nuts are a healthy plant food because they are high in healthy fats, protein and fibre, yet they’re often the source of confusion for those wanting to manage their weight.
like other plant foods, nuts provide a range of nutrients, including large quantities of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (49–74% total fat), and moderate amounts of protein (9–20%) (except chestnuts which are low fat).
nuts are also a good source of dietary fibre and provide a wide range of essential nutrients, including several b group vitamins (including folate), vitamin e, minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium, antioxidant minerals (selenium, manganese and copper), plus other phytochemicals such as antioxidant compounds (flavonoids and resveratrol) and plant sterols.
nuts are naturally low in sodium, contain potassium and most contain some carbohydrate in the form of natural sugars. chestnuts are different they are rich in low glycemic index carbohydrates and low in fat making them more like a grain than a tree nut.
there are little differences in the nutrient content of raw and roasted nuts. nuts can be oil or dry roasted, but nuts are so dense they are unable to absorb much oil (approximately 2-5% of the oil they are cooked in).
studies suggest that consuming about 30g (a handful) of nuts per day may reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 30-50% and reduce the risk of death from heart disease by around 20%.
it seems a number of heart-healthy nutrients in nuts work together to achieve this heart protective effect.
health-promoting monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that help regulate blood cholesterol
fibre and plant sterols that help reduce cholesterol re-absorption from the gut
arginine (an amino acid which is converted to nitric oxide in the body) which helps keep blood vessels elastic, thereby reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
antioxidant vitamins and minerals, e.g. vitamin e, copper, manganese, selenium and zinc, and other antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids and resveratrol that reduce oxidation and inflammation
naturally low sodium and high potassium levels which assist in maintaining healthy blood pressure.
eating an average of 67g of nuts a day can also help improve your cholesterol.