Published : 05/02/2017
Nuts make up an essential part of the paleo diet – in fact, the paleo lifestyle cannot be imagined without a daily intake of deliciously healthy nuts. Their consumption goes far back in time: as a caveman nuts could easily be gathered and provided a rich source of energy and valuable fat that was needed for risky hunting expeditions. They were much more a staple food than meat and it can even be assumed that their rich nutrient profile contributed to the evolution of the human brain. Whoever thinks I’ve got my brain stuck in stone-age conspiracy theories can refer to modern-age food science that proves the many amazing health benefits of nuts. Nuts are a real powerhouse of nutrients: besides healthy fats they provide valuable amounts of protein, digestion improving fibre, anti-inflammatory phytochemicals as well as important vitamins and minerals. Since they are low in carbohydrates they keep your blood sugar level more or less constant and combined with their energy-giving protein they make up an excellent “brain-food” – no wonder nuts and raisins are the preferred “go-to” snack for students to boost brain function and attention.
It is by now well-known that nuts not only keep you mentally fit, but also help you maintain good health: a Norwegian-British study with more than 819.000 participants showed that a daily intake of nuts of no more than 20 grams lowered the risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and even cancer und had a positive effect on plasma lipid concentration.
Nuts are a good source of fat: Macadamia, the popular cocktail-nut contains more than 70% of fat followed by walnuts and hazelnuts with about 60% fat. But against the so widely propagated “fat lie” we have fortunately come to our senses and have recognized that not all fat is bad. Fat is our most important energy carrier and on top of that one of our most essential macronutrients besides protein for cell renewal. Fats and cholesterol are fundamental building blocks of our cell membrane, where they have important protecting and stabilizing functions. And what’s even more, fatty acids (the components of fats) act as morphogens, signalling molecules, within our cell membranes and thus play an important role in the control of hormones and neurotransmitters.
Nuts are particularly rich in healthy, unsaturated fatty acids: walnuts not only contain the highest amount of anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering omega-3 fatty acids generally found amongst nuts, but moreover provide an almost ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, namely 6 to 1. Today’s western food habits have raised the inflammation-stimulating omega-6 fatty acid content in our every-day diets to an unprecedented high: having reached a shocking ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of 25 and sometimes even 50 to 1, which is in stark contrast to the recommended and healthy ratio of 3 to 1. Nuts may thus help us get back on track and rebalance our fatty acid profile.
In addition to healthy fats, nuts are rich in vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant that counteracts dangerous oxidative stress and thereby helps to prevent cell tissue damage – the basis for many of todays’ chronic diseases and cancer. Hazelnuts generally provide the best source of antioxidants with about 27 mg of vitamin E, followed by almonds with 25 mg and walnuts with about 6 mg. So already a handful of nuts may fulfill our daily requirement of vitamin E of about 10 mg. Furthermore, nuts contain high amounts of magnesium – an important mineral for healthy bones and nerve function. On top of all this, nuts are rich in protein, with almonds providing almost 25%, walnuts 14% and hazelnuts 12 % - thus nuts are a promising source of energy for all those sport-loving health enthusiasts.
Today we know that that our bodies most preferred fuel for energy in both quantity and quality is the less popular fat, or rather the energy rich molecules that are created when we burn fat: the ketone bodies. In contrast to the sugar metabolism, our fat metabolism is responsible for a more enduring, more powerful and more efficient energy supply. The “ketogenic diet” is based on the idea of “re-activating” our fat metabolism – primarily via a “low-carb”diet. Nuts being naturally rich in healthy fats are thus an ideal way to stimulate the production of ketone bodies while, and maybe most importantly, being super delicious too.