Many patients ask me, should I avoid nuts? Aren't nuts high in calories and fattening? My answer is that not only is it OK to go nuts, everyone should!! Nuts and seeds are actually critical to optimal health.
Nuts and seeds are a wonderful source of healthy fats for a healthy heart and a number of phytonutrients and vitamins like vitamin E and minerals including selenium, magnesium, and phosphorous. Nuts are also a rich source of antioxidants that prevent the oxidation of LDL or bad cholesterol which prevents heart disease. For those of you who are concerned about the calories, it turns out that the calories in nuts are not absorbed as much as we previously thought and nuts, particularly almonds and pistachios result in weight loss, that's right eating nuts helps you lose weight!
Far from avoiding nuts, we should include more nuts in our diet. According to a Harvard study of over 200,000 people, eating as little as a handful of nuts 2 times a week reduces the risk of heart disease as much as 25 percent!! Tree nuts in particular, including almonds, walnuts, pistachios and pecans are particularly healthful. The key here is to eat nuts in their raw and natural form, unsalted and unprocessed. Processed nuts often have added sugar and vegetable oil that should be avoided.
Tree nuts lower bad cholesterol (including triglycerides and LDL and total cholesterol) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). In particular, pistachios can lower LDL cholesterol. Almonds and pecans are rich in monounsaturated fat that can decrease triglycerides and increase HDL. Walnuts are rich in the plant form of omega 3 fats which can help lower triglycerides.
For those of you who are prediabetic or have diabetes, nuts help you control your blood sugar. By combining nuts as a healthy snack with a good carbohydrate like a whole fruit such as an apple can lower blood sugar levels. Nuts are also great source of protein, much better than processed protein powders as they also provide healthy fat and phytonutrients.
Replace unhealthy sources of fat like processed and fried foods with nuts. Obviously some of us have allergies to nuts so make sure to be careful before starting on your path to going nuts! Here are some easy ways to add nuts to your diet:
1) Create your own trail mix with pecans, pistachios, almonds, walnuts and cashews, grab a handful and eat it 1-2 times per day.
2) Add your trail mix of nuts to salad or substitute for meat to any meal to eat more plant based.
3) For those of you who are considering intermittent fasting, nuts are a great way to keep yourself full by eating this prior to your fasting period.