Nuts are an underrated food ingredient/element often ignored by many in their diet. Nuts are power-packed with calories, protein, fats and minerals. Some studies have also associated eating nuts with a longer life span. Sadly nuts have been ignored in your daily food plate due to reasons ranging from cost to weight gain. Different nuts have different nutritional values. For instance, almonds are rich sources of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium but a poor source of folate. On the other hand, hazelnuts are rich in folate. Hence it is important to include a variety of nuts in your diet. Around the world, almonds are widely consumed, followed by walnuts and cashews respectively.
From the above table, you can deduce that Hazelnuts, Brazil Nuts and walnuts are calorically dense compared to the other nuts. Almonds on the other hand have a good amount of protein and fiber followed by Pistachios.
Here, you can’t help but notice that almost all the nuts are high in magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and folate. Almonds are the richest source of calcium and Vitamin E followed by brazil nuts. Apart from the above nutrients, nuts are also a good source of selenium, copper and manganese.
I am sure you might be willing to know more about the health benefits of nuts. My next section is exactly about that.
Health Benefits Of Nuts
1. Heart Healthy
Nuts help in reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol and increase the levels of HDL cholesterol. They also act as an anti-clotting agent and prevent the occurrence of heart attacks. Nuts also help in reducing inflammation. The fiber content in nuts helps in reducing blood pressure. Nuts are also a good source of Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) which also help in reducing the risk of heart attacks. Nitric oxide and Arginine in nuts also help in relaxation of blood vessels. A 2014 Indian study associated the consumption of pistachios to reduced cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammatory levels.
2. Helps Reduce Inflammation And Combat Free Radicals
Walnuts are an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids and thus help in reducing inflammation associated with stress or metabolic diseases. Nuts are also a fine source of antioxidants which helps in dealing with inflammation too. Nuts help in neutralizing oxidative stress and reduce the risk of diseases associated with oxidative stress like heart diseases, Diabetes, Cataracts, Dementia.
3. Insulin Friendly
Nuts help in reducing blood sugar levels as it contains good amounts of fiber in it. Nuts were also seen to reduce co-morbidities which were present along with diabetes. According to a 2018 Indian study, cashew nut consumption for 12 weeks helped reduce LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol and reduced blood pressure in people suffering from Type 2 diabetes with no significant effects on weight.
4. Improves Gut Microflora
As nuts are rich in fiber, it helps in maintaining good gut bacteria and helps in improving your gut immunity. Almonds have essential fats that help maintain gut health.
5. Aids In Weight Management
Nuts contain good amounts of fiber and protein as I have mentioned before. Fiber helps in promoting satiety thus making us feel full for long periods of time without feeling hungry. This helps in reducing weight. Apart from this, various epidemiological studies have noted that people who consumed nuts had a leaner body compared to people who didn’t. Some studies (like the ones mentioned above) have noted that consumption of nuts had no effect on weight while it helped reduce glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The problem arises when nuts are consumed coated with chocolate syrup, salt and other preservatives added to it. According to a few studies, nuts might influence energy metabolism by compensating an increase in available energy. Nuts have also demonstrated a beneficial effect on a calorically restricted diet. Higher nuts consumption was also associated with lower Body Mass Index (BMI) and a lower waist-to-hip-ratio. Nuts might also play a major role in hypocholesteremic diet by helping in maintenance of optimal cholesterol levels as well as reducing weight.
3 Nutritious Nut Recipes
Now that you are aware of the benefits of nuts, let’s move onto some delicious recipes that involve nuts.
1. Nutty Chikki
Who doesn’t like chikkis? Young and old alike as well as those with a sweet tooth always crave for this sweet. Here is a tasty snack that you can make for your kids and they are surely going to end up licking their fingers!
Cooking time: 15-20 mins
Nutritional values (1 serving approx): Energy: 88 kcals | Carbs: 12 gms | Protein: 4 gms | Fat: 2 gms | Calcium: 15 mgs | Potassium: 59 mgs | Magnesium: 25 mgs
- ¼ cup cashews
- ¼ cup almonds
- ¼ cup pista
- 1 ½ cup jaggery (gur)
- 1 tsp ghee
- ½ cup of water
- Cardamom (elaichi)
- Fennel (saunf)
- Roast the nuts on a low flame and keep it aside.
- Take a non-stick pan and keep it on flame.
- Add ghee, jaggery, water and stir mixture well on a high flame till the sugar melts.
- Keep checking the consistency of the mixture. It should be thick like a syrup. When you drop it into a bowl of water it should form a hard ball. If this doesn’t happen, keep boiling the mixture.
- After the mixture has turned syrupy, lower the flame and add the roasted nuts.
- Stir well so that the nuts get coated properly with the syrup.
- Now grease a baking tray with ghee. Transfer the mixture onto the plate before it sets into the pan.
- Let it cool for a few minutes. Now take a knife and cut the chikki into pieces.
- Serve the chikki or store it in a container for later use.
2. Fruit And Nuts Salad
This healthy recipe can be had as a mid-morning dish or an evening snack or whenever you crave something sweet! When those terrible hunger pangs trouble you, just make yourself this beautiful salad and you don’t even need to worry about calories as it’s healthy!
Cooking time: 10-15 mins
Nutritional values (1 piece approx): Energy: 220 kcals | Carbs: 32 gms | Protein: 4 gms | Fat: 14 gms | Fiber: 5 gms | Calcium: 25 mgs | Potassium: 50 mgs
- ½ cup of bananas
- 1 cup grapes
- 2 cups cooked rice
- ¾ cup apples
- 2 ½ tbsp walnuts
- 1 tbsp cashews
- ¼ cup grated coconut
- ¼ cup mayonnaise (for dressing)
- Salt to taste
- Combine bananas, grapes, apples, walnuts, cashews, coconut and cooked rice in a bowl.
- Add the dressing (mayonnaise) and mix well. Enjoy!
3. Paneer Kaju Curry
This is a yummy curry that can be incorporated with rice or chapati in breakfast/lunch/dinner. It is a calcium and protein-rich recipe as well as easy to prepare.
Cooking time: 20-25 mins
Nutritional values (2 servings approx): Energy: 722 kcals | Carbs: 15 gms | Protein: 32 gms | Fat: 50 gms | Fiber: 2 gms | Calcium: 58 mgs |Potassium: 498 mgs
- ½ cup paneer cubes
- 2 tbsps kaju paste
- 1 tsp butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 big onion
- 1 big tomato
- 1 tsp ginger garlic paste
- 2 tsps turmeric
- 2 tsps chilli powder
- 2 tsps coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tbsp cream
- Salt to taste
- Oil for cooking
- 2 tsp coriander leaves (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp cashews
- Heat oil in a pan and fry the paneer cubes in it and keep it aside.
- Meanwhile in the same pan, roast cashews and keep it aside too. This is an optional step as it’s not necessary to roast cashews, but I do recommend to roast it for a better taste.
- Blend the tomato along with cashews in a mixer and keep the puree aside.
- Now in the pan add butter along with dry spices i.e bay leaf, cloves and cardamom.
- Now add the chopped onions and saute for a while, till it turns translucent.
- Add ginger garlic paste, turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and saute for a while.
- Add the tomato and cashew paste and mix well. Add cream as well.
- Now add water and adjust as per requirement. Remember to not add a lot of water as the curry might end up getting too watery. Mix well.
- Add the roasted cashews (if you roasted it) and paneer cubes. Mix properly.
- Now place a lid over the pan so that the curry boils properly and also to obtain a thick texture for the curry. Open the lid and check in between.
- After the curry turns thick, switch off the flame and add coriander leaves to it. If you haven’t roasted cashews you can add it now for garnishing.
- Enjoy with roti or steamed rice.
- Ensure that you avoid consuming nuts with calorically dense ingredients. For example: nuts coated in chocolate.
- Avoid consuming salted nuts as they are high in sodium content.
- This goes without saying but avoid consuming nuts if you are allergic to it.
- If you love consuming roasted nuts, roast them in oil that is stable to heat like coconut oil.
- Include both raw and roasted nuts in your diet. This is because if nuts are roasted, phytic acid, aflatoxins and other toxic compounds in nuts are reduced but at the same time there is loss of antioxidants, vitamins and formation of acrylamides (associated with cancer) with roasting.
- Consuming nuts in breakfast will help keep you fuller and running throughout the day.