By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
Some of the simplest foods are the ones that are best for you. In the past few weeks I’ve shared a few of my favorites with you. You learned all about the health benefits of blueberries and avocados.
Now let’s take a look at the wonderful world of nuts.
I like all of them. I eat them by the handful. I add them to salads and sprinkle them over veggies. It doesn’t matter what kind they are, so I usually buy mixed nuts. But other times, I’ll just grab a bag of one type of nut or another.
And they’re so darned good for you!
Tree nuts, in particular, are a great source of protein of protein and healthy fats. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other compounds that fuel your body and protect against disease.
This means tree nuts can have a profound effect on your gut microbiota, endothelial function, blood pressure, and inflammation markers. These are four important factors in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and protecting against heart disease.
They also protect against the development of type 2 diabetes and help control blood sugar. They’re great for fighting off dementia and Alzheimer’s. They battle cancer. And, despite the fact that many people believe they are fattening, they actually help people lose weight.
Still, less 40% of Americans eat nuts on a regular basis. Instead, you should be eating them every day.
Here are some of my top picks.
5 Nuts to Eat for Better Health
All nuts are great for you. But they do have different nutrient profiles, so some may have a little something extra that another nut doesn’t. So let’s take a look at five classic nuts that everyone should be eating regularly – at least a hand full of one or another each day.
Walnuts. One of the things I like about walnuts is the positive effect they have on your gut microbiota. Just 42 grams of walnuts daily can increase the abundance of gut bacteria that have anti-inflammatory and probiotic activities.
They also enhance bacterial populations that produce a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) called butyrate. This SCFA helps increase blood flow in your colon and also appears to reduce the risk of colon cancer by blunting the spread of cancer cells and stimulating their death.
What’s more, butyrate reduces pH levels, harmful metabolites and enzyme activities that are harmful to the healthy microbiota in your gut. There is even evidence that it can reduce IBS symptoms.
Almonds are another nut that can have a positive influence on the composition of your gut microbiota. In particular, the natural skin that appears on almonds has prebiotic activities that fuel the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
But that’s not all a handful of almonds will do for you. Additionally they decrease several inflammatory markers, such as IL-6 and CRP, which are associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Just 56 grams (less than two ounces) daily for four weeks can slash these markers by more than 10%.
Brazil nuts. A single Brazil nut contains between 68 and 91 mcg of selenium. Selenium is a marvelous mineral for energy, increased metabolism, weight loss, prostate health and warding off infections. Selenium from Brazil nuts can also help improve cognitive performance in adults with mild cognitive impairment.
And here’s something else about Brazil nuts. When people ate a total of just four Brazil nuts, it improved their LDL/HDL ratio for a total of 30 days. That’s right – just four nuts lowered LDL and increased HDL for a full month.
Pistachios are high in lutein, beta-carotene and gamma-tocopherol relative to other nuts. Eating more of these nuts can significantly decrease oxidized-LDL concentrations. When LDL particles become oxidized it makes them extremely inflammatory. (You can check this out to find out more about the dangers of oxidized LDL.)
Like other tree nuts, pistachios also help enhance the composition of your gut bacteria. Plus they improve blood pressure and endothelial function, decrease fasting blood sugar and enhance insulin metabolism.
Pecans. While all nuts can have a positive effect on your cardiovascular system and LDL particle size, one thing I like about pecans is that they have been shown to decrease levels of apolipoprotein B (apoB) by about 11%.
This is an atherogenic substance that attaches itself to the surface of small, dense LDL particles. These particles slip easily into your arterial walls, and apoB is the substance that promotes the plaque build-up associated with them.
You can easily see why it’s so hard to choose one nut over another!
There are all kinds of different ways to eat them. You can munch on them while watching TV or reading. You can add them to your yogurt. You can chop them up to coat your fish.
However, there is one nut you should never eat.
The One Nut You Should Never Eat
However, there’s one nut you should avoid at all costs.
It’s called the peanut.
Believe it or not, this food isn’t even a nut. It’s a legume. And these crunchy treats are one of the top allergens in the world today. Peanuts also contain proteins that are resistant to digestion and are considered toxic.
Even worse, peanuts contain aflatoxin, a natural toxin produced by certain strains of mold. Aflatoxin is a carcinogen that’s been shown to cause cancer in rats.
Instead, choose Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios and other tree nuts. Buy organic, unsalted brands… and enjoy a life that’s all the healthier for it.
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