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Dr Douglas Street: Don't be nuts, eat them!

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Diet is very important in the prevention and treatment of disease, and in optimising health. Healthy proteins should constitute 25 per cent of the diet. Nuts are a good source of healthy proteins as well as other important nutrients (such as fibre, minerals, vitamins and healthy oils) and are, therefore, a critical part of a healthy diet.

Plant proteins are generally not complete proteins i.e. they do not provide all the essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). It is generally recommended that legumes (peas and beans) should be combined with nuts to ensure that all the essential amino acids are obtained from the diet, but they don't need to be consumed at the same meal.

Almonds are a good source of calcium, vitamin E, fibre and flavonoids. They are helpful for high cholesterol, poor circulation and heart health. Walnuts are also heart healthy as they are high in omega 3 and antioxidants which help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer. Pecans are also heart healthy and can also help to lower cholesterol due to their high content of plant sterols. Their high antioxidant content also helps to reduce clots, which can cause strokes and heart attacks.


Pistachios are good sources of vitamin B6, which make them helpful for hormonal problems and, therefore, can minimise period challenges. They are also good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin which promote eye health. Chestnuts are also a good source of vitamin B6 and are low in fat and calories. They are also lower in proteins but they are a good source of vitamin C.

On the other hand, macadamia nuts are high in fat, healthy mono-unsaturated fats, though. They are also a good source of fibre, magnesium (helpful for memory) and potassium. Hazelnuts are another good source of mono-unsaturated fats. Cashews are also good source of magnesium as well as proteins, zinc and iron. Brazil nuts are a good source of another mineral, selenium. This mineral is important for prostate health and the immunity.

Nuts are about 80 per cent fat and should, therefore, be consumed in moderation. They are best had raw. A serving of nuts is about 1 1/2 oz and the recommended weekly intake is about four servings weekly, unsalted.

Technically, peanuts are really legumes. They are also healthy and a good source of folate which is important for the unborn child's brain development.