Nuts have long been the forgotten ones in healthy diets. And all why? Basically because we come from a time when too much importance has been given to calories and energy balance without paying enough attention to the nutrients provided by different foods. Thus, given that nuts make a great energy contribution, they have been vetoed in healthy food.
But things have changed: today we know that it is more interesting to analyze the nutrients of a food than its caloric intake (which must also be taken into account, no doubt), that fats can be healthy if we choose the best ones quality, and that nuts can be a very interesting food in our diet, especially if we are athletes.
We make an analysis of the main nutrients of the eleven most frequent nuts in our diet so you can choose the most suitable to your tastes and needs.
The caloric contribution matters, but it is not the only thing
One of the great virtues of nuts is that they have a high caloric density : that is, with a small amount of food they are able to provide us with many calories. As we say, at certain times this can be a virtue, as for example if we consume them before a competition or a resistance training, since they allow us to obtain a lot of energy in the long term with a small intake.
In this sense, nuts are very practical to carry, for example, in the outings in the mountains or as a snack in our daily lives: they occupy very little space, they provide us with calories full of nutrients (they have a very interesting contribution of nutrients, not like other sugary industrial snacks and full of unhealthy fats that are usually within our reach in the vending machines) and keep us sated for long periods of time.
On the other hand, this high caloric intake forces us to be more restrained with the rations of nuts that we introduce into our diet. Normally the “type” ration is usually around 30 grams (a generous handful, if measured by hand), although we must adapt it to our daily caloric needs.
A moderate percentage of carbohydrates
As we have said before, nuts make a high caloric contribution to our diet, however, this takes place through proteins and fats rather than with carbohydrates, as is usually common in foods and especially products with a high energy value.
Except for the case of chestnuts, the champions among the nuts when it comes to providing carbohydrates, the amount of this nutrient that can offer us other options of nuts that we have on hand is quite moderate. To highlight the pine nuts and walnuts (more accessible to us) and Brazil nuts and Macadamia (which is not as common to have at home), which are those that make a smaller contribution of carbohydrates.
These hydrates can be a good source of energy for athletes , especially before a workout or a competition. Including a handful of nuts or almonds in our breakfast (whether it’s in a smoothie bowl , chopped on toast or powdered in a smoothie ) is a good way to keep energy reserves in place.
A great contribution of proteins, especially in vegetarian diets
“What if you’re vegetarian (or vegan) where do you get the protein from?” This may be one of the questions that I have answered the most since I switched to a vegetarian diet. Many people think that only the proteins necessary for our body can be obtained from animal sources (preferably chicken, everyone asks if you do not eat chicken?), But the truth is that among the sources of vegetable protein nuts are an option to take into account.
Peanuts are the ones that give us the most protein: you can consume them raw or in the form of cream
We have already spoken on previous occasions that legumes should be the basis of protein intake in vegetarian and vegan diets and, as a good legume (often included in the group of nuts, and that is why it is here) peanuts are the kings in what refers to the contribution of proteins, far above the rest of the members of this group. It is not uncommon for athletes to have popularized natural creams made with nuts (such as peanuts or almonds ) to get more protein and flavor in their diets.
Pistachios, cashews and walnuts are also good sources of protein when it comes to nuts. A good idea to integrate your consumption into our food is to add them already chopped to our salads to give them a crunchy touch.
Good quality fats in the palm of your hand
The nuts in general that contribute most to us within its composition are fats , making the largest contribution of all of them Macadamia nuts (three quarters of its composition are fatty acids) and pecans (more than 70% of fats).
The nuts are the dried fruit that more polyunsaturated fats (essential and that we must provide from food) offer us
Within fats it is necessary to distinguish between the different types of fats that can be found in food: saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. The most interesting for our body are polyunsaturated fats , as they are considered essential: this means that our body is not able to synthesize them and that we must provide them through food. If we look only at the polyunsaturated fats, the nuts are the ones that contribute the most to us.
Fats are, like carbohydrates, another source of energy that the athlete can useduring training and competitions. It is not as simple to obtain energy from fats as it is from carbohydrates, but they can be useful especially in endurance sports.
A great contribution of dietary fiber
Fiber is the edible part of plants, resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine and fermented in the large intestine. One of its most important functions is to regulate the absorption of sugar in our body , so that it helps us to provide us with long-term energy.
Nuts are an important source of fiber in our diet and can help us reach the recommended 25 grams per person per day . An adequate consumption of fiber helps us regulate our intestinal health, avoiding problems such as constipation and helping us to regulate the levels of cholesterol and glucose in our blood.
In addition, the fiber that nuts contain helps us to stay satiated for a longer period of time. This, together with its richness in fats and proteins, also with a high satiating capacity, makes nuts a great help in weight loss diets although they contain a high amount of calories, as long as we consume moderately.
How can I consume nuts?
Of course, when we talk about nuts we refer to their raw version or as much baked toast , which are the healthiest ways to consume them. The fried, salt-coated or sugar-coated nuts would not be included in this group (no: fried peanuts with honey do not fall within the group of healthy nuts).
As we have said, a good idea to consume them is in the form of cream , as long as we check on the label that among the ingredients we only find the corresponding nuts and, at most, olive oil to give a bit of body and texture to the cream. The ideal is to prepare it at home, since it is quick and simple: the only thing we need is a powerful blender in which to introduce peeled nuts and beat until you find the perfect texture.
The nuts also work well mixing them with natural yogurt or Greek yogurt and with pieces of fruit , in salads, in smoothies, smoothie bowls or as part of the dressings or sauces of our dishes.