So, I often get asked the question “what can I eat to help my heart stay healthy?”. There are several natural foods that are yummy and beneficial in maintaining optimum heart health. Leading the pack are NUTs.
“Nuts are defined as simple, dry fruits with one seed (very occasionally two) in which the seed case wall becomes very hard at maturity”. There are numerous types of nuts however, heart healthy nuts include; Peanuts, Cashew, Almond, Pecans, Pistachios, e.t.c.
Hearty Benefits of Nuts …
- Most nuts are rich sources of Omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol) and prevent development of erratic heart rhythms. They also contain cardio-protective properties and have been shown to reduce risk of diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids may also prevent blood clots.
- Nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid needed to make a molecule called nitric oxide that relaxes constricted blood vessels and eases blood flow.
- They also contain vitamin E, folic acid,potassium, fibre, and other healthful nutrients
Ok Nuts are great, but does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
Possibly, Most nuts appear to be generally healthy, though some more so than others. Walnuts are one of the best-studied nuts, and it’s been shown they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans are other nuts that appear to be quite heart healthy. Peanuts are not excluded as they have been shown to possess heart healthy benefits also.
“Some nutritional research have suggested that people who regularly eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease than those who rarely eat them. Several of the largest cohort studies, including the Adventist Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, and the Physicians’ Health Study have shown a consistent 30 percent to 50 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, or cardiovascular disease associated with eating nuts several times a week.”
“Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.”
How to Inculcating Nuts in your diet
Roasting nuts reduces the antioxidant content and can reduce the amount of healthy fats. In addition, some roasting methods add other oils which may not contain the same health benefits as the oils found naturally in the nuts. So its advisable to use nuts in their natural state. Nuts can be inculcated in our everyday diet in various ways including;
Snacks: Nuts can be used as a snacking staple. Snacking on a handful of nuts rather than on ‘Gala’ in traffic is more beneficial to your hearts health.
Savoury Purees and Dips: In addition to being eaten whole, nuts can be pureed into dips and sauces. Create your own unique dip using different types of nut and savour with any chosen side including the famous garden egg (which is also rich in heart healthy fibre). This can be enjoyed as a snack or as a healthy alternative to unhealthy appetisers (small chops) at events and occasions. Push over puff-puff!!!
Toppings for Smoothies and Salads: Nuts can be added as toppings on different salads as a good source of energy. They can also be included in delicious smoothie recipes to add that heart healthy edge to an already healthy meal. Also try tossing a few nuts on local staples like kunu and Pap (you might just fall in love).
Dairy Substitutes: For those looking to cut down on dairy or just looking for a healthy alternative, some nuts such as almonds, can be used to produce healthy substitutes for dairy products.
Cooking Oil: Nut based cooking oils have become a major substitute to other plant based oils (e.g walnut oil).
Moderation is of utmost importance. So yes nuts are healthy, that doesn’t mean eat a truck load every morning and night. Just like any other food item, it is important to regulate your nut intake. About 80 percent of a nut is fat. Even though most of this fat is healthy fat, it’s still a lot of calories. That’s why you should eat nuts in moderation. Ideally, you should use nuts as a substitute for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs and dairy products.
Also, there is no point expecting tremendous health benefits from nuts if you do nut maintain and overall healthy diet. This just constitutes a small part of a bigger picture.
Eat Right & Stay Heart Healthy ….
Fraser, G.E., Sabate, J., Beeson, W.L. & Strahan, T.M. (1992) ‘A possible protective effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. The Adventist Health Study’, Archives of Internal Medicine, 152 (7), pp.1416-1424.
Hshieh, T.T., Petrone, A.B., Gaziano, J.M. & Djousse, L. (2015) ‘Nut consumption and risk of mortality in the Physicians’ Health Study’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 101 (2), pp.407-412.