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Why you should eat nuts

Nuts haven’t always been considered healthy. All types of fatty foods were actually considered to be unhealthy. Fortunately, nowadays we know that the type of fat contained in nuts is one of the healthiest, preventing various types of diseases. Nuts are especially considered by heart specialists as a delicious healthy food for a healthy heart.

Nuts contain approximately 80% fat, of which most is monounsaturated (good fat). They are also rich in vitamins, protein and fibre but low in carbohydrates.

Although nuts are beneficial to human health, there is an important aspect to be considered – their quality and whether they are in their natural form.

Always buy nuts in their shells, natural (avoid salted or processed). Make sure you are not buying fried nuts.

Read the labels and make sure there are no additives: sugar, salt or oils (sometimes used for appearance or flavour). Avoid processed nuts; their nutritional value is very different from nuts in their natural form (more calories and less nutritional benefits).

Don’t eat nuts directly from the package. This will not help you to control the quantity you are eating.

Although nuts are beneficial to your health, they are very rich in calories (100gr contain 600 calories). This is why it is so important not to exceed the recommended daily allowance (approximately 30gr).

Nuts can also be beneficial in weight loss diets if consumed correctly. The quantity of fibre, protein and fat they contain make them difficult to digest, resulting in a feeling of satiation that will therefore help you to avoid unhealthy snacks between meals such as chocolates, crisps or cakes.

To reduce the daily allowance of nuts and still eat them as a snack, in salads and dressings, they can be chopped thinly when added to main meals or sauces. Take them to work in a small container and eat them as a snack during the day.

Nutrients: Iron, zinc, protein, magnesium
Health benefits: Excellent choice for vegetarians. Improve memory and delay age-related memory loss.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 20 units
Uses: Add to stewed vegetables or chicken.

Nutrients: Antioxidants, unsaturated fats omega 3, vitamins E, B1, B6, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium
Health benefits: Useful in the fight against cancer. Help to lower the LDL cholesterol (the bad form).
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 7 units
Uses: Mix in a green salad with curd cheese and cherry tomato. In a cheese sandwich.

Nutrients: Calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin E, flavonoids, unsaturated fats
Health benefits: Rich in calcium – substitute for dairy products. For a healthy skin. Help reduce heartburn during pregnancy. Help fight lung cancer.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 24 units
Uses: Mix in rice or sauces. Thinly chop and sprinkle on a creamy vegetable soup.

Nutrients: Unsaturated fats, folic acid, vitamin E, B6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium
Health benefits: Keep homocysteine levels normal. Help heart problems or Parkinson.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 22 units
Uses: Add to food or as a snack with yoghurt and cinnamon.

Nutrients: Unsaturated fats,vitamin E, B1, B6, antioxidants, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, fibre.
Health benefits: Keep hormones balanced. Act as eye protection.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 40 units (with skin)
Uses: Add to vegetables or fruit salads.

Nutrients: Plant sterols, antioxidants, oleic acid, vitamin B3.
Health benefits: Low cholesterol levels. Good for fighting fatigue.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 20 units
Uses: Sprinkle on baked apples with cinnamon. Add to vegetables.

Nutrients: Fibre, magnesium, calcium, potassium.
Health benefits: Heart friendly. For healthy bowel.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 11 units
Uses: With aubergines, courgettes and mushrooms or plain with raw carrots as a snack.

Brazil nuts
Nutrients: Selenium, potassium, calcium, magnesium.
Health benefits: Protect against prostate cancer. Help those with low thyroid function.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 6 units
Uses: For breakfast, mixed with oats fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Peanuts (technically considered legumes)
Nutrients: Folate, vitamin E, B1, B3, B6, unsaturated fats, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc.
Health benefits: Essential for brain development (good for pregnant women). Good for skin health.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 30 units (with skin)
Uses: As a snack, as a substitute for crisps or biscuits.As a spread – peanut butter.

Nutrients: Fibre, vitamin C, starchy carbohydrates, vitamin B6.
Health benefits: Ideal for celiac sufferers and in gluten-free diets. Natural carbohydrate.
Daily quantity (+/- 30g): 6 units
Uses: In soups, roasted or cooked as a snack or main meal.

By Marina Augusto Estevão
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Marina Augusto Estevão is a dietician at the Hospital Particular do Algarve Group