The Health Benefits of Nuts

Bowl of different nuts on a table.

The health benefits of nuts may surprise you. (Image: Anton Ignatenco via Dreamstime)

Most people enjoy eating pistachios, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and walnuts during the holidays. Not only are they delicious, but the health benefits of nuts are also considerable. However, even though nuts have high nutritional value, after they are seasoned, their calorie count and sodium content can rise to an unhealthy level.

Some of the health benefits of nuts

Nuts can protect the heart and prevent cancer

Chen Xiaowei, a doctor of Food Science, says the main health benefits of nuts are in protecting the cardiovascular system. Nuts provide unsaturated fatty acids which protect against cardiovascular disease and aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D which strengthens bones. Nuts also contain Vitamin E which scavenges free radicals to prevent cancer. Eating nuts also supplements minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. The outer layer of nuts contains phytosterols, which can help lower blood lipids.
Read on to learn the specific health benefits of nuts and seeds.

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Peanuts

In addition to unsaturated fats, peanuts are also rich in protein that is easily absorbed and utilized by the body. The red outer layer of peanuts has the function of nourishing the blood, promoting hemostasis, and inhibiting aging of the brain. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, peanuts also have other health benefits. They improve the gastrointestinal system and are suitable for people who are weak and thin.

Pistachios

Pistachios contain lutein and zeaxanthin which can prevent macular degeneration and eye damage resulting from blue light. Not only that, pistachios actually make you happy. Jonathan Liu, a professor of Chinese medicine at a Canadian public university, points out that pistachios contain nutrients such as Vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus which regulate emotions and relieve stress.

The health benefits of nuts like pistachios are numerous.
Eating pistachios helps to make you happy. (Image: Silviu Matei via Dreamstime)

Seeds

The most popular seeds people eat are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and watermelon seeds. The first two have the most health benefits. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, which will protect the prostate and prevent prostate enlargement. Sunflower seeds not only protect the cardiovascular system, but also contain a large amount of selenium, which can delay the aging of body tissues and improve thyroid function.

Cashews

Cashews contain zeaxanthin and anthocyanins, which are good for eye health. Cashews with their outer skin intact contain more anthocyanins. You may have noticed how the appearance of cashews resembles a kidney. Chinese medicine says that “the shape complements the shape,” thus they have the effect of invigorating the kidney as well as promoting blood circulation, nourishing the blood, and strengthening the spleen.

Roasted and salted cashews in a white bowl.
Shaped like a kidney, cashews invigorate the kidney. (Image: Juan Moyano via Dreamstime)

Walnuts

Walnuts contain linoleic acid, which is beneficial for brain maintenance. Walnuts also have cancer-fighting benefits. A clinical study in the medical journal Nutrition Research confirms that the daily intake of walnuts can inhibit cancer growth and metastasis, and they can promote cancer cell apoptosis.

Some of the downsides to eating nuts

As great as nuts are to overall health, Chen Xiaowei reminds us that nuts are oily foods and should be eaten in moderation. For example, if you want to get an effective dose of lutein from eating pistachios, you will also be taking in a lot of fat. Eating a variety of nuts in a balanced manner can provide different nutrients. Seasoned nuts are more burdensome to the body and contain more calories. The added salt and sugar make them more enjoyable, but eating too many will harm the body.

People with kidney disease must maintain a low-phosphorus, low-potassium, and low-sodium diet. Salted nuts not only increase the sodium content, but they also contain more phosphorus and potassium, which imposes a greater burden on the kidneys. Kidney patients can eat unsalted peanuts, walnuts, and pistachios in small amounts, but should stay away from melon seeds.

One last piece of advice is, even though nuts contain good fats, eating too many of them will cause one to gain weight. Again, moderation is the key.

The writer of this story is not a medical professional, and the information that is in this story has been collected from reliable sources — every precaution has been taken to ensure its accuracy. The information provided is for general information purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional health care.

Translated by Patty Zhang

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