Nuts are great for a snack, they're tasty and easy to carry, but nuts are also great for your health. A lot of people avoid nuts because of the fat content, but this is actually one of the good things about nuts, most of the fats are "healthy" fats and they are also a source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Being low in water and carbohydrates, nuts also have high levels of protein, minerals, and vitamins. The protein found in nuts is really high quality, it is about 90% as digestible as the protein found in meat and fish.
What Are Nuts?
Nuts are fruits, they have a hard or tough outer shell which protects a kernel. It is the kernel that we eat. In botany the word "nut" is used when the tough outer sell does not open on its own, that the seed is kept inside until broken. Most seeds come from fruits that naturally free themselves from the shell, it will crack open or dry away from the seed, allowing the seed to become free. With nuts, such as hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns this does not happen, the shell has to be broken to get the kernel out. This, along with the high nutrient content, makes them ideal food for animals to store. Squirrels will bury acorns, storing food when the supply is high, they nibble the ends of the acorns to stop them from growing, while the hard shell keeps the nuts fresh in the ground.
It's Not Really A Nut
There are many different foods that we call nuts that are actually not nuts at all. Legumes and drupes are often grouped with nuts due to their similarity when ready to eat. They have a similar taste, texture and bite, an example is peanuts. Peanuts are legumes, like kidney beans or soy beans. This is because peanut plants have a flower that grows above ground while the peanut that we eat grows beneath the ground. Then there are the drupes. With this type of food the seed is contained within a central stone that is surrounded by fleshy fruit that has a thin skin. Not all drupes are eaten as nuts, though. While almonds and walnuts are drupes, so are cherries, nectarines, plums and apricots.
What About The Health Benefits of Eating Nuts?
Nuts are energy-dense and nutrient-rich, another reason for squirrels to chose them and as part of a healthy, diverse diet, long-term consumption nuts may contribute to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, lower blood cholesterol levels, and lower all-cause mortality. For vegetarians and vegans, nuts provide can be an essential source of nutrients which cannot be found in other plant foods. Nuts also contain high levels of antioxidants, protecting our bodies from oxidative stress and helping to keep us feeling and looking young
A 30g serving of mixed nuts provides:
8.2g mono-unsaturated fat
3.5g poly-unsaturated fat
Each type of nut has different nutritional content, some nuts are richer in certain nutrients than others, an example is the Brazil nut, they are especially rich in the mineral selenium which has many health benefits, including, preventing heart disease, easing of skin conditions and cancer protection.
Nuts used for food are a common source of food allergens. Reactions can range from mild symptoms to severe ones, a condition known as anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. The reaction is caused by the release of histamine by the body. Histamine is released when the body believes that it is being invaded by something dangerous, an allergen, the body will act to protect itself causing skin, breathing and other possible problems. Many experts suggest that a person with an allergy to peanuts should avoid eating tree nuts, and vice versa.
Are Nuts Good For the Environment?
Whether or not nuts are good for the environment is a relative question. Are nuts better for the environment than beef farming? Yes, they are, do they use less water than producing eggs? That depends on the nut, with some having a greater need for water than others. Buying Fairtrade nuts ensures that they are grown in a way that is responsible, not just to the grower but also to the environment.