They have a reputation for being high-fat and calorie-laden, but nuts are seriously nutritious snacks. In fact, the protein, fibre, unsaturated fat, vitamins and minerals found in your average handful of raw nuts have amazing health benefits.
Take a look and see what you're missing out on.
Fat from clogging up your arteries, some nuts can help to keep your heart in good health. Macadamia nuts, for example, are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which lowers 'bad' LDL cholesterol and blood pressure. Add a serving of pecans to your snacking regime and you'll also benefit from antioxidants that may help to prevent plaque forming in the arteries, and a study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that these health-giving nuts could help to lower your LDL cholesterol level by up to 33 per cent.
Brain and immunity boosters
A handful of crunchy cashews provides you with iron, which staves off anaemia, and zinc, which is essential for healthy vision and a strong immune system. Furthermore, munch just one ounce of cashews and you'll have consumed almost 25 per cent of your daily dose of magnesium, which has been shown to help improve memory and protect against age-related memory loss. Healthy hazelnuts could also help reduce the risk of dementia, thanks to a sizeable dose of vitamin E, which also helps to prevent cataracts and give you a healthy complexion.
Crack through the hard shell of a Brazil nut and you'll find a cancer-fighting marvel. A single nut contains more than 100 per cent of your recommend daily allowance of selenium, which could reduce the risk of developing cancers including bone, prostate and breast. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, the selenium from Brazil nuts was found to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells, helping the body to fight off prostate cancer. But a single serving of five nuts will do, as too much selenium can be harmful.
Meanwhile the glorious green pistachio could protect you against lung disease. According to a study by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, two ounces of pistachios a day could reduce the risk of developing lung cancer, thanks to powerful antioxidant gamma-tocopherol.
Almonds are impressive in more ways than one. They are high in fibre, contain more antioxidant vitamin E than any other nut, lower your LDL cholesterol, decrease insulin resistance, and even boost the levels of good bacteria in your gut. And those friendly little micro-organisms go a long way towards a healthy immune system.
As unlikely as it sounds, a regular serving of nuts can actually help you to lose weight. The aforementioned almond, for example, has been shown to help obese adults to slim down, with those who followed a low-calorie diet that included the nuts for six months losing more weight than those who ate complex carbs, as reported in the International Journal of Obesity. Meanwhile the pistachio could aid in shifting those unwanted pounds, as they're less than four calories a pop, and the shelling process slows down your snacking. What's more, a good dose of vitamin B6 will help to keep your mood positive, even in the dark dieting days.
The humble walnut is richer in antioxidants than any of its fellow nuts, and thereby helps to protect the body against cellular damage that could lead to heart disease, cancer and premature ageing. And that's not all. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and help to keep the heart healthy, and the manganese found within their knobbly surface could even help to take the edge off the symptoms of PMT. So why save them for Christmas?
Were you aware of the health benefits of nuts, or do you avoid them because of the calories? Leave your comments below...