Last week, researchers reported that nuts actually help protect against heart disease. They found that just 13g of nuts a day could cut the risk of heart attack by 30 per cent, thanks to the high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids in the food.
Although all nuts are high in calories, the researchers argued that a diet rich in nuts doesn?t necessarily lead to weight gain.
“People who eat nuts eat less overall,” says Dr Emilio Ros, head of the lipid clinic at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona.
“They eat them as a snack and then eat less at lunch.
“These nut fats don?t fatten. Their cell structure means they pass through the body and the metabolic fate of nut fats is not the same as saturated fat.”
She recommends eating a good handful of nuts a day (about one ounce, or 28g). However, the way the nuts are prepared can have an impact on their health-giving properties.
For instance, dry roasted nuts have double the salt of ordinary salted peanuts and honey roasted peanuts hide a teaspoon of sugar.
The advice is to choose nuts that are unsalted, unroasted and as fresh as possible.
All nuts go rancid if exposed to heat, light or air, so it?s probably best to keep them in the fridge.
Here, Vicki Edgson, nutritionist and co-presenter of Channel 5?s Diet Doctors series, provides a guide to the health-giving properties of common nuts.
Brazil nuts are high in calories, and a good source of instant energy, and so are are especially good for athletes in training, or very active peoplechildren.
They?re also a rich source of the anti-oxidant selenium that supports the immune system (helping ward off disease and protecting the heart and cardiovascular system) and plays a role in prostate health, making these a must-have nut to boost male fertility.
Downside: Brazil nuts have the highest concentration of saturated fat, making them more vulnerable to going rancid, (so reducing their nutrient content).
And at 190 cals per oz they should be eaten in moderation – no more than 2-3 a day if you?re on a weight loss diet.
Quantity: For 1oz: Approx = eat 6-8 Brazil nuts
Walnuts feed the brain because they are packed with omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, particularly omega-3, which is vital for neuronal conduction (the firing of nerves in the brain).
Clinical trials show walnuts lower cholesterol. That?s because 75 per cent of their fat is the healthy mono-unsaturated type.
Downside: Once cooked, walnuts lose their healthy benefit, so eat raw or add only at the end of cooking process. Quantity: For 1 oz: ? Approx eat 14 halves
The best source of protein of all the nuts, and high in calcium. They also contain copper, iron, zinc, niacin and vitamins B1, B2 and E, and an impressive 70 per cent of their fat content is the healthiest mono-unsaturated type.
Almonds contain a high degree of oleic acid, the ingredient in olive oil thought to protect against heart disease.
Downside: Almonds are very difficult to -digest in their natural state, so could give you indigestion. Try soaking them overnight in water or milk to activate the enzymes in the nut. T; this will make them tastier and easier to digest.
Quantity: For 1 oz: Approx eat 20-24 nuts
Cashews contain calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, folic acid, vitamin E and omega-3 and 6 essential fats, making them an excellent source of minerals for bone health and a good skin-health food. The nutrients help with the formation of collagen in the skin.
Downside: Too many can be fattening, particularly if eaten as part of a Chinese or Indian takeaway where the cooking oil and sugar content will hugely outweigh any healthy benefit.
Quantity: For 1 oz = eat 16-18 nuts
The most commonly consumed nut in the country, the peanut is technically a legume rather than a nut, which puts it in the beans, peas and lentils category.
A rich source of protein, niacin and vitamins E, B1, B6, and they are also high in the minerals copper, zinc and iron. Best eaten as unroasted “monkey nuts” which you shell yourself.
Downside: Peanuts are very high in saturated fat making them prone to rancidity. Shelled peanuts tend to harbour mould, which is believed to be the trigger for the potentially fatal peanut allergy which affects 1 in 200 people. 1 oz: Approx = eat 28 nuts
The most nutrient-rich nuts. They contain omega-3, 6 and 9, providing a complex mix that helps to balance hormones, improve nerve function, memory and concentration, and improve the texture of your skin.
Downside: At 200 cals per ounce, the highest calorie of all the nuts – (200 cals per oz) and they tend to be very rich, they may upset the digestion if too many eaten in excess (more than 8 or 9 at a time). 1 oz: 10-12 nuts