The perfect times for eating nuts and dried fruit are either at breakfast together with, for example, yoghurt, fresh fruit and muesli, or as part of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack . In fact, in these moments our body needs energy to start the day and to arrive at the main meals without incurring energy drops.
More and more bodies involved in promoting proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are advocating the consumption of nuts and dried fruit in a balanced diet. The European Institute of Oncology (IEO) places nuts on the list of 'smart' foods of the Smartfood Programme. For the IEO, smart foods are those that 'store molecules capable of activating the genes of longevity and slowing down the processes of ageing and related diseases'.
Despite the growing body of evidence supporting the consumption of dried fruit and nuts, many consumers are still sceptical and don't buy them, put off by their fat and sugar content, which they immediately associate with an unhealthy, bad diet.
To avoid falling into excess, all that's really required is to follow a healthy, active lifestyle, to be careful about sticking to the recommended doses (which in the case of nuts and dried fruit are about 30 g per day in an omnivorous diet and up to 60 g in a vegan diet), and choose just the right moment during the day to eat them.
It's important then to go for those moments of the day when you need energy most and when you have enough hours ahead of you to be able to take advantage of the calories you're taking in. So it's much better to avoid munching on nuts after a meal or in the evening in front of the TV because that will burden the digestion and end up raising the intake of unnecessary calories.
The ideal times to eat nuts and dried fruit are breakfast, together with, for example, yoghurt, fresh fruit and muesli, or as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. In fact, in these moments our body needs energy to start the day and to arrive at the main meals without incurring energy drops.
The high content of vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, omega-3, omega-6, fibre, phytosterols, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances contained in nuts and dried fruit have elevated these foods from 'exception to the rule' to the natural 'supplement' for a healthy diet that is also very good at improving the risk factors for the onset of a variety of pathologies.
The combination of fibre and fat gives these foods a low glycemic index and makes them perfect aid in the fight against sudden increases in blood sugar (glycemic peaks) due to the intake of rapidly absorbed sugars. Their high satiating power also prevents people from arriving at lunch or dinner with a feeling of overwhelming hunger, something which is commonly the cause of hurried, unbalanced, and binge eating.
Whether it's nuts or dried fruit, it is always vital to pay attention to the type of product you are purchasing:
- It's best to go for natural nuts that are unroasted and unsalted. This means that you can benefit from all its nutritional properties while keeping down your intake of sodium, which is already abundant in our diet and causes water retention and raises blood pressure (itself responsible for hypertension and pathologies of the cardiovascular system). Latest research has shown that fat-type is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing food. In a balanced diet, it turns out that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fatty acids, such as those found in nuts, helps to normalize blood cholesterol levels and consequently to protect the cardiovascular system.
- For what concerns dried fruit, it is better to eat dried fruit with no added sugar i.e. not candied or sweetened, and therefore without any added simple sugars or syrups. It is well known that sugars added to processed products are one of the main causes of dental caries, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 Diabetes. However, the same is not true for naturally occurring sugars, such as fructose in fruit. This is because their intake is associated with the concomitant intake of other important nutrients such as fibre, antioxidants, and vitamins; and because, to date, there is no scientific evidence that they are harmful.
Carefully reading the nutrition labels of what you are buying, following the recommended doses, and choosing the most suitable time of day to eat them makes nuts and dried fruit an excellent substitute for packaged snacks and a real boon in achieving a healthy, proper diet.