calories. Also, studies show that people who snack on nuts tend to be leaner. One reason is you don’t absorb all of the calories from the nuts you eat. Between 15 and 20% of the calories in nuts goes through you without being absorbed.
The Bottom Line
If you have a choice of eating nuts or chips, choose the nuts! They’re easier on your blood sugar and are loaded with nutrition. Nuts are also an excellent source of minerals, including magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, selenium, and copper but you’ll absorb more of them if you sprout or soak your nuts before munching on them. Enjoy the health benefits that nuts offer!
“Are Phytates Bad or Good? – Dr. Weil.” drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/are-phytates-bad-or-good/.
“Phytic Acid 101: Everything You Need to Know.” 28 Jun. 2018, healthline.com/nutrition/phytic-acid-101.
“4 Foods High in Phytic Acid and Why You Should Avoid It.” webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-phytic-acid.
“Foods High in Phytates | Healthy Eating | SF Gate.” 12 Dec. 2018, healthyeating.sfgate.com/foods-high-phytates-3307.html.
“Going Nuts for Calories! | USDA.” 23 Mar. 2018, https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2018/03/23/going-nuts-calories.