A wise man once said, “True wisdom comes from the ability to learn from every opportunity in life.” One day the Chairman asked me about pine nuts. He has this newfound love for these small seeds, feeling energized whenever he snacks on them. So I did some research on what makes a snack and what would represent the best foods for snacking, based on the purpose of these meal in-betweeners. In particular, what is it about pine nuts, or many other kinds of nuts, that makes them one of the best snack foods for health?
In The Essentials of Nutrition and Diet Therapy, Gilbert and Schlenker report that, in recent years, snacking—defined as the consumption of any food or beverage other than water taken between meals—has about doubled; almost 90 percent of adults have at least one snack in a day. But why do humans need to snack? Our bodies need a constant source of energy. As we may have all experienced, we feel like we are running low on energy in between meals, so we either advance the meal, or snack. Resisting this urge makes our body lower its metabolism and start converting our reserves for ready fuel. Although this may sound like music to the overweight person’s ears, the constant dipping and peaking of our metabolism is detrimental to our hormonal balance and confuses our homeostasis (the body’s state of balance to which it has to return).
Secrets Of Snacking, Part 1:
Benedict Francis D. Valdecanas, MD | September 13, 2016
A handful of almonds, for example, the lowest-calorie nuts at 160 calories per ounce (about two ounces to a handful), can keep you full enough to skip dinner. Containing 12 grams of protein and 28 grams of fat, this is equivalent to a small four-ounce steak; not to mention the superior content to keep us satiated for at least four hours. Cashews and pistachios share almonds’ low-calorie state.
Walnuts (at 185 calories per ounce), brain-boosting gifts of nature, are not only good for the brain with their alpha-linoleic acid but have also been proven as effective as olive oil in unclogging in arteries through elimination of inflammation in these blood vessels. The human brain also benefits from peanuts. Although not really nuts, these misnamed legumes (at 170 calories per ounce) are the richest in folic acid or vitamin B9, essential for nerve regeneration and repair.
Creamy Brazil nuts are packed with selenium, a mineral that may protect against prostate cancer and other diseases. Just one nut contains more than a day's worth, so eat these sparingly. An ounce (about 6 nuts) contains 190 calories, with enough fiber and protein to bridge breakfast and lunch.
And lastly, although relatively uncommon in Asia, pine nuts have long made up a part of the American diet; they were staple foods in many Native American cultures. They were eaten as far back as 10,000 years ago. At 190 calories per ounce, and a lot more pine nuts fit in an ounce by virtue of their size, these little snack packages are concentrated with more nutrients that can fit in a capsule of the same size: vitamins E and K for the circulatory and immune system; manganese and zinc for the body’s hormone production and balance; and iron and magnesium for energy production (studies show that up to 88 percent of the urban population is deficient in magnesium). Hence the Chairman’s newfound energy source in the smallest of nuts in the modern world.
A caveat, though: not all nuts and nut preparations may be deemed ideal for snacking. Avoid nuts packaged or roasted in oil; instead, eat them raw or dry-roasted. Roasted nuts may have been heated in hydrogenated or omega-6 unhealthy fats, or to high temperatures that can destroy their nutrients. Compared to omega-3 fats that decrease inflammation in the body, omega-6 incites it. And speaking of things to avoid while snacking, choose nuts other than pecans and macadamias. Ounce for ounce, these two are notoriously high in fat compared to their minute protein load.
In the battle against the recent epidemic of the Asian region, obesity, snacking is not a habit to be condemned, but should be viewed as an integral part of the dietitian’s advice for individuals to lose weight, not energy.
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So why go nuts? Snacking on nuts may help you shed pounds. Researchers found that people who ate almonds as part of a low-calorie diet for six months lost 18 percent of their body weight — slimming their waistlines and reducing body fat to boot. (Scientists suspect that the fiber-plus-protein combo keeps hunger in check.) Monounsaturated fats found in some nuts have been shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels while preserving the “good” kind that your body needs. Nuts are packed with nutrients, not to mention a good balance of the macronutrients fat, protein and carbohydrates: nature’s way of showing us that good things come in small packages.
Pine nuts are concentrated with more nutrients than can fit in a capsule of the same size.
Nuts are nature’s way of showing us that good things come in small packages.
Snacking on nuts may help you shed pounds. Researchers found that people who ate almonds as part of a low-calorie diet for six months lost 18 percent of their body weight.
Walnuts are not only good for the brain but have also been proven as effective as olive oil in unclogging in arteries.
Although not really nuts, peanuts are the richest in folic acid or vitamin B9, essential for nerve regeneration and repair.
Dr. Valdecañas is a specialist in regenerative medicine research for both hospital-based programs and clinical applications. He utilizes the latest findings and innovations that molecular biology has to offer in optimizing health and human performance through customized micronutrient supplementation, personalized exercise programs, and careful attention to diet and nutrition.
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