Nuts may be traditional Christmas fare, but their wonderful health benefits can be enjoyed all year round.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer discusses why nuts should be an integral part of your daily diet.
People often avoid eating nuts due to concerns about their calorie content, but their nutritional goodness certainly outweighs any negatives and you don’t need to eat masses of nuts to gain their health benefits.
Read on to discover the four nuts that deserve a place on your daily menu.
Walnuts are high in skin-loving vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant nutrient, plus it is thought they contain polyphenol antioxidants, making them great for holding back the ageing process and protecting the body from nasty diseases.
The main claim to fame of Brazil nuts is the amount of the mineral selenium they contain. It’s not always easy to get sufficient selenium into our diets because our soils are largely depleted, but nibbling on Brazils is an easy way to boost your levels. You actually only need two a day to get your daily selenium needs! Selenium is another powerful antioxidant and it’s essential for the production of thyroid hormones that help control body metabolism and, therefore, weight.
Did you know that Brazil nuts are actually the seeds of the Brazil nut tree? The nuts, as we know them, come in a large pod resembling a coconut: when you crack open the pod inside are between 10-25 seeds (or, as we think of them, nuts) in their individual shells, arranged like the segments of an orange!
These score highly on the popularity stakes partly because of their delicious taste but also for their versatility; they’re great in recipes but can also be used to make milk, butter, oil and marzipan.
Almonds are also slightly lower in calories than other nuts as the body doesn’t absorb some of the fat because it’s inaccessible to digestive enzymes. They are also loaded with protein, vitamin E and magnesium, which makes them a perfect snack to help keep blood sugar levels in balance through the day. Why not enjoy them as a snack with some apple slices?
A popular nut on account of their wonderful, slightly sweet flavour, pistachios work well alone as a snack, on top of a salad, or in a crunchy topping on fruit or meat and fish.
They have a great ratio of omega-3 essential fats to the less healthy saturated fats, are a great protein source and also contain plenty of vitamin B6 to help keep hormones in check and maintain a balanced nervous system. Why not include them in your morning muesli recipe alongside oats, almonds, raisins, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds? A perfect breakfast meal and a great energy booster all-day long!
BUT WHAT ABOUT PEANUTS?
As you reach for the bowl of peanuts this festive season did you know they not are actually not nuts at all! Most edible nuts grow on trees but peanuts are legumes like soya beans and are grown underground. While peanuts are a good source of protein, tree nuts win the prize for being the most nutrient-dense.
 Mohammadifard N et al. The effect of tree nut, peanut, and soy nut consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled clinical trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2015 May; 101(5):966-82.