Author Sidebar: I didn't really care that much for nuts (or seeds) as a snack. I preferred potato chips or pretzels; or, a piece of fruit such as an apple or some grapes. But, after I recovered from my coma and returned to work, I realized that I needed something healthier than potato chips for a snack. :-)
I started with salted, roasted peanuts; but, after doing some research, I discovered that roasted nuts tended not to be healthy because the heat caused damaged to the healthy fats within the nuts. In addition, I discovered that peanuts were one of the least healthy nuts.
So, I gradually transitioned to raw nuts (no salt, not roasted), mainly almonds, pecans and walnuts; and, sometimes macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, and pumpkin seeds.
Nuts and Seeds Address 4 Problems | Reverse Diabetes
Beyond helping with blood pressure, cholesterol, weight gain, and other health issues, there are 4 major problems that nuts and seeds help address to have them quality as super fats that help reverse your diabetes.
1. Healthy Snacks: is key to help diabetics maintain proper glucose control, especially between major meals. Eating nuts and seeds make it a lot easier to prepare quick and healthy snacks.
2. Healthy Fats: is one of the areas where many diabetics are lacking from a nutrient content perspective. Nuts and seeds provide monounsaturated fats, oleic acid and Omega-3 fats to help address inflammation, oxidation, weight gain, blood glucose levels and insulin levels.
3. Cravings: is a problem area that nuts and seeds can help with because of their macronutrient and micronutrient content, especially the fat, protein and minerals.
4. Eating Fruits: can be better tolerated when eaten with a handful of nuts and seeds. Why? Because the protein and fat in the nuts and seeds offset the carbs in the fruit.
Nuts and Seed | Reverse Diabetes| Other Health Benefits
Because nuts and seeds provide plant protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, they can help a diabetic better manage his/her diabetes, especially, when it comes to eating healthy snacks.
Research shows that eating more nuts and seeds can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease by reducing blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels. This is due to nuts and seeds containing good amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, and protein. Some of them also contain arginine, which protects the inner lining of artery walls.
The vitamins and minerals in nuts include potassium, vitamins E, vitamin B6, and folic acid -- all of which also help to fight heart disease.
The many health benefits of nuts and seeds are due to the rich variety of vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that are found in many of them.
More specifically, the benefits come from the dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), linoleic acid, flavonoids, antioxidants, carotene, l-arginine, vitamin E, plant sterols, and minerals like copper, iron, calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and manganese.
Some of the many health benefits of nuts and seeds include the following:
Blood Glucose Control: Because of the protein and good fat content, most nuts and seeds help to control blood glucose levels, including postprandial blood glucose levels.
In research published online by the journal Diabetes Care (in 2011), a team of researchers led by Dr. David Jenkins (University of Toronto Department of Nutritional Sciences) reported that consuming two ounces of nuts daily as a replacement for carbohydrates proved effective with glycemic and serum lipid control for people with Type 2 diabetes.
Digestion and Weight Loss: Nuts and seeds have a high content of fiber, which is one of the more beneficial and versatile elements found in food.
First of all, fiber is important in the digestive process, because it adds bulk to the stool. This means that bowel movements move through the digestive tract smoothly, because the fiber stimulates peristaltic motion in the smooth muscle of the intestine.
When stool moves freely through the system, constipation is reduced, and regular bowel movements can begin. This reduces the chances of developing various digestive conditions like hemorrhoids or polyps, including more serious diseases like cancer. Furthermore, fiber acts to scrub out excess cholesterol from the body, particularly the damaging omega-6 fatty acids.
Finally, fiber makes the body feel full, and inhibits the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, which keeps obese people from overeating. This makes nuts a valuable part of weight loss regimens.
Along with fiber, nuts contain a powerhouse of nutrients and beneficial vitamins, without adding too many calories to the diet. Obviously, nuts that are heavily salted or dipped in chocolate lose some of this weight loss advantage.
Increased Heart Health: Perhaps the most important attribute of nuts and seeds in terms of overall health is its impact on the cardiovascular system. This happens in a number of ways.
First of all, nuts and seeds contain a large amount of “good cholesterol”, also known as HDL cholesterol. This beneficial type of cholesterol actually reduces the presence of dangerous cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the blood, and ensures that they do not bind on the walls of arteries and blood vessels. In this way, nuts reduce the chance of blood clots and atherosclerosis from seriously harming your cardiovascular system.
Secondly, nuts contain an important amino acid called larginine, which relaxes blood vessels and eases any constriction or chronic contractions. When blood vessels are relaxed, blood flows more freely, and their is less stress on the entire system, and blood pressure decreases. Also, blood clots are less likely to impact the body when the vessels are relaxed and the blood if flowing quickly and smoothly.
Nuts are also a rich source of certain poly-phenolic flavonoid components, including resveratrol. This powerful compound inhibits the activity of angiotensin, which causes blood vessels to tighten. It also induces the release of nitric oxide, a known vasodilator for relaxing the artery walls and lowering blood pressure.
Overall, nuts and seeds are some of the best things you can eat to help your heart health and prevent cardiovascular issues from arising.
Cancer Prevention: One of the best aspects of nuts and seeds is their high content of healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats (oleic acid) and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids), more specifically, alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
These fatty acid have certain anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to reduce the chances of colon, prostate, and breast cancer in test subjects.
Furthermore, the high level of dietary fiber in nuts promotes good bowel movements and digestion, which reduces the chances of certain types of gastrointestinal cancers.
Vitamin-E Content: The vitamin found in the highest concentrations in nuts and seeds is Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant.
Antioxidants combat the effects of free radicals in the body, which are byproducts of cellular metabolism that can cause a wide range of diseases and dangerous conditions, including various types of cancer.
Furthermore, the health benefits of vitamin E include its ability to boost skin health and fight the harmful effects of free radicals that lead to wrinkles and premature aging. This vitamin also boosts immune function, increases the metabolic functions of the body, and promotes cellular repair.
Mental Health: Nuts and seeds also combat the debilitating effects of mental disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression due to its omega-3 fatty acid content.
These compounds are also good at reducing rheumatoid arthritis, since it is anti-inflammatory in nature, which increases the flow of blood to the brain, further increasing healthy cognitive function.
Potassium Content: The high levels of potassium found in certain nuts and seeds are very beneficial to cellular fluid and water balance in the cells. This can help keep the body hydrated and functioning properly, as hydration is very important. Potassium also works as a vasodilator to further reduce blood pressure and protect the heart from various conditions.
Copper and Iron: These two essential minerals are needed for the proper functioning and creation of red blood cells. Iron and copper are both active components in red blood cells, so they work to alleviate symptoms of anemia, also known as iron deficiency, which can result in fatigue, light headedness, stomach issues, and sleep disorders.
Caution #1: Unfortunately, despite all of the health benefits of nuts and seeds, there is a downside. Some nuts tend to be a highly allergenic substance, and it can manifest in a variety of ways. Being allergic to one nut is not the same as another, so you must be careful whenever you eat a new type of nut. If you are allergic the reactions can range from mild to extremely severe, and include skin and facial irritation, swelling of the throat, respiratory malfunctions, anaphylactic shock, heart arrhythmia, vomiting, diarrhea, and gastric discomfort. As long as you are aware of what your body can and can’t handle, nuts are an extremely valuable boost to your overall health.
Caution #2: Because of the high fat content in most nuts and seeds, be careful not to eat too much. A handful once or twice a day as part of a healthy snack should be sufficient.
Research About Nuts and Seeds
Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Blomhoff R, Carlsen MH), which identified several nuts among plant foods with the highest total antioxidant content, suggests the high antioxidant content of nuts may be key to their cardio-protective benefits.
The high antioxidant content of nuts helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women's Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively.
Even more impressive were the results of a review study of the evidence linking nuts and lower risk of coronary heart disease, also published in the British Journal of Nutrition. (Kelly JH, Sabate J.)
In this study, researchers looked at four large prospective epidemiological studies—the Adventist Health Study, Iowa Women's Study, Nurses' Health Study and the Physician's Health Study.
When evidence from all four studies was combined, subjects consuming nuts at least 4 times a week showed a 37% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or seldom ate nuts. Each additional serving of nuts per week was associated with an average 8.3% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Top 10 Nuts Seeds | Reverse Diabetes
The top super fat nuts and seeds for diabetics include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.
In general, almonds, Brazil, macadamia and pecan nuts are the best for a strict low-carb diet. This is because they are so full of healthy fats and so satisfying that it’s more difficult to eat too many carbs this way.
Most nuts can be enjoyed in moderation by most people on a low-carb diet. However, be careful with pistachio and (especially) cashew nuts, as the carb grams will quickly add up. Just two handfuls of cashews contains 20 grams, the daily allowance on a strict low-carb diet.
Like walnuts, one of the healthiest aspects of almonds appears to be their skins, as they are rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits.
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry even revealed that a one-ounce serving of almonds has a similar amount of total polyphenols as a cup of steamed broccoli or green tea.
Almonds are beneficial for your heart health because they contain monounsaturated fats, the same fat found in olive oil. A study in the journal Circulation found people with abnormally high level of lipids, such as cholesterol, in their blood were able to significantly reduce their risk factors for coronary heart disease by snacking on whole almonds.
Almonds are high in magnesium, which reduces blood pressure and may reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Almonds decrease post-meal blood sugar surges, according to a research study published in the "Journal of Nutrition" in 2006.
Additional research, published in "Metabolism" in 2007, showed that eating almonds with a high glycemic index food such as bread reduced the rise in blood sugar post-meal.
A few almonds can go a long way towards filling you up. Try to stick to a 1-ounce serving, which is about 23 almonds. One ounce of almonds contains 161 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of dietary fiber.
Brazil nuts offer many of the same benefits of other nuts – healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, they're most notable for being an excellent source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that may be beneficial for the prevention of cancer.
Brazil nuts also have a beneficial high fat and low protein content, behind only macadamias and pecans.
Cashews are lower in fat than most other nuts. About 75 percent of the fat in cashews is oleic acid, or heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which is the same type of fat found in olive oil.
Although cashews are one of the lowest-fiber nuts, they are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These include vitamins E, K, and B6, along with minerals like copper, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, iron, and selenium.
Diabetes Health Benefit: An animal research study published in the "Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy" in 2005 showed that when dried cashew nut extract was given orally to healthy rats and those with induced diabetes, both groups had significantly lower blood sugar levels three hours after extract administration. Thus, cashew nuts may offer anti-hyperglycemic benefits.
Blood Health Benefit: The copper and iron in cashews work together to help the body form and utilize red blood cells. This in turn keeps blood vessels, nerves, the immune system, and bones healthy and functioning properly.
Eye Health Benefit: We’ve all heard that carrots are good for your eyes, but it might come as a surprise that cashews are too! They contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which act as antioxidants when consumed regularly. These compounds protect the eyes from light damage (which can turn into blindness in the elderly), and can even help decrease the instance of cataracts.
Flaxseeds (also called linseeds) are a rich source of micronutrients, dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1, and the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA or omega-3.
The seeds come from flax, one of the oldest fiber crops in the world - known to have been cultivated in ancient Egypt and China.
Flaxseed is high in: Vitamins and minerals, including most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese; Fiber, both soluble and insoluble; Phytochemicals, including many powerful antioxidants such as lignans; and Omega-3 fatty acids, key to fighting inflammation.
Flaxseed is a source of healthy fat, antioxidants, and fiber; modern research has found evidence to suggest that flaxseed can also help lower the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
There are two main types of flaxseed: golden flaxseed and brown flaxseed. Their nutritional profiles are very similar and both contain the same number of short-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
To reap the most benefits from flaxseeds, they should be bought whole and ground up before consumption as whole flaxseeds tend to pass through the digestive tract undigested.
Cardiovascular Benefits: The primary omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseeds—alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA—can be helpful to the cardiovascular system. As the building block for other messaging molecules that help prevent excessive inflammation, ALA can help protect the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
Protection of our blood vessels from inflammatory damage is also provided by the lignans in flaxseeds. These lignans can inhibit formation of platelet activating factor (PAF), which increases risk of inflammation when produced in excessive amounts.
The overall anti-inflammatory benefits of ALA and lignans in flaxseeds has been further corroborated by studies in which flaxseed-enriched baked goods (like muffins) lead to decreases of 10-15% in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. CRP levels are a commonly used indicator of inflammatory status in the cardiovascular system.
Risk of oxidative stress in the blood vessels can also be lowered by flaxseed intake. In addition to being a very good source of the mineral antioxidant manganese, polyphenols in flaxseed—including flaxseed lignans—provide measurable antioxidant benefits.
The antioxidant benefits of one particular flaxseed lignan, secoisolariciresinol, have been especially well-documented. Decreased lipid peroxidation and decreased presence of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the bloodsteam have both been associated with flaxseed intake in amounts of approximately 2 tablespoons per day.
Intake of flaxseeds has also been shown to decrease the ratio of LDL-to-HDL cholesterol in several human studies and to increase the level of apolipoprotein A1, which is the major protein found in HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol). This HDL-related benefit may be partly due to the simple fiber content of flaxseeds, since 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed provide about 4 grams of dietary fiber.
Researchers at the Iowa State University's Nutrition and Wellness Research Center found that cholesterol levels lowered among men who included flaxseed in their diet.
Improving blood sugar: There is strong evidence to suggest that consuming flaxseed every day improves glycemic control in obese men and women with pre-diabetes, according to a study published in Nutrition Research.
Given the strong track record of flaxseeds as foods providing cardiovascular benefits, it's not surprising to see recent research studies showing benefits of flaxseeds for improvement of metabolic syndrome (MetS).
One recent study showed a 20% decrease in the prevalence of MetS after 12 weeks on a diet plan that included 30 grams (1 ounce) of ground flaxseed per day in the form of flaxseed-enriched baked bread.
Interestingly, in addition to improving blood pressure and lowering fasting glucose level, flaxseed intake also helped decrease central obesity (as measured by waist circumference).
The addition of flaxseed provided all of these health benefits without causing weight gain. That's quite an accomplishment for a food that is over 70% fat in terms of total calories and contains about 10 times as many calories per cup as a fruit like blueberries.
Digestive Health: For the digestive tract, the strong fiber content of flaxseeds—including their mucilaginous fiber—help to delay gastric emptying and can improve intestinal absorption of nutrients. Flaxseed fibers also help to steady the passage of food through our intestines.
Finally, the lignans in flaxseed have been shown to reduce risk of colon cancer. This impressive group of digestive tract benefits is likely to receive more attention in future research studies.
Help with Weight Management: Flaxseed expands when ingested, making you feel fuller. So, you might want to take flax 30 minutes before meals to control your appetite.
Increase Immunity. ALA has been shown to decrease inflammation, which allows your immune system to function better. Preliminary research suggests that flaxseed can help relieve autoimmune and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus.
Cancer Prevention: The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of flaxseeds also make them a logical candidate for cancer prevention.
That's because chronic inflammation (even low level inflammation) and chronic oxidative stress are risk factors for cancer development.
In the case of flaxseeds, evidence of risk reduction is strongest for breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Breast cancer and prostate cancer are included in the list of cancers know as "hormone-related" cancers. Their risk reduction may be more closely related to flaxseed than risk reduction for other cancers due to the high lignan content of flaxseed.
Three of the lignans found in flaxseeds—secoisolariciresinol, matairecinol, and pinoresinol—can be converted by intestinal bacteria into enterolactone (ENL) and enterodiol (END). ENL and END have direct affects on our hormonal balance and in this way may play an especially important role in hormone-related cancer.
In addition to decreased risk of breast and prostate cancer following flaxseed intake, there is also some preliminary evidence that ENL and END may be able to alter the course of hormone-dependent tumors once they are formed.
Consuming flaxseed may help protect against prostate, colon, and breast cancers. Flaxseed is thought to prevent the growth of cancerous cells because its omega-3 fatty acids disrupt malignant cells from clinging onto other body cells. In addition, the lignans in flaxseed have antiangiogenic properties - they stop tumors from forming new blood vessels.
One US study presented at the 43rd annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) revealed that consuming flaxseed can stop prostate cancer tumors from growing.
Cautions: People who have inflammatory bowel conditions, like Crohn’s disease, should avoid flaxseeds due to their laxative effects. Women who are pregnant and mothers who are breastfeeding should not consume ground flaxseed either. Studies also show that women who have issues like fibroids, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary disease should not eat flaxseed. And, men who have an increased risk of prostate cancer should avoid ALA. If you are taking medications, check with your doctor before adding flax to your diet.
How to Get More Flaxseed in Your Diet
Flaxseed has a light, nutty taste. Here are some ways to add flaxseed to make your meals and snacks healthier:
Breakfast: Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your cold cereal or hot oatmeal at breakfast.
Sandwich: Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to the mustard or mayonnaise that you spread on your sandwich at lunch.
Smoothie: Add ground flaxseed to your green smoothie; or, add a tablespoon to your juice.
Salads/Soups: Sprinkle ground flaxseed on salads; or add in soups after they have finished cooking.
Casseroles: Add ground flaxseed to casseroles or tomato sauces.
Meat: Add ground flaxseed to meatballs or meatloaf.
Snack: Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into your yogurt.
Snack: Sprinkle ground flaxseed on top of sliced apple halves or other fruit with a dash of cinnamon.
Dessert: Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed on top of your sherbet or ice cream.
Hemp seeds are one of the most nutritious seeds in the world with cancer and heart disease prevention properties. Hemp seeds are a complete protein and have the most concentrated balance of proteins, essential fats, vitamins and enzymes combined with a relative absence of sugar, starches and saturated fats.
Hemp seeds are one of nature's perfect foods - a super food. This is one of the most potent foods available, supporting optimal health and well being, for life.
Raw hemp provides a broad spectrum of health benefits, including: weight loss, increased and sustained energy, rapid recovery from disease or injury, lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, reduced inflammation, improvement in circulation and immune system as well as natural blood sugar control.
However, for a long time, hemp seeds were ignored for their nutritional benefits because of its botanical relationship to the drug/medicinal varieties of Cannabis. However, hemp seeds do not cause any psychotropic reaction and instead may provide significant health benefits with its unique nutritional profile.
Hemp seeds are a perfect and natural blend of easily digested proteins, essential fats (Omega 3 & 6), Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), antioxidants, amino acids, fiber, iron, zinc, carotene, phospholipids, phytosterols, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin D, vitamin E, chlorophyll, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, copper, potassium, phosphorus, and enzymes.
All amino acids essential to optimum health are found in Hemp seeds, including the rarely found Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA). The 17+ grams of omega fats supplied by Hemp seeds provides sufficient, continuous energy throughout your day. Hemp seeds can be eaten by those unable to tolerate nuts, gluten, lactose or sugar; there are no known allergies to hemp foods.
Hemp protein is also a complete source of all 20 known amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids (EAAs) which our bodies cannot produce.
Approximately 65% of the protein in hemp seed is made up of the globulin protein Edestin, and is found only in hemp seed. Edestin aids digestion, is relatively phosphorus-free and considered the backbone of the cell's DNA.
The other one third of hemp seed protein is Albumin, another high quality globulin protein similar to that found in egg whites. Hemp protein is free of the tryspin inhibitors which block protein absorption and free of oligosaccharides found in soy, which cause stomach upset and gas.
Hemp seeds are a more digestible protein than meat, whole eggs, cheese, human milk, cow's milk, or any other high protein food. They have a better spectrum of available proteins than soybeans -- without the soybean anti-nutritional factors.
Tip: Sprinkle some hemp on top of your salad or add 1-2 tablespoons to your smoothie or yogurt.
Macadamia nuts receive a bad rap because they have the highest fat and lowest protein and carb content of any nut. However, about 60 percent of the fatty acid in macadamia is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid. This is about the level found in olives, which are well known for their health benefits
Raw macadamia nuts also contain high amounts of vitamin B1, magnesium, and manganese.
Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and research has shown they may help lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries.
Pecans are a close second to macadamia nuts on the fat and protein scale, and they also contain anti-inflammatory magnesium, heart healthy oleic acid, phenolic antioxidants, and immune-boosting manganese.
Pine nuts contain numerous health promoting phyto-chemicals, including vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
Pine nuts are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid that helps to lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increases HDL or "good-cholesterol" in the blood.
Pine or cedar nuts contain essential fatty acid (omega-6 fat), pinolenic acid. Recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing appetite. Pinolenic acid triggers the release of hunger-suppressant enzymes cholecystokinin and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the gut. In addition, pinolenic acid has thought to have LDL-lowering properties by enhancing hepatic LDL uptake.
Similar to almonds, pines are an excellent source of vitamin E, about 9.33 mg per 100 g (about 62% of RDA). Vitamin E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucus membranes and skin by protecting it from harmful oxygen-free radicals.
Pine nuts are an excellent source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine and folate. These vitamins work as co-factors for enzymes in cellular substrate metabolism inside the human body.
Furthermore, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. At 8.8 mg per 100 g (about 383% of daily recommended intake), pine nuts are one of the richest sources of manganese.
Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Therefore, eating pine nuts helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
Caution: When eating pine nuts, you may experience “pine nut mouth” (or pine nut syndrome). It’s an intense bitter, metallic aftertaste that can persist in your mouth for a day up to two weeks.
So far, tests have failed to turn up any contaminants, bacteria, or chemicals in the nuts that could be responsible for the aftertaste, or the fact that not everyone who eats them gets it.
If this happens, you should stop eating pine nuts and simply wait for the symptoms to disappear. If you continue to experience a bothersome metallic aftertaste when eating pine nuts, you might want to consume other varieties of nuts and seeds instead.
Meal Tip: Sprinkle pine nuts on your salad or on top of your dessert.
Pistachios are high in lutein, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol (vitamin E) compared to other nuts. These nutrients help to increase blood levels of antioxidants and, in turn, lower oxidized LDL cholesterol in people with elevated levels.
Past research has also shown that diets containing pistachios reduce systolic blood pressure and vascular responses to stress in adults with high cholesterol. They're also useful for maintaining a healthy weight (as are most nuts).
People who ate pistachios for 24 weeks lost an average of 0.7 inches from their waists, reduced cholesterol by 15 points, improved their blood sugar, and lowered inflammation.
Further, they're an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which tend to "preferentially target belly fat," according to the study's lead researcher.
But, be aware that most pistachios are bleached, so to avoid potentially harmful residues it's important to look for organic pistachios.
With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein, and zinc, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped up in a very small package.
They also contain plant compounds known as phytosterols and free-radical scavenging antioxidants, which can give your health an added boost.
Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as an important natural food for men's health. This is in part because of their high zinc content, which is important for prostate health (where it is found in the highest concentrations in the body).
This is also because pumpkin seed extracts and oils may play a role in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate).
Animal studies even suggest that pumpkin seeds may help improve insulin regulation and help prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.
Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, copper, B vitamins, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Sunflower seeds also contain one of the highest levels of phytosterols of commonly consumed nuts and seeds. Phytosterols are beneficial for your heart health and immune system, and may help lower cancer risk as well.
Walnuts are the only nut that contains anti-inflammatory plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amounts of copper, manganese, molybdenum, and biotin.
Walnuts also contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers multiple vascular benefits to people with heart disease, or those who have increased risk for heart disease due to multiple cardiac risk factors.
Walnuts contain antioxidants that help with free-radical scavenging; and, polyphenols that may help prevent chemically-induced liver damage.
Research even shows that two handfuls a day of walnuts may help prevent both prostate and breast cancer; and, support brain health, including increasing inferential reasoning in young adults.
The outermost layer of a shelled walnut – the whitish, flaky (or sometimes waxy) part – has a bitter flavor, but resist the urge to remove it. It's thought that up to 90 percent of the antioxidants in walnuts are found in the skin, making it one of the healthiest parts to consume.
A research study published in "Diabetes Care" in December 2004 showed that including 1 oz. of walnuts in the diet of patients with type 2 diabetes significantly improved their cholesterol profile, reducing risk of heart disease.
Meal Planning Tips for Eating Nuts and Seeds
Eat in Moderation: Most nuts should be eaten in moderation, but not because they're high in fat or calories. It's the high protein content that you need to watch out for, especially in nuts like almonds and pistachios.
Most Americans consume three to five times more protein than they need, along with excessive starchy carbs and not enough healthy fats. Excess dietary protein can lead to elevated blood sugar, weight gain, kidney stress, leaching of bone minerals, and stimulation of cancer cells, and it's easy to overdo it if you eat a few handfuls of high-protein nuts.
To avoid mindless eating, try portioning out your nuts in small Tupperware containers or Ziploc bags. Some companies also sell their nuts in single-serving-size packages for an easy grab-and-go option.
Avoid Salted, Roasted, Bleached Nuts: Roasted nuts are tasty, but roasting has been found to damage nutrients in nuts, including decreasing the availability of beneficial fatty acids and amino acids.
You'll also want to avoid bleached nuts, which is a common practice with pistachios, an extremely perishable, fragile crop. Once harvested, they must be processed within 24 hours or else tannins released from the nut's hull can lead to staining on the shell. Stained pistachios can no longer be sold in-shell, and must be removed and sold as nutmeats (generally for a lower profit).
You may have seen red or green dyed pistachios on the market, and this is often done to hide such staining. Naturally pistachio shells are light beige in color, but in some areas, especially China, an even lighter, virtually white shell is thought to indicate cleanliness and freshness. To get this white shell, 90 percent of the pistachios sold in the Chinese market have been bleached, even though it is against China's Food Safety Laws.
Aside from the potential for bleach residues to remain on the nuts, bleaching has been shown to destroy important phytochemicals in pistachio skins, with researchers noting that the "destruction of bioactive phenolics in pistachio skins [from bleaching] may negatively impact the potential health benefits arising from pistachio consumption."
To avoid nuts that have been treated with antimicrobials and pesticides, choose organic varieties. Also, if you choose to purchase nuts or seeds from a bulk bin, make sure they smell fresh – not musty, spoiled, or stale, which could indicate rancidity or the presence of fungal mycotoxins.
Avoid purchasing salted nuts. If you really want salt on your nuts, do it yourself because you can control the amount and the quality of the salt, e.g. Himalayan salt.
Eat Raw/Organic Nuts: Always purchase nuts that are organic and raw. Some of the pesticides used on nuts are banned in most countries but are still legal in the U.S. These pesticides are highly toxic to humans and animals, and washes into waterways where it harms aquatic life. Most pesticides are a hazard to farm workers as well as people who live near farms where pesticides are used. According to medical research, most pesticides affect the central nervous system, and cause damage to the kidneys and liver.
In addition, avoid pasteurized nuts because pasteurization damages the healthy fats and oils in the nuts.
Eat Mixed Nuts: Because of the variety of nutrients each type of nuts has, combined with the fact that almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and walnuts are all close in price — the best nut is really a mixture. So, either buy pre-made mixed nuts, or buy nuts in bulk and make your own.
Soak Nuts: Soaking nuts will help to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your own digestive and metabolic enzymes, in the nuts. To make them more palatable, you can use a dehydrator to improve the texture. Enzyme inhibitors in nuts (and seeds) help protect the nut as it grows, helping to decrease enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting.
When nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated and increasing the nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest.
One exception is with macadamia nuts (and other white nuts), which have only negligible amounts of enzyme inhibitors, so soaking is not as necessary. If you prefer to eat nuts and seeds roasted, do so yourself so you can control the roasting temperature and time.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find truly raw nuts in the US. For instance, pasteurized almonds sold in North America can still be labeled "raw" even though they've been subjected to one of the following pasteurization methods:
- Oil roasting, dry roasting, or blanching
- Steam processing
- Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment (PPO is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons)
There are generally no truly "raw" almonds sold in North America, so don't be misled. It is possible to purchase raw almonds in the US, but it has to be done very carefully from vendors selling small quantities that have a waiver from the pasteurization requirement. The key is to find a company with the waiver.
Refrigerate Nuts: If you don't eat the nuts within the week, refrigerate them to protect the fats and oils in the nuts from going rancid.
Frequency of Eating Nuts: Eat a handful of nuts, or a tablespoon of nut butter, at least 4 times a week to lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease.
Grinder: Use a spice-and-nut grinder, coffee grinder or similar device to grind up your nuts and seeds to add to your salad,smoothie, yogurt or raw juice.
Nutritional Content of Nuts and Seeds for Snack Planning
The following charts define the nutritional content of the major nuts and seeds that are beneficial to most people with diabetes.
Nuts and Seeds Nutritional Content Chart
This chart shows the calories, carbs, fiber, net carbs and protein amounts for the major nuts and seeds.
Note 1: The numbers in blue-bold represent the nuts with the highest number of calories, carbs, fiber, net carbs, and protein.
Note 2: The numbers in red-bold represent the seeds with the highest number of calories, carbs, fiber, net carbs, and protein.
Nuts: Nutritional Content Chart
In addition to the calories, carbs, fiber, and protein amounts, this chart provides some additional information about the fat content in nuts.
Note: The number in red-bold represent the nut with the highest number of calories or grams in that specific column.
Common Nuts and Net Carbs
The following diagram shows the net carbs for each of the major nuts. As you move towards the left, the nuts displayed have fewer net carbs; while, towards the right, the nuts have more carbs.
This diagram can be used by someone who is designing a low-carb meal plan for his/her snacks.
DiabetesMeal Planning with Snacks
Healthy snacks play an important role in helping a diabetic manage his/her blood glucose levels throughout the day.
And, nuts and seeds are key foods that make it easier for you to design healthy, diabetic-friendly snacks. This is very important, especially if you're on the road a lot or if you don't like bringing your lunch to work.
If you need help with your meal planning (including healthy snacks), then, we recommend that you get the author's Death to Diabetes Cookbook, which provides hundreds of diabetic-friendly meal recipes, snacks and desserts.
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