Nuts : nutrition, shocking 2 medical use & adverse effects

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(Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, macadamias, pecans,
pistachios, walnuts)
See also Coconuts, Peanuts, Vegetable oils.

Nuts Nutritional Profile

• Energy value (calories per serving): High
• Protein: Moderate
• Fat: High
• Saturated fat: High
• Cholesterol: None
• Carbohydrates: Low
• Fiber: Very high
• Sodium: Low
• Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin E, folate
• Major mineral contribution: Iron, phosphorus

How Many Nutrients in Nuts Food

• Nuts are a very high-fiber, high-fat, high-protein food. They have insoluble dietary fiber (cellulose and lignin in the papery “skin”) and soluble gums and pectins in the nut.

• Their oils are composed primarily of unsaturated fatty acids, a good source of vitamin E, but nuts have so much fat that even a small serving is high in saturated fat. Nut’s proteins are plentiful but limited in the essential amino acid lysine.

• Nuts are an excellent source of B vitamins, particularly folate. Plain raw or roasted nuts are low in sodium; salted nuts are a high-sodium food.

• For example, one-half cup dry-roasted unsalted almonds has eight grams dietary fiber, 36 g total fat (2.7 g saturated fat, 23.2 g monounsaturated fat, 8.7 g polyunsaturated fat), 15 g protein, and 23 mcg folate (6 percent of the RDA).

How To Serve Nutritious Nuts Food

• With peanuts or with beans. Both are legumes, which provide the essential amino acid lysine needed to “complete” the proteins in nuts. Adding raisins adds iron.

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food

• Antiflatulence diet
• Low-calcium diet
• Low-fat diet
• Low-fiber, low-residue diet
• Low-oxalate diet (for people who form calcium oxalate kidney stones; almonds and cashews)
• Low-protein diet
• Low-sodium diet (salted nuts)

How To Buying Nuts Food

Look for:

Fresh nuts with clean, undamaged shells. The nuts should feel heavy for their size; nuts that feel light may be withered inside.

• Choose crisp, fresh shelled nuts. They should taste fresh and snap when you bite into them. As nuts age, their oils oxidize and become rancid; old nuts will have an “off” flavor. If nuts sold in bulk are exposed to air, heat, and light, their fats will oxidize more quickly than the fats in packaged nuts. Check the date on the bottom of the can or jar to be sure packaged nuts are fresh.


Moldy, shriveled, or discolored nuts. The molds that grow on nuts may produce potentially carcinogenic aflatoxins that have been linked to liver cancer.

How To Storing This Food

• Store nuts in a cool, dry, dark place in a container that protects them from the air, heat, light, and moisture. The unsaturated fats in nuts are very sensitive to oxygen. When nuts are exposed to air, the fat molecules link up with oxygen atoms, and the nuts “spoil” turn rancid.

• Protecting nuts from air, heat, and light slows the rancidity reaction. Pack nuts in a moistureproof container and store them in the freezer if you don’t plan to use them right away. The cold will slow down the oxidation of fats and the nuts will stay fresh longer.

• For example, shelled pecans stay fresh up to one year in the freezer against about two months on a cool, dark kitchen shelf. Check the nuts occasionally; throw out any moldy nuts or any that have shriveled. Do not shell nuts until you are ready to use them. The shell is a natural protective shield.

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How To Preparing This Food


To peel shelled almonds, boil the nuts, drain them, and plunge them into cold water. The skin should slip off easily.

Brazil nuts.

Brazil nuts are easy to open if you chill them first. To slice shelled Brazil nuts, boil the nuts in water for five minutes, then cool and slice. Or you can shave them into slivers with a potato peeler.


Always cook raw cashews before you shell them. Between the shell and the ra nut is a thin layer of urushiol, the irritating oil also found in poison oak and poison ivy. The oil is inactivated by heat.


Slice an X in the flat end of the chestnut and peel off the heavy outer skin. To remove the thin inner skin, bake the chestnuts on a cookie sheet in a 400°F oven for about twenty minutes or cover them with boiling water and simmer them for fifteen minutes. Then drain the nuts and slip off the skins.

Macadamia nuts.

To open macadamia nuts, wrap them, one at a time, in a heavy cloth napkin or towel, put the package on a wooden breadboard, and hit the nut with a hammer.

Pecans and walnuts.

Crack the nut with a nutcracker.

How Other Kinds of Processing effect This Food

Vacuum packaging.

Canned nuts and nuts in glass jars stay fresh longer than nuts sold in bulk because they are protected from the oxygen that combines with oils and turns them rancid. Nuts in sealed cans and jars may stay fresh for as long as a year if stored in a cool, dark place. Once the can or jar is opened, the oils will begin to oxidize and eventually become rancid.


Amazing Medical Uses and/or Benefits

Lower risk of some birth defects.

As many as two of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal cord) defect due to their
mothers’ not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy.

• The current RDA for folate is 180 mcg for a woman and 200 mcg for a man, but the FDA now recommends 400 mcg for a woman who is or may become pregnant. Taking folate supplements before becoming pregnant and continuing through the first two months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate; taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

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Lower levels of cholesterol.

Although nuts are high in fat, they are low in saturated fat and, as plant foods, have no cholesterol at all. Several recent studies have shown that eating nuts lowers blood levels of cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDLs, or “bad” cholesterol) while raising blood levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs, or “good” cholesterol).

• At Loma Linda University (California), volunteers with mildly elevated cholesterol levels were given two diets. First they tried the American Heart Association (AHA) Step I diet, the low-fat, controlled cholesterol regimen generally used as a first step in reducing cholesterol levels.

• Then, they got the same diet with one small adjustment: 20 percent of its daily calories came from a handful of nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts) mixed into cereals, salads, and entries such as pasta.

• The result: While the AHA Step I diet lowered total cholesterol 5.2 percent, when volunteers added nuts their cholesterol levels fell as much as 11.3 percent. Even better, while LDLs dropped 6.1 percent on the AHA diet, they fell a whopping 16.5 percent with pecans.

• This is significant because the National Cholesterol Education Program estimates that your risk of heart attack declines 1.5 percent for every 1 percent drop in LDLs. Loma Linda researchers had similar results with the diets that included almonds or walnuts.

Adverse Effects Associated with This Food

Allergic reaction.

According to the Merck Manual, nuts are one of the 12 foods most likely to trigger classic food allergy symptoms: hives, swelling of the lips and eyes, and upset stomach. The others are berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), chocolate, corn, eggs, fish, legumes (green peas, lima beans, peanuts, soybeans), milk, peaches, pork, shellfish, and wheat (see wheat cereals).

• Flare-up of aphthous ulcers (canker sores). Eating nuts may trigger an episode of canker sores in susceptible people, but avoiding nuts will not prevent or cure an attack.

Food/Drug Interactions In Nuts

False-positive urine test for carcinoid syndrome.

Carcinoid tumors, which may arise from the tissues of the endocrine or gastrointestinal systems, secrete serotonin, a nitrogen compound that makes blood vessels expand or contract. The test for these tumors measures the amount of serotonin in the blood.

• Eating walnuts, which are high in serotonin, in the 72 hours before taking the test for a carcinoid tumor may cause a false-positive result, suggesting that you have the tumor when in fact you do not. (Other foods high in serotonin are avocados, bananas, eggplant, plums, pineapple, and tomatoes.)


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