Beat stress and weigh less with nuts
As a fledgling model living in New York, Elle Macpherson used to carry around a trail mix of nuts as she went from casting studio to casting studio, to keep hunger pangs at bay.
We tend to think of nuts as fattening, but the latest research is showing Elle – still a knockout at fifty – was onto something; that nuts might be the ideal snack.
Women who include nuts in their diet tend to weigh less than those who avoid them. That’s the message from Harvard Researchers who tracked more than 75, 000 women from 1980 to 2010. The nut-eating women also had a decreased risk of pancreatic cancer according to results from the study.
Nuts are heart healthy too. People who eat nuts more than three times a week have a reduced risk of dying from cancer AND cardiovascular disease according to one longitudinal study published in the journal BMC Medicine in 2013.
So next time you’re feeling peckish swap your usual snack – be it popcorn; crackers and cheese; hummus and carrots (or, perish the thought, a packet of crisps) – for a handful of crunchy, phytochemical-packed nuts instead. It might just be one of the best natural ways to keep cancer at bay, improve heart health and stay nourished and slim.
Here are just few benefits from some of our favourite nuts:
Walnuts: Some believe the physical characteristics of certain foods, point to their nutritional properties. Ergo, avocado is said to boost uterine health, pomegranate is good for the ovaries and walnuts – beneficial for the brain. Certainly, they are an excellent source of omega-3 fats, which are essential for normal neural function. Walnuts have also been shown to reduce cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, and cut the risk of prostate cancer by 60 percent.
They’re great in salads (walnuts, roasted beetroot, rocket and avocado is my go-to) and might even help regulate sleep/wake cycles thanks to a form of melatonin they contain. Being exposed to computer screens disrupts our levels of melatonin – so if you’ve been up checking emails, try a handful of walnuts before bed. Higher levels of melatonin have been shown to reduce the risk for some cancers too.
Almonds: Not technically a true nut (the seed of the almond is what we eat) almonds are the only alkaline-forming nut you will find. They’re also a great choice for when you’re feeling stressed – the magnesium helps calm your nerves – plus the zinc and vitamin E give you glowing skin while the protein helps ward off hunger. They might also help with high cholesterol – according to research. Try celery sticks and almond butter for a superfood snack.
Brazil Nuts: You only need 4 of these nuts to get your daily dose of selenium, the importance of which cannot be overstated: ‘If every girl in this country took 200mcg of selenium in one generation we’d eliminate breast cancer by 82 per cent,’ says Dr Peter Glidden, a naturopathic physician and author of The MD Emperor Has No Clothes. Epidemiological research reveals people who live in areas of selenium-rich or magnesium-rich soils are indeed many times less likely to get cancer.
These rich creamy nuts are also great for skin and hair and may even offset fluoride toxicity.
Macadamia Nuts: Growing up in Sydney, macadamias were a staple recess snack. Previously, I considered them an occasional indulgence, believing the high fat content rendered them unhealthy. However it’s their unique fatty acid profile that in fact makes them a health food. Several studies have now found that a diet rich in macadamia nuts reduces total and LDL cholesterol.
Macadamias also improve the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are a good source of fibre and can be soaked and blended in water to make a creamy alternative to almond milk.
Alternatively, you could try Sarah Wilson’s Macademia and coconut muffins with coconut butter.
Cashews: Boyfriend just dumped you? Two handfuls of cashews will give you a happy fix. It’s the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac according to Dave Sommers from Food Matters. Cashews contains L-tryptophan which is made into serotonin in the body – known as the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter.
Cashews also help banish dangerous bacteria responsible for acne, tooth decay, tuberculosis and pneumonia. In addition, cashews have also been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and certain types of cancer. A good all-rounder – and oh so tasty with an organic craft ale (rebellion is good, in moderation).
Of course not all nuts are created equal.
You want to be eating organic raw nuts – free from chemicals and nasty funguses – that haven’t been roasted and salted.
And ideally, you want to activate your nuts too. In their natural state, raw nuts are hard to digest due to the enzyme inhibitors they contain – but by soaking them overnight you make them more digestible and the nutrients more bio-available.
Australia and America spearheaded the activated nut trend – I’ve spent years squirrelling 2Die4 Activated Nuts in my suitcase back to London – but thank fully they are now available at various health food stores and organic supermarkets across the globe.
My Nut-tastic Breakfast (picture at top):
I’ve been following the advice of a Melbourne nutritionist for nine years now by starting my day with a specific blend of activated nuts.
Previously I was embarrassed about my slightly OCD-addiction to this breakfast, but in recent years research has shown I’m not so nutty. It’s certainly an upgrade on most cereals – which are nutrient-void, pesticide packed, sugar-coated delusions of fibre.
So for those of you who are interested, here is what I have every morning:
3 Brazil Nuts
1 tsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp cacoa nibs
1 tsp goji berries
1 tsp of maca powder
Blueberries (if I can find affordable organic ones)
Sprinkle of Rude Health organic muesli (I’ve met the makers, been to their HQ and trust their products entirely)
All covered in creamy homemade almond milk
The combination of healthy fats, antioxidants, oxygen boosting molecules, protein and magnesium in this colourful bowl gives me all the energy I need to power on until lunch.
For those of you who prefer a smoothie in the morning you could also try Natasha Corrett’s delicious Almond Butter Milkshake – she has generously allowed me to share the recipe on my website.
What more could you need to get out of bed?
Laura Bond is a journalist, author and health coach. She specialises in helping clients beat stress, reduce their toxic load and prepare their bodies for babies. To find out more, click here.