This time of the year I go nuts over nuts. I hear they are good for the body, but also high in cholesterol. So how much is enough?
Contrary to popular belief, nuts are among the healthiest natural foods. It's no wonder that they have been prized for centuries for their health-restoring properties.
However, too much of anything is bad-remember the principle of balance. Nuts taken in excess can cause indigestion and lead to weight gain. About 20 to 30 g or a handful of nuts per day is enough to maximise their benefits.
Health Boost: Because of their fatty acid profile, nutritional properties and bioactive constituents, nuts have been found to be useful in preventing heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, hypertension, obesity and asthma; delay ageing; make skin and hair healthier, improve vision and increase mental alertness.
Good Calories: Nuts have special amino acids (build-ing blocks of protein) that control appetite and prevent craving. A 2003 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that adding a few almonds to a low-calorie diet enhanced weight loss.
Good Fats: Fats present in nuts and seeds are a combination of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). MUFAs, have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol levels. Certain PUFAs are essential fatty acids that are not produced in our body and need to be supplemented through our diets. Diets which are excessively processed and refined do not provide adequate quantities of these fats, and this deficit can lead to a number of health problems. Including nuts in your diet ensures you get these essential fats in a natural way.
Plant protein: Nuts are a good source of plant protein, particularly for vegetarians. In addition, nuts also contain essential amino acids, which are necessary for synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain, and thereby help in alleviating depression and improving mental alertness.
Anti-oxidants: Nuts are a storehouse of anti-oxidants like Vitamin E, zinc and selenium that help prevent degenerative diseases like cancer and heart ailments. They are also rich in special plant chemicals-phytochemicals and phytosterols that help lower bad cholesterol levels in blood.
Lightly roasting or having nuts just as they are, delivers best results. When exposed to high temperatures (when fried), they lose most of their goodness-vitamins E, B and essential fatty acids. Soaking makes them more digestible and helps in enhancing their nutrient absorption. Children less than four years of age and the elderly should take full advantage of nuts in their ground form because they could choke on whole nuts.
Replace your oily namkeens with roasted nuts or add them to your breakfast. Coat them with honey or jaggery to satisfy your sweet tooth or bind them in traditional laddoos to keep warm through the chilly winters. Store nuts in cool, dry conditions.