Nuts are good for your heart and blood vessels. Already several servings of nuts a week offer you protection against heart attacks and strokes. Regular consumption of nuts can also reduce your risk of diabetes and has even been shown to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer.
Nuts – preferably daily
“It should be a piece of nut cake or half a bar of nut chocolate every day. Alternatively, you could also eat a pack of nut biscuits.” Wouldn’t it be nice if that were a prescription from the family doctor? Nut cake instead of beta blockers and cholesterol-lowering drugs – and your heart will soon be like new again.
It’s not that easy. You should actually eat nuts every day, but then it has to be a very special nut cake and a very specific nut chocolate. And only very special nut cookies come into question.
But before we get to the relevant recipes, it would of course be important to know why and how nuts can benefit your health so much.
Nuts are ideal suppliers of nutrients
Botanically, nuts are fruits and belong to the nuts. However, their ingredients differ significantly from those of other fruit families.
In contrast to most fruits, nuts contain very little water, but plenty of fat, protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber.
Nuts are therefore a highly concentrated food with an extremely high nutrient density. That means you don’t have to eat a lot of nuts to feel full. At the same time, even small amounts of nuts make an enormous contribution to covering the daily need for nutrients and vital substances.
Healthy fats from nuts
Nuts contain a lot of fat. Therefore, in the past, they were considered calorie bombs, which one avoided if one wanted to keep a reasonably respectable figure.
And indeed: Walnuts and hazelnuts already provide 60 percent fat and the macadamia nut even has over 70 percent fat.
Hemp and chestnuts are nuts
The small hemp seeds, which are actually hemp nuts and therefore belong to the nut family, provide only 35 percent fat. Incidentally, the fat of hemp nuts (hemp oil) is one of the best and healthiest edible oils in the world, not least because of its optimal fatty acid pattern.
Almonds and other “non-nuts”
In terms of fat, almonds are in the broad midfield and consist of 50 percent almond oil. However, from a botanical point of view, the almond does not belong to the nuts, but to the stone fruit. This family affiliation is already evident when looking at an almond tree, which many people easily mistake for a peach tree.
Other nuts that we popularly refer to as nuts but belong to other botanical families like the almond are the peanut (which is a legume), the cashew, the pecan, the coconut, and the Brazil nut.
Walnuts are excellent omega-3 suppliers
Despite this really immense fat content, nut fat is a very high-quality fat with many health benefits. The composition of fatty acids in many nuts is excellent.
There we find a high content of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, while the proportion of saturated fatty acids is low (except coconut).
The walnut not only has the highest omega-3 fatty acid content of all nuts (after the hemp nut), but also a wonderful omega-6-omega-3 ratio.
Omega-6 fatty acids normally predominate in our modern diet. They are particularly found in animal fats, grain, and sunflower oil. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are often lacking.
It would be ideal if we consumed both types of fatty acids in a ratio of about 3 to 1 (omega-6 to omega-3). Even 5 or 6 to 1 would still be fine. Instead, today’s ratio is often around 25 or even 50 to 1 and is therefore more than unbalanced.
However, only the hemp seed provides the ideal ratio of 3 to 1. However, the fatty acid ratio of the walnut is also excellent at 6 to 1.
Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on our health in very different ways. For example, they are anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, blood-thinning, triglyceride-lowering, mood-enhancing, and much more.
Almost all of these properties already show how good these fatty acids are and thus the nuts are for the heart, the blood, and the blood vessels.
Nuts protect the heart and blood vessels
For example, in a 2009 analysis of 13 walnut studies, Harvard scientists found that walnuts not only lowered cholesterol levels but also increased the participants’ antioxidant capacities and reduced inflammatory markers in their blood.
What was particularly surprising was that the study participants ate so many nuts every day that they consumed up to 24 percent of their total calories. However, the walnut-eating study participants did not gain weight – on the contrary, they sometimes even lost some weight.
And since obesity is also known to be one of the risk factors for cardiovascular problems, the weight-regulating effect of nuts also speaks in favor of their use in a heart-healthy, body-conscious diet.
Nuts provide antioxidants
But that’s not all: in addition to good fats, each nut contains its own combination of vitamins and minerals.
For example, nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes harmful free radicals and prevents them from attacking healthy cells.
Walnuts contain 6 mg of vitamin E, almonds have a value of 25 mg and hazelnuts have almost 27 mg. Since the daily human requirement for vitamin E is around 10 mg, a handful of almonds or hazelnuts can provide you with enough vitamin E for the whole day.
Nuts are rich in folic acid and magnesium
Nuts are also ideal for boosting your magnesium levels. Magnesium helps control blood pressure and keeps the nervous system relaxed. Magnesium also inhibits inflammation and prevents plaque from building up on arterial walls.
Nuts also contain folic acid. Folic acid is part of the vitamin B complex and is particularly recommended for pregnant women because if there is a folic acid deficiency, the central nervous system of the fetus cannot develop properly. In extreme cases, an open back or other deformities can occur.
The walnut in particular is particularly rich in folic acid. It provides 77 micrograms of folic acid per 100 g, which is just a bit more than the hazelnut, which has 71 μg of folic acid.
Nuts against high homocysteine levels
However, folic acid is also extremely important for non-pregnant women, since folic acid – together with vitamins B6 and B12 – protects against an excessive concentration of homocysteine in the blood and thus also protects against heart and vascular diseases.
If the homocysteine levels in the blood rise, they damage the heart and blood vessels and deposits form in the arteries.
A 2009 study by scientists from the University of Toronto with 5,522 adults showed how wonderfully folic acid together with the B vitamins can lower the homocysteine level and thus even the risk of stroke.
Nuts are valuable sources of protein
Nuts are of course also valuable sources of protein. The almond is the leader here with almost 25 percent protein. Walnuts contain 14 percent and hazelnuts 12 percent protein.
In terms of heart health, the high arginine content in nuts is particularly interesting. Arginine is an amino acid required for the production of nitric oxide. This in turn relaxes and widens the blood vessels and thus promotes blood flow.
In this context, however, not only the amount of arginine is decisive, but in particular the right arginine-lysine ratio. Lysine is also an amino acid. It counteracts the arginine.
So the more lysine that arrives in the body at the same time as arginine, the greater the likelihood that the lysine will counteract the heart-friendly effects of arginine.
Nuts now have an extremely favorable arginine-lysine ratio. This means that nuts contain significantly more, namely four to five times more arginine than lysine. Hazelnuts and walnuts have the most favorable ratio.
But also in the hemp protein, there are high levels of arginine and three times more arginine than lysine.
Animal proteins, on the other hand, contain a lot of lysines, e.g. B. the casein in milk or cheese (twice as much lysine as arginine) and are, therefore – in terms of arginine – not heart-friendly foods.
So by now you already know that nuts can improve your heart health on a whopping seven different levels:
Nuts lower cholesterol, improve your antioxidant status, reduce inflammatory markers, help you achieve ideal weight, prevent high homocysteine levels, provide you with the heart mineral magnesium, and contain plenty of relaxing arginine.
However, nuts do much more than protect your heart. They also help you fight diabetes and cancer.
Nuts reduce the risk of diabetes
Nuts do not taste particularly sweet and therefore have little effect on the blood sugar level. However, if you eat them together with carbohydrates, nuts can also significantly reduce the rise in blood sugar that occurs after carbohydrate consumption.
It would therefore make sense to eat e.g. For example, eating walnut bread, baking nut cake instead of a cream cake, or sprinkling ground nuts over the dessert in the future – together with cinnamon, of course, which also has an extremely positive effect on the blood sugar level.
Another aspect that leads to the antidiabetic effect of nuts is their anti-inflammatory properties. It is increasingly being assumed that the insulin resistance that is common in type 2 diabetes could be caused or exacerbated by chronic inflammatory processes.
The well-known Nurses Health Study also showed that those participants who regularly ate nuts or even peanut butter were significantly less likely to be affected by diabetes – and this was completely independent of age, obesity, diabetes in the family, sporting activities, smoking, alcohol, and caloric intake.
In this study, the risk of diabetes was reduced by 27 to 45 percent if nuts or peanut butter were eaten five or more times per week.
Interestingly, it was again discovered that the nut lovers – despite the high-fat content of the nuts – did not tend to be overweight.
Nuts prevent gallstones
Gallstones were also less common among nut fans than among those who hardly or never ate nuts. This is not surprising, since gallstones are particularly common in areas where insulin resistance, obesity, high blood sugar, and high blood fat levels prevail and all of these symptoms are known to be less common in nut eaters.
Nuts protect against pancreatic cancer
Scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston recently found that the risk of developing pancreatic cancer decreased the more and the more frequently the study participants consumed nuts.
The results of the study were published in the prestigious British Journal of Cancer in October 2013:
Analysis of the diet and lifestyle of 75,680 women (who have been and are being followed scientifically for 30 years) found that those women who ate a 28-gram serving of nuts twice a week had a significantly lower risk of pancreatic cancer than women who liked little or no nuts.
Incidentally, the risk of cancer was reduced by eating nuts, regardless of weight, physical activity, consumption of red meat, or possible diabetes (which is considered a risk factor for pancreatic cancer).
Also, the cancer protection provided by nuts is apparently not limited to pancreatic cancer.
Nuts in Colon Cancer Prevention
In 10 European countries, almost 500,000 people took part in a study in 2004 dedicated to the risk of colorectal cancer. It was found that women had a lower risk of developing colon cancer the more nuts they ate.
The scientists were faced with an insurmountable problem as to why similar correlations could not be observed in men. However, that doesn’t mean nuts don’t have benefits for men.
On the contrary: the small autumn fruits are said to significantly increase the chances of survival in the case of diagnosed prostate cancer – as another study showed.
Nuts increase the chances of survival for men with prostate cancer
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, studied 4,577 prostate cancer patients over a period of eight years whose cancer had not yet metastasized at the start of the study, i.e. had not yet spread.
However, over the course of the study, one-fifth of all patients died from prostate cancer. 30 percent died from heart disease and 20 percent from other cancers.
The scientists around Dr. Erin Richman found that the men who ate more vegetable fats and nuts seemed to have better control over their cancer.
When the men swapped 10 percent of their daily carbohydrate intake for vegetable fats (eg, in the form of an olive oil salad dressing), their risk of dying from prostate cancer dropped significantly by 29 percent. In addition, their risk of dying from any other cause decreased by an additional 26 percent.
If the men also ate 30 g of nuts a day, they were able to reduce the risk of their cancer spreading by 18 percent.
dr Richman explained:
Consuming healthy oils such as B. olive oil and nuts increases the antioxidant level in the blood, lowers insulin secretion, and at the same time reduces chronic inflammation in the body. All three factors prevent prostate cancer from growing further or even from forming metastases.
Cancer protection from nuts confirmed
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis also analyzed 36 observational studies involving more than 30,000 subjects to specifically examine the cancer-protective effects of nuts.
The review, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, reconfirmed that nuts can reduce the risk of pancreatic, colon, and uterine cancer.
So nuts seem to be really heavy artillery if they are able to protect the body – completely without side effects – from all enemies, which after all are among the most common causes of death in our modern age.
Nevertheless, nuts not only help against threatening diseases but also help us to cope better with stressful everyday life – which brings us to the most well-known effect of nuts:
Nuts clear your head
Nuts are irreplaceable for the performance of the brain, it is not for nothing that the mixture of dried fruit and nuts is called trail mix.
Nuts contain choline and lecithin – building blocks of messenger substances – which the brain needs for its work. Almonds have the highest choline content with 52 mg, followed by hazelnuts with 45 mg and walnuts with 32 mg – each per 100 g.
Nuts – Always unsweetened and unsalted
So make sure that your pantry always has enough and a variety of nuts ready for you. If you then feel like a snack, you don’t have to resort to unhealthy foods, you can treat yourself to a nut snack with a clear conscience.
In order to benefit from all the positive properties of nuts, however, you should not choose salted or sweetened nuts. Too much salt raises blood pressure, and sweetened nuts contain extra calories and the potential to raise blood sugar.
Both sugar and salt also cause you to eat far more nuts than you originally intended. So a fair chunk of the nut benefits would be negated with those two ingredients.
When buying nuts, be careful…
When buying nuts, look for domestic nuts, as nuts imported from Spain, Italy, or America may be bleached or fumigated to make them look better and easier to open.
Ground nuts have basically the same nutritional values as fresh nuts, but only if they are eaten immediately after grinding. Heat, light, and moisture lead to the rapid oxidation of the valuable nut fats and therefore allow the chopped nuts to go rancid quickly.
So it’s better to buy whole nuts and only grind them fresh when you need them – which, by the way, can be done quickly and easily with a powerful blender.
And before you buy nuts in the shell, you should shake them: as soon as you hear a clear rattling noise when you shake a nut, you can assume that it is old or no longer good.
Anti-nutrients in nuts?
In addition to all their great properties, nuts are repeatedly accused of one very specific thing: Nuts are said to contain so-called anti-nutrients (anti-nutritive) with negative effects on human health, which is why it is essential to soak them before eating them so that these anti-nutrients could be eliminated or reduced.
Basically, one asks oneself at this point whether one should actually think about this aspect. Because: With everything you now know about nuts, would you avoid nuts just because they are supposed to contain anti-nutrients?
Anti-nutrients that you don’t really notice much of? Anti-nutrients that apparently don’t manage to inhibit or even cancel out the beneficial effects of nuts? On the contrary. Nuts protect against diseases – as we have explained in detail – and do not cause them.
Nuts clearly work DESPITE the anti-nutrients. Or maybe they even do it BECAUSE of the anti-nutrients?
Lectins, phytic acid, and co in nuts
Anti-nutrients are phytochemicals such as B. lectins, phytic acid, or the so-called. Protease inhibitors. Lectins are said to attack the intestinal walls, phytic acid is said to inhibit the absorption of minerals and trace elements, and protease inhibitors (also called trypsin inhibitors) make protein digestion more difficult.
However, it can be assumed that these negative properties may only become apparent if very large amounts are consumed, because – as explained above – nuts have an extremely positive effect on health.
There are also studies on anti-nutrients that show how healthy and helpful they can be. Protease inhibitors are already being used in cancer therapy, there are studies on phytic acid, according to which phytic acid is said to have antioxidant, blood sugar-regulating, and anti-cancer effects and lectins are also the focus of science as anti-cancer agents.
It is therefore questionable whether nuts should actually be soaked before eating them – especially since studies and investigations show that soaking can not really break down the anti-nutrients.
Healthy Nut Recipes
What is the best way to integrate nuts into your daily diet? Not everyone likes to nibble nuts out of the bag all the time. So we now come to the implementation of the advice mentioned at the beginning of eating a piece of nut cake, half a bar of nut chocolate, or a bag of nut biscuits every day.
Of course, it is important that the three delicacies not only contain nuts but are healthy all around and have nothing else in mind but to make you fit and lively.
Basic nut cake
The nut cake, therefore, contains no flour and no sugar, no eggs, and no dairy products anyway. Read here how you can “bake” a healthy and basic cake: Basic cakes.
Healthy nut chocolate
Healthy quality nut chocolate is hard to come by. Therefore, the best thing to do here is to do it yourself and make your own healthy nut chocolate yourself.
Once you have the ingredients organized, it’s super easy.
- 100 grams of cocoa butter
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 50 g almond butter or finely ground cashew nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, or other nuts
- 20 to 50 g (amount according to personal taste) coconut blossom sugar or homemade date puree or another sweetener of your choice (agave syrup, maple syrup, xylitol, etc.). Date puree is easy to make: mix pitted dates with a little water in the Vitamix or Bianco Puro.
Making chocolate is especially fun with special chocolate molds (e.g. made of silicon, there are for pralines, small bars, hearts, etc.).
However, if you don’t want to buy molds to start with, you can simply pour the chocolate mixture onto a plate and break it into pieces after it has hardened.
Put the cocoa butter in a saucepan and let it melt over low heat. Then pour the liquid cocoa butter into a blender. Add all the other ingredients and mix until you have a nice, uniform chocolate cream.
Now fill this chocolate cream into the molds, onto a plate, or into a container of your choice and put the chocolate in the fridge. After three hours at the latest, the chocolate is firm and can be eaten.
Healthy Nut Cookies
As for the nut cookies, you probably already guessed it. These, too, do not come from the bakery next door and certainly not from the supermarket, but from your kitchen.