Healthy Living in a Nutshell

Posted on by Ashley Fruno

vegan trail mixNuts have the ability to boost your memory and your ability to recall details, eliminate a headache, ease stress, reduce anxiety, lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, suppress your appetite, provide anti-aging benefits, and keep your heart healthy—the list is endless. So why don’t we eat more nuts? Unfortunately, they have a bad reputation for being full of fat, and they are often prepared loaded with salt. What most people don’t know, however, is that nuts contain lots of unsaturated, good fats, as well as boasting omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. In addition, they keep well for long periods of time, are easy to store, and in many places, are inexpensive. The only things you need to watch out for are that the nuts are raw or dry-roasted and that they’re unsalted, or you will be losing a lot of the goodness of your healthy snack.

Some nuts that should be high on everyone’s list of things to eat include walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts. Walnuts are the veritable kings of the nut world. They have superior antioxidant content, are a good source of mono-unsaturated fats, help to lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential and necessary for human health. Most people acquire their omega-3s through oily fish such as salmon, but walnuts yield more than four times as much omega-3 content as the equivalent quantity of salmon. In addition, 10 percent of your daily required protein needs can be fulfilled by just seven of these delicious nuts. After flaxseeds, walnuts are the second highest source of omega-3 fatty acids, well ahead of animal-derived sources such as salmon, eggs, sardines, and beef. An easy way to incorporate walnuts into your diet is to add them to salads or pasta dishes—or just have a handful of them as a healthy snack on the go.

Almonds are another superfood, providing more than twice as much calcium and more than 124 times as much omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) as an equivalent measure of milk. Just 30g, or approximately 25 almond kernels, also provide 7 percent of your daily recommended intake of iron, 20 percent of your daily recommended intake of magnesium, and 32 percent of your daily recommended intake of manganese, all of which are elements essential for everything from bone health to brain and muscle function to the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. The same amount of milk will provide you with just 3 percent of your daily recommended calcium intake, 1% of your daily recommended intake of magnesium, and no manganese at all. So it is quite obvious that these little goodies pack a healthy punch! To include them in your diet, switch to almond meal instead of some of the flour in a recipe when baking, add almond slivers to your cereal, or make a trail mix that includes almonds, other nuts, and dried fruit.

Last but not least, pecans are the heart’s best friend. They are full of compounds that lower cholesterol levels (plant sterols), and they’re rich in antioxidants, which helps prevent the hardening of arteries by preventing plaque formation. If you are after an energy boost, grab a handful of pecans, which are filled with vitamin B3, rather than a caffeinated drink. Comparing 100g of pecans to 100g of regular ground beef shows that not only does beef contain nearly double the amount of saturated fat, it also has 2g of trans fat, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of bad cholesterol and lowering levels of good cholesterol. Pecans actually have 1.5 times as much iron as beef and 3.5 times as much calcium, in addition to vitamins A and C, which beef does not contain at all. Also rich in magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese, pecans provide more nutrients than beef—and all without the trans fat.

Having looked at the benefits of just these three types of nuts, imagine the health benefits of the 50 other types! Including nuts in your diet provides more nutrients and vitamins than animal products do, so add a handful of nuts to your daily diet and get ready to reap the rewards.

Posted by PETA Asia-Pacific intern Milena Konig