A nut is a fruit composed of a hard shell, a seed, and is generally edible. The consumption of nuts has been associated with plenty of health benefits — from increased cognitive functions to protection from Alzheimer’s disease, and to keeping the heart healthy. Scientists have discovered even more benefits in nuts: People who eat a lot of nuts might have a lower risk of mortality and of developing chronic diseases such as respiratory and neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases. Nuts are rich in essential nutrients like fibre, protein, minerals, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants. Nuts are also said to have cholesterol lowering effects.
Explore the nutritious world of nuts below, and see if you can create a nut-based cuisine or snack to show off at the forthcoming GTBank Food and Drink Fair.
Almond can mean the tree, or its fruit. The fruit of the almond is a drupe consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed inside. If you avoid dairy products, almonds can be a good replacement. They are rich in calcium and you are sure to get enough of the bone-building minerals you would have gotten from dairy products. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, a nutrient which helps to improve the condition and appearance of your skin. For some extra heart help, swap flaked almonds for the whole nut – with the skin intact – because the almond’s skin is full of heart-protecting compounds called flavonoids.
- Brazil Nuts
The Brazil nut is native to Brazil and neighbouring South American countries. It is 14% protein, 12% carbohydrates, and 66% fats. Brazil nuts are ideal for those with low thyroid function because of their good selenium content – the builder of the thyroid hormone. Selenium also supports immunity and helps wounds heal. You only need three or four Brazil nuts a day to get all the selenium you need.
The cashew nut is widely consumed in Nigeria. It is eaten on its own, used in recipes, or processed into cashew cheese or cashew butter. Because they contribute a good level of protein and are a useful source of minerals like iron and zinc, cashews make an excellent choice if you’re following a vegetarian diet. They’re also rich in the mineral magnesium, which is thought to improve recall and delay and age-related memory loss. Add a handful to a vegetarian stir-fry or use as butter on crackers or bread.
Chestnuts have about nine variants all native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are by far the nuts with the lowest fat and calories. They are rich in starchy carbs and fibre and, in their raw form, are good sources of vitamin C. They’re lower in protein than other nuts but make a useful contribution of B vitamins including B6. Ground chestnut flour can be used as gluten-free flour for cakes and bakes, or buy fresh and roast for a tasty snack.
Hazelnuts are used in combination with chocolate for chocolate truffles and products such as Nutella. Hazelnut oil, pressed from hazelnuts, is strongly flavoured and used as cooking oil. Turkey is the world’s largest producer of hazelnuts.
Opt for hazelnuts if you’re concerned about high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid which has been associated with heart problems as well as conditions like Parkinson’s. Hazelnuts are a good source of folate which plays a key role in keeping homocysteine within normal levels.
With one of the highest fat contents, macadamias are often used to add flavour and texture to dishes and work well in both savoury and sweet recipes. Although high in fat, they do supply good levels of the healthy mono-unsaturated variety. They’re a rich source of fibre and make a useful contribution of minerals including magnesium, calcium and potassium. Macadamias are native to Australia.
Some researchers may not put peanuts in the nuts category for a number of reasons. The major reason is that, unlike other nuts, they form underground, and are therefore classified as leguminous. Peanuts are quite popular, especially in Nigeria and parts of Africa. They carry similar qualities to pistachios and almonds. Peanuts are rich in energy, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins essential for optimum health. Peanut kernels are a good source of dietary protein; compose fine quality amino acids that are essential for growth and development. The nuts are a rich source of minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Nigerians have several uses for peanuts.
- Pine nuts
Pine nuts are small edible seeds of the female cone in a pine tree. They are a source of plant derived nutrients, essential minerals, vitamins and “heart friendly” monounsaturated fatty acids that help benefit in reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. Pine nuts are one of the calorie-rich edible nuts. Their high caloric content chiefly comes from fats. Indeed, the nuts are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid that helps to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increases HDL or “good cholesterol” in the blood.
Being especially rich in vitamin B6, which is important for keeping hormones balanced and healthy, pistachios are a good option for those with problem periods. They’re the only nut to contain reasonable levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that play an important role in protecting the eyes. Pistachios also contain potassium and fibre – in fact a 30g serving has more than three times that supplied by the equivalent weight of plums. Pistachios are native to the Middle East and parts of Central Asia.
Their superior antioxidant content means walnuts are useful in the fight against cancer. They’re also a good source of mono-unsaturated, heart-friendly fats, and studies show they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol (LDL). They are also rich in omega-3, making them a great alternative for those who do not eat oily fish.
#GTBankFoodandDrinkFair: April 30 – May 1, 2017.
Make it a date!