Nuts and Seeds - Health Benefits
Nuts and seeds are tasty and healthy foods that you can eat as snacks or include in various recipes. They have many health benefits, such as:
Providing essential nutrients.Nuts and seeds have a lot of protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They can help you get enough of the nutrients that your body needs, such as vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, copper, and manganese. Some nuts and seeds, such as Brazil nuts and flax seeds, also have plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and protect your heart.
Protecting your heart. Nuts and seeds can lower your risk of getting high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke by improving your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing oxidative stress, and preventing blood clots. A study found that eating more nuts every day was linked to a lower risk of heart disease, especially when nuts replaced less healthy foods, such as meat, processed meats, refined grains, and sweets.
Preventing diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Nuts and seeds can help control your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, which are important for preventing and managing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. They can also help you manage your appetite and weight, as they are high in fiber and protein, which can make you feel full and satisfied. A study found that eating nuts at least five times a week was linked to a 27% lower risk of diabetes, compared to eating nuts rarely or never.
Fighting cancer. Nuts and seeds have various natural chemicals, such as polyphenols, phytosterols, and lignans, that may have anti-cancer effects. They can change the way your genes work in your cells, and stop the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors. A review of 36 studies found that eating nuts was linked to a reduced risk of colorectal, endometrial, and pancreatic cancers.
Supporting bone health. Nuts and seeds are good sources of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese, which are essential for keeping your bones strong and healthy. They also have vitamin K, which helps your bones and blood. A study found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts per day was linked to a 5% higher bone mineral density, compared to eating less than 5 grams of nuts per day.
Boosting immunity. Nuts and seeds can boost your immune system and help you fight infections, as they are rich in antioxidants, zinc, selenium, and vitamin E. These nutrients can protect your cells from damage, lower your inflammation, and support the production and function of immune cells. A study found that eating almonds daily for four weeks increased the levels of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that can kill virus-infected cells and tumor cells.
How to Eat Nuts and Seeds
To enjoy the health benefits of nuts and seeds, you should try to eat a small handful (about 28 grams or 1 ounce) of nuts or seeds, or a tablespoon of nut or seed butter, at least five times a week. You can choose from different kinds of nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pecans, macadamias, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds. You can also mix different nuts and seeds to get more nutrients and flavors.
Here are some tips on how to add nuts and seeds to your diet:
Eat them raw or roasted as a snack, or add them to your salads, yogurt, oatmeal, granola, or trail mix.
Make your own nut or seed butter by blending nuts or seeds with a little oil and salt in a food processor, or buy natural nut or seed butter without added sugar or hydrogenated oils.
Spread nut or seed butter on whole-wheat bread, crackers, or fruit slices, or use it as a dip for vegetables or pretzels.
Use nut or seed flour (such as almond flour or flaxseed meal) to bake muffins, cookies, pancakes, or bread, or use it to thicken sauces or soups.
Use nut or seed milk (such as almond milk or hemp milk) to make smoothies, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, or use it as a substitute for dairy milk in recipes.
Use nut or seed oil (such as walnut oil or sesame oil) to dress salads, drizzle over roasted vegetables, or stir-fry dishes.
Sprinkle nuts or seeds over your pasta, rice, or quinoa dishes, or add them to your stir-fries, curries, or casseroles.
Make your own energy bars or balls by combining nuts or seeds with dried fruits, oats, honey, and spices in a food processor, or buy natural energy bars or balls without added sugar or preservatives.
Precautions and Side Effects
While nuts and seeds are generally safe and healthy to eat, there are some things that you should be careful of:
Allergies. Some people may be allergic to some nuts or seeds, which can cause symptoms such as itching, swelling, hives, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening). If you know that you have a nut or seed allergy, you should avoid eating them and any products that may have them. If you have any allergic symptoms after eating nuts or seeds, you should get medical help right away.
Digestive issues. Some people may have bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea after eating nuts or seeds, especially if they eat too much or too fast, or if they have a sensitive digestive system. To prevent or reduce these symptoms, you should eat nuts and seeds in moderation, chew them well, drink plenty of water, and soak or sprout them before eating to make them easier to digest.
Weight gain. Nuts and seeds are high in calories and fat, so eating too many of them may cause you to gain weight if you don’t balance your calorie intake or expenditure. To avoid overeating nuts and seeds, you should measure your portions, limit your snacking, and choose unsalted and uncoated varieties.
Drug interactions. Nuts and seeds may interact with some medications, such as blood thinners, blood pressure drugs, or diabetes drugs, and affect their effectiveness or cause side effects. If you are taking any medications, you should talk to your doctor before eating nuts or seeds, or adjust your dosage as needed.
Nuts and seeds are delicious and nutritious foods that can improve your health in many ways. They can provide essential nutrients, protect your heart, prevent diabetes and metabolic syndrome, fight cancer, support bone health, and boost immunity. You can eat them as snacks or include them in various dishes, but you should also be aware of the things that may happen. By eating nuts and seeds in moderation and variety, you can enjoy their health benefits and enhance your overall well-being.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456