Nuts are the ideal food for fitness fanatics, and there’s a wide selection to choose from. Keep reading to find out more about these miniature powerhouses.
Macadamia nuts originate from eastern Australia, where they grow on trees which reach up to 18 meters in height. Their calorie content is similarly high. Macadamias weigh in at a massive 720 calories per 100 grams. That’s less surprising when you realize that they have a fat content of 73%. But it’s not all bad news — around 84% of this is unsaturated fatty acids, or in other words healthy fats. Macadamia nuts also contain fiber and other nutrients, some of which promote the transmission of signals between the nerves and the digestion. They have therefore earned their place in the pantheon of “healthy nuts”. But healthy or not, they are still packed with calories. You should therefore enjoy them in moderation!
Brazil nuts grow on Brazil nut trees which are native to the South American rainforests. Their capsules are characterized by a relatively high protein content of 14%. Their fat content of around 66% is on the high side for nuts. But unsaturated fatty acids account for one quarter of this figure. Brazil nuts are most notable for the wide range of minerals they contain. These include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Brazil nuts are also regarded as the richest plant source of selenium. This trace element strengthens the cell membrane and is vitally important for a healthy life.
Walnuts are regarded as true health heroes, and are thought to originate from modern-day Syria and the west and south of the area known as Anatolia. They have a fat content of up to 62.5%. They are also rich in proteins and carbohydrates. Walnuts get extra brownie points because of their high level of unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids — 68%, according to the German Nutrition Society. This is good news for the heart and helps to prevent cardiovascular disease. A study carried out by Russel J. Reiter, a researcher from the University of Texas, also found that walnuts can slow the progression of prostrate cancer.
Another nut with a lot to offer is the hazelnut. Its plus points include a calorie content of 650 calories per 100 grams, and an unsaturated omega-3 fatty acid content of 78% (for a healthy heart and circulation). And these round cobs have much more to boast about. Such as a high vitamin B content, which is good for the nervous system, your ability to concentrate, and wound healing. Eating hazelnuts also boosts the body’s production of oleoylethanolamide, an appetite-suppressing hormone. These healthy nuts originate from Anatolia and the Caucasus.
As you might guess from their appearance, pecans are related to walnuts — but they have a sweeter and milder taste. They grow on tall trees measuring up to 44 meters, and originated from South and Central America. They share a number of features with macadamia nuts; firstly, their shells are particularly tough and impossible to crack without a tool of some kind. Secondly, they have a high fat content of around 70%. Their reputation as a healthy nut is nevertheless well-deserved, since most of the fats are unsaturated fatty acids which are good for the heart and circulation. When enjoyed in moderation, they can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They are bone-friendly because of the many minerals they contain, and muscle- and brain-boosters because they are a rich source of protein and vitamin B.
We’re talking about sweet chestnuts rather than horse chestnuts, of course. No one knows quite where they first originated. It’s likely to have been somewhere around the Mediterranean, in the area reaching up to the southern edge of the Pyrenees and the Alps. Chestnuts are rich in gut-friendly fiber. And they are relatively easy on the waistline, containing only 192 calories and 2% fat. They are also a good source of carbohydrates and potassium. This mineral performs a number of vital tasks in your body, particularly in relation to the cells and stable blood pressure. Chestnuts also contain vitamin B and phosphorus, which strengthen the nervous system.
Botanically speaking peanuts are legumes rather than nuts. But this doesn’t make them any less healthy! Even their fat content of at least 50% and the resulting calorie content (560 calories per 100 grams) are not enough to turn them into an unhealthy choice. Peanuts have a protein content of around 25%. This puts them top of the protein league among the healthy nuts. And it’s one of the reasons why peanuts are a great choice for the vegan kitchen. Peanuts also contain several types of vitamins B and E, and lower blood cholesterol levels.
Cashew nuts might be mild and sweet, but they too are nut imposters — they are in fact drupes which grow on a sumac bush instead of a nut tree. The drupe grows in the center of the cashew apple. Cashew nuts combine their high calorie content (575 calories per 100 grams) with a concentrated dose of carbohydrates (33%) and magnesium (260 milligrams per 100 grams). This is why they are so popular among exercise enthusiasts, because carbohydrates improve performance and magnesium prevents cramps. The particularly high level of tryptophan in cashew nuts is another point in this nut’s favor. Tryptophan is an amino acid which boosts production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which in turn regulates the contraction of blood vessels. In combination with vitamin B6 (also contained in cashew nuts!), tryptophan is thought to help fight depression.
Pistachios are drupes which deliver a hefty dose of energy (520 calories per 100 grams). Other points in their favor include a high mineral content, including iron (7.5 milligrams), which is important for the immune system and transporting oxygen in the blood. They also contain a substantial amount of bone-building phosphorus (500 milligrams). According to the German Nutrition Society, pistachios have a positive impact on blood lipid levels because of their high plant fat content. Another plus for expectant mothers is that pistachios contain high levels of phosphorus. This mineral is vital for in-utero development.
Botanically speaking almonds are drupes, which makes them “fake” nuts. But that doesn’t make them any less healthy or popular. Their very high-calorie content (575 calories per 100 grams) is balanced out by many other nutritional bonuses. According to the US study “Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality,” for example, eating almonds reduces the risk of dying from cardiovascular diseases. Researchers at Aston University in Birmingham were able to prove that eating one 50-gram portion of almonds per day reduces blood pressure.
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