A nut is a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed, which is generally edible. In a general context, however, a wide variety of dried seeds are called nuts, but in a botanical context, there is an additional requirement that the shell does not open to release the seed. One surprising finding from nutrition research is that people who regularly eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease than those who rarely eat them. “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.”
Nuts and seeds are rich in energy and nutrients. Nuts nutrition loaded with excellent source of monounsaturated-fatty acids (MUF) such as oleic and palmitoleic acids, which help to lower LDL or “bad cholesterol” and increase HDL or “good cholesterol”. Omega-3 fatty acids also offer some benefits in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and in cases of Schizophrenia, depression and Alzheimers disease. Nuts and seeds are the store house of health benefiting poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as carotenes, resveratrol, lutein, cryptoxanthin, etc. These compounds have been found to offer protection against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimers disease, and viral/fungal infections. Studies suggests that resveratrol in peanuts reduces stroke risk by alternating molecular mechanisms in the blood vessels, reducing their susceptibility to vascular damage through decreased activity of angiotensin (a systemic hormone causing blood vessel constriction that would elevate blood pressure) and increased production of the vasodilator hormone, nitric oxide.
Nuts nutrition is complete in the sense that in addition to calories, and vitamins, they are rich source of minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, fluoride and selenium. Manganese is a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, which is a very powerful free radical scavenger. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Copper is required for the production of red blood cells. Iron is required for red blood cell formation. Fluoride is a component of bones and teeth and plays important role in prevention of dental caries.
They contain very good levels of vitamin-E, a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E is required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin; thus, protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Nuts nutrition provides many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates. These vitamins are essential for optimum health and well-being.
There are several ways that nuts could have such an effect. The unsaturated fats they contain help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. One group of unsaturated fat found in walnuts, the omega-3 fatty acids, appears to prevent the development of erratic heart rhythms. Omega-3 fatty acids (which are also found in fatty fish such as salmon and bluefish) may also prevent blood clots, much as aspirin does. Nuts are rich in arginine, an amino acid needed to make a molecule called nitric oxide that relaxes constricted blood vessels and eases blood flow. They also contain vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, fibre, and other healthful nutrients.
Many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a healthy form of fatty acids that seem to help your heart by, among other things, preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many kinds of fish, but nuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids. All nuts contain fibre, which helps lower your cholesterol. Fibre makes you feel full, so you eat less. Fibre is also thought to play a role in preventing diabetes. Vitamin E may help stop the development of plaques in your arteries, which can narrow them. Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack. Some nuts contain plant sterols, a substance that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products like margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts. Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, which is a substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.
The authors are associated with the National Institute of Food Science and Technology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan.