Types of Nuts and Seeds and Their Health Benefits
Nutritional Value of Nuts and Seeds
If you are watching your calories or intake, it's helpful to know the nutritional facts about the nuts and seeds you are eating. This includes not only the calories per ounce but the total carbohydrates (carbohydrates plus fiber and sugar), net carbohydrates (carbohydrates minus fiber and sugar), total dietary fiber, and fats.
Fats are further broken down into "bad" saturated fats, "good' monounsaturated fats, and beneficial polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
Nutritional Value of Nuts and Seeds Per One Ounce
|Cal||Tot. Carb||Fiber||Net Carb||Mono Fat||ω-6 Fat|
|Coconut (dried and sweetened)||187||6.7||4.6||2.1||16.2||0.8||0||0.2|
|Sunflower seeds (hulled)||102||3.5||1.5||2||0.78||3.2||0.21||4|
In addition to containing healthy fats and fiber, most nuts and seeds are packed with magnesium, calcium, protein, and phytonutrients. This makes sense given that that nuts and seeds are meant to provide nourishment to a seedling until it is able to sprout and grow on its own.
As an added bonus, most nuts and seeds are fairly low in carbohydrates.
Among some of the other key benefits:
- Nuts and seeds are loaded with antioxidants.The antioxidants known as the polyphenol in nuts and seed help neutralize free radicals so they can't harm your cells in your body.
- Nuts and seeds help lower cholesterol.The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help transport excess cholesterol to the liver when they can be excreted from the body.
- Nuts and seeds can help control diabetes.Because they are low in carbs, they less likely to trigger spikes in blood sugar level, making them the ideal snack for people with type 2 diabetes.
- Nuts and seeds have anti-inflammatory properties.This is especially true of brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds, all of which are high in omega-3 fatty acids. This may be especially useful for people with diabetes, arthritis, or kidney disease.
- Nuts and seeds can aid in digestion.This is because they are high in soluble fiber, the type that can absorb water in the intestines to soften stools.
- Nuts are great for a low-carb diet.These especially include brazil nuts, pine nuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, peanuts, and hazelnuts.
While there is really little anyone can say to detract from the benefits of nuts and seeds, there are considerations.
With dried coconut, for example, you are consuming high amounts of saturated fat, the type that can clog arteries. While occasionally eating an ounce of dried coconut won't cause you any harm, people at risk of heart disease are advised not to eat more than 16 grams of saturated fat per day, according to the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
That's one ounce of dried coconut.
Similarly, while raw nuts are excellent sources of nutrition, those that are roasted may be less so. This is because roasting can damage the healthy fat in nuts, reduce the overall nutritional value, and lead to the formation of a harmful substance called acrylamide (which may or may not increase the risk of certain cancers).
Moreover, some commercially produced nuts are roasted in oil before being sprinkled with flavorings or dipped in a sugary coating. While tasty, these processes largely undermine the nutritional benefits of the nuts.
You can't really talk about nuts today without mentioning nut allergies.
While much of the focus has been placed on peanuts, allergies are also associated with tree nuts. Today, more than three million Americans report having an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts, or both, according to statistics from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. And, that number only seems to be rising.
Nut allergies tend to affect children more than adults. While as many as 20 percent will outgrow their allergies, those who experience allergy symptoms early are more likely to remain allergic for a lifetime. Some allergies can even be life-threatening, leading to a whole-body allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Despite these grave concerns, a 2015 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that children at high risk of developing a peanut allergy are far less likely to develop one if introduced to peanuts before the age of 12 months. In fact, doing so decreased the risk of a peanut allergy by age five from 13.7 percent in children who avoided nuts to 1.9 percent in infants exposed to peanuts before their first birthday.
To ensure the best quality, always store nuts and seeds in the refrigerator or freezer so that the oils don't go rancid. Nuts and seeds with high levels of polyunsaturated fats are especially prone to spoilage, as are those that are either chopped, broken, sliced, or ground into meal.
American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). Newly Issued Clinical Guidelines from the NIAID Recommend the Early Peanut Introduction, Not Avoidance. Milwaukie, Wisconsin; press release issued January 5, 2019.
ACAAI. Peanut Allergy. Updated 2014.
Du Toit. G.; Roberts, G.; Sayer, P. et al. Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy.N Engl J Med. 2015; 372:803-13. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1414850.
- Preedy, V.; Watson, R.; and Patel, V. (2011)Nuts and Seeds in Health and Disease Prevention(1st Edition). New York: Academic Press. ISBN: 9780123756886.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). (2015)2010 to 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.Washington, D.C.: DHHS.
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