Monday, May 24, 2010

Going nuts

It’s amazing to me so many people still don’t know the nutritional value available in the humble nuts. People think nuts are fattening, unhealthy or unnecessary. I eat a handful of nuts every day as part of my nutritional plan (focused on staying healthy and shedding a few extra kilos). Nuts are the perfect way to combat ‘3.30itis’ and keep you feeling full for longer.

No idea where to start with nuts? This may be a long post for this site, but the topic warrants it as here is the skinny on 10 different types of tree nuts and the benefits. Keep in mind in general nuts have been found to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, plus can help manage blood cholesterol and weight.


Origin: Almonds are traditionally grown in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, but like many nuts with oversea origins now grow in Australia (NSW, Vic and SA).

What they’re good for: Healthy fats and vitamin E. A handful of almonds provides 85% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for Vitamin E, the fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. It’s important to eat foods rich in healthy fats such as nuts to maintain heart health.

What’s a handful? 20 almonds.

Did you know: You can get bitter almonds? While we eat sweet almonds, the bitter variety was once used medically as they contain prussic acid (also known as hydrogen cyanide). In large doses hydrogen cyanide is deadly.


Origin: The name gives it away. Brazil nuts are grown in the jungles of the Amazon Basin of Brazil, Peru and Bolivia.

What they’re good for: The heart! Just two Brazil nuts can provide you with your entire daily intake of the antioxidant selenium, a vital trace element which has been found to help keep hearts healthy.

What’s a handful? 10 Brazil nuts.

Did you know: It has been documented that a Spanish colonial official collected Brazil nuts for his hungry troops back in 1569? They recovered quickly most likely due to the energy levels, healthy fats and range of other vitamins and minerals these nuts provide.


Origin: Like Brazil nuts, cashew is a native of Brazil, but has migrated around the world and is now found in Vietnam, India and Africa. Catching on to the popularity of the creamy cashew, northern Australian farmers have established experimental orchards.

What they’re good for: Strong bones! Cashews contain magnesium, essential for strong bones.

What’s a handful? 15 cashews.

Did you know: You will never see cashews sold in the shell. The nut is surrounded by a double shell that contains a caustic phenolic resin, urushiol, a potent skin irritant and toxin also found in poison ivy.


Origin: Chestnuts are native to the northern hemisphere, but Australian farmers have adopted them as their own. Chestnuts are now grown throughout Victoria, New South Wales, southern Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.

What they’re good for: People with diabetes! Chestnuts have a low glycemic index of54 , which means the carbohydrates in chestnuts are digested more slowly causing a slow gradual rise and fall in blood glucose which helps keep diabetes under control.

What’s a handful? Four chestnuts.

Did you know: You can roast chestnuts in a sandwich maker! Slit first and roast on medium heat for 25-30 minutes, turning over after 15 minutes.


Origin: A Turkish delight, the hazelnut is a native to modern day Turkey and Europe. While Australia imports most of its hazelnuts from Turkey and the USA, you can find the Australian orchards in New South Wales and Victoria.

What they’re good for: A source of folate. 50g of hazelnuts provide around 15% RDI for folate. Necessary for development of the nervous system and heart health.

What’s in a handful? 20 hazelnuts.

Did you know: Hazelnuts are referred to in a manuscript found in China dating from 2838 BC? At that time, the hazelnut took its place among the five sacred nourishments God bestowed on humans.


Origin: Macadamias are part of the Australian landscape – they’ve been bush tucker for thousands of years. They are grown along the coast, from the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland to Nambucca Heads in New South Wales.

What they’re good for: Controlling blood cholesterol. Jammed packed full of the good monounsaturated fats, which helps control LDL or bad cholesterol.

What’s in a handful? 15 macadamias.

Did you know: It takes over 300 pounds per square inch to break open the shell of a macadamia without ruining what’s inside.


Origin: The pecan is native to North America. In Australia, pecans can be found lapping up the sun in south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

What they’re good for: Antioxidants. Pecans have almost five times the antioxidant potential of raw broccoli and more than many other known superfoods. Antioxidants work to protect us against degenerative diseases caused by ageing.

What’s in a handful? 15 pecans.

Did you know: Important as pecans were in the diet of the ancient American Indians, space-age nutritionists have also recognised its unique properties. In the early 1970s pecans were the only natural fresh food included by N.A.S.A. in the diet of the astronauts in the Apollo missions thirteen and fourteen.


Origin: Pine nuts are not grown in Australia, so imported from Asia and the Mediterranean.

What they’re good for: Arginine. Pine nuts contain the amino acid arginine which is a building block of protein that helps keeps blood vessels relaxed allowing blood to flow.

What’s in a handful? Two tablespoons of pine nuts.

Did you know: For Ancient Greeks and Romans, pine nuts were believed to be an aphrodisiac.


Origin: Another native of modern day Turkey and also grown in Iran and California, the pistachio is a very popular nut. Australia’s nut growers have got on board and established orchards in South Australia along the Murray River.

What they’re good for: People with active lifestyles! Pistachios are rich in protein for active bodies so next time you hit the gym, grab a snack of pistachios to help your recovery.

What’s in a handful? 60 pistachios (in shell)

Did you know: Pistachios are related to the almond, peach and nectarine family – or drupes.


Origin: Another nut from the northern hemisphere, the walnut has become a much-loved Australian resident, now grown in Tasmania and in the south-east corner of the mainland.

What they’re good for: A healthy heart! Walnuts contain the highest source of natural plant omega 3s called alpha linoleic acid – ALA. ALA can help keep the heart healthy.

What’s in a handful? 10 whole walnuts.

Did you know: Walnuts contain natural melatonin. Our bodies produce it to help induce and regulate sleep. Next time you travel eat some walnuts to get over the jet lag.

List of references:

1.Mente A, de Koning L, Shannon HS, Anand SS. A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease. Arch Intern Med. 2009:13;169(7):659-6
3. Gemma Flores-Mateo et al. Selenium and coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2006;84(4):762-773
4. International Nut and Dried Fruit Foundation
5. 2009 Nutrient Composition of Tree Nuts, Nuts for Life
6. Nuts for Life Nut Facts
7. The Glycemic Index Website (University of Sydney) Chestnuts Australia
9. Hazelnut Council
10. Griel AE, Cao Y, Bagshaw DD, Cifelli AM, Holub B, Kris-Etherton PM. A macadamia nut-rich diet reduces total and LDL-cholesterol in mildly hypercholesterolemic men and women. J Nutr. 2008 Apr;138(4):761-7.
11. Bring it Home
12. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of Selected Foods - 2007; Nutrient Data Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, November 2007.
13. Stahmann Farms
14. Reiter RJ, Manchester LC, Tan DX. Melatonin in walnuts: influence on levels of melatonin and total antioxidant capacity of blood. Nutrition. 2005 Sep;21(9):920-4

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