10 types of nuts - the benefits

10 types of nuts - the benefits

Tasty and versatile, for some years now nuts have been experiencing a period of great rediscovery, both by consumers and health specialists.

In shell or shelled, in grain or as a cream, roasted or natural, nuts can now be found in kitchens all over the world.

Thanks to their fundamental nutritional features, nuts are no longer being "prescribed" only by dieticians and nutritionists to all those people who want to go on a diet, but they are also recommended by dermatologists, trainers, cardiologists, etc.

These experts recommend the consumption of nuts together with therapies or specific treatments as a contribution for the enhancement of physical conditions involving different aspects of health and wellbeing.

Before continuing with the article, one thing is to be made clear: despite nuts actually having rather interesting nutritional characteristics, it is still a food, thus it cannot replace drugs or specific therapies. In fact, there exists no magical or miraculous food.

It has been scientifically proven and acknowledged by the entire scientific community that the introduction of nuts within a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle may have positive effects. It is still to be borne in mind that the advice of experts is to be followed and that an abuse of nuts is not correct, as it is a food with a high energetic value.

The high energetic value of nuts is due to the high quantity of fats that characterise its natural composition. The fats contained in nuts are mainly mono and polyunsaturated and among these stand out the fatty acids belonging to the class omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid): the replacement of saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet has considerable health benefits, because the latter contribute to the normalisation of circulating cholesterol levels.

Having said this, let’s have a look at the most relevant nutritional aspects of 10 different types of nuts available on the market in order to get to know them better and to choose the type of nuts that best fits everyone’s needs:

  • CASHEWS: they are the “true fruit” of a tree that actually provides two types of fruit: a fleshy one (the cashew apple) that is generally consumed in the producing countries and is used in the production of juices, and a “dried” one (the cashew almond), which gives rise to another plant and is the fruit that we usually find on the market. Cashews are rich in magnesium and potassium, thus contributing to the normal functioning of muscles and represent a great plant source of proteins, that contribute to the growth and maintenance of the muscle mass.
  • PEANUTS: despite being often inserted in the category of “nuts”, peanuts develop underground and belong to the family of leguminous plants, such as beans, explaining the taste similar to that of legumes that characterizes raw peanuts that are not roasted. Peanuts are included in the category of nuts both due to their morphological features (they are contained in a shell) and their nutritional features. Peanuts are rich in fibres and vitamins of the B group, in particular niacin and B6 Vitamin. This contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity, in which pantothenic acid, contained in peanuts, is also involved, acting mainly in the metabolism of steroid hormones.
  • ALMONDS: almonds belong to the most common, consumed and appreciated nuts. They are to be found on the market both peeled and shelled, but also chopped, in slices, as flour and cream of both shelled and peeled almonds. Almonds are rich in iron which contributes to various functions in the body including the formation of red blood cells and, consequently, to the normal transport of oxygen in the blood. Thanks to this action on the transport of oxygen, iron contributes, together with magnesium of which almonds are rich, to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. Almonds are also rich in copper and zinc, two minerals which contribute to the maintenance and pigmentation of healthy hair, skin and nails. Moreover, thanks to its omega-3 content, sweet almond oil is useful in the treatment of certain skin problems, such as dermatitis, and has emollient and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • HAZELNUTS: just like almonds, also hazelnuts are to be found on the market in several different formats and are a fundamental ingredient in many traditional recipes, especially peeled and roasted. Hazelnuts are rich in Vitamin E, that has antioxidant properties and whose ingestion contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress. Hazelnuts are also a source of phosphor, calcium and zinc that contribute to the wellbeing of bones and teeth.
  • WALNUTS: walnuts are considered as the nuts par excellence. Walnuts are the fruit of Juglans Regia which originated in Asia but is now widespread in several regions all over the world. Among nuts, walnuts are the type with the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular alpha-linolenic acid, which is the parent of the entire omega-3 class. It is an essential fatty acid, which means that our body is not able to produce it on its own but must necessarily "extract" it from food and its intake contributes to the normalisation of blood cholesterol levels, which is why the consumption of nuts is recommended for those who tend to have high cholesterol levels.
  • BRAZIL NUTS: they are large crescent-shaped nuts covered with a woody shell that is very difficult to break, which is why in most cases they are available on the market already shelled. As the name says, they are native to tropical regions, but they are mainly found in the Amazon basin, which is why they are also called "Amazonian nuts". The remarkable nutritional properties combine with the pleasantness of taste. The nut is, in fact, very rich in protein, contains no cholesterol, is a source of essential amino acids and vitamins and has a high concentration of selenium. Selenium, together with zinc and copper, helps keeping skin, hair and nails healthy and helps protecting cells from oxidative stress. The consumption of two or three Brazil nuts can be considered a real beauty routine!
  • MACADAMIA NUTS: the main producing countries of Macadamia nuts are Australia and Hawaii. The name “macadamia” is an homage to John Macadam (scientist and politician, 1827-1865), who, together with his fellow botanic Ferdinand von Mueller, was the first to describe this kind of plant. Macadamia nuts have a rather high percentage of fats, even though these are unsaturated fats. Macadamia oil is largely used also in cosmetics thanks to its emollient properties: in fact, it is used as an ingredient for moisturizing creams and hair masks. Macadamia nuts are a source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins, in particular thiamine and Vitamin B6. They are also very rich in manganese, a mineral with antioxidant action.
  • PECAN NUTS: the pecan tree, originally from the eastern regions of North America on the border with Mexico, is now widespread in all countries with a mild climate, including Israel, Brazil, Australia and, limited to some areas in the South, also in Italy. The pecan nut is at the base of the recipe of the pecan pie, a famous American cake, which is prepared and consumed mainly during the Christmas Holidays, the festive days that go from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Pecan nuts, like the great majority of dried fruit, are a source of unsaturated fatty acids, in particular omega-6 linoleic acid.
  • PINE NUTS: besides being one of the fundamental ingredients of Genoese pesto, pine nuts are also one of the types of nuts with the highest protein content, more than peanuts (37g/100g against 27g/100g). Pine nuts are also very rich in minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. They are also rich in thiamine, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E and a source of niacin.
  • PISTACHIOS: Also known as "green gold", pistachios are cultivated in many regions overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The largest supplier of pistachios in the world is Iran, where the Akbari variety, an elongated oval pistachio, is grown, while the giant pistachio of the Kerman variety, also grown in the United States, comes from Spain. Pistachios are rich in fibre and vitamin K, which is involved in blood clotting and helps maintaining healthy bones, but they are also a source of other vitamins such as Vitamin B6, Vitamin E and biotin.


Francesca Buccella – I macro e micronutrienti nella frutta secca, disidratata, nei semi oleosi e nei prodotti macinati – Nuts for Life Edizioni

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