nuts and seeds

Health and beauty benefits of eating nuts and seeds

What are the health and beauty benefits of eating nuts and seeds? We have already touched on how they can help lead to supple and glowing skin, but in this blog we will explore this question in more detail.

To begin let’s talk about nuts and seeds in general. For one thing, calling them nuts and seeds in the first place is a bit of a misnomer. They are all seeds. It just so happens that what we would normally consider nuts (almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios, walnuts etc.) are actually seeds from trees, while what we might traditionally refer to as seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds) are all seeds from crops or flowers. So even though we segment them into nuts and seeds, they are essentially all seeds.  But what they all have in common is provision of an excellent source of plant protein, dietary fibre, mono-and polyunsaturated fats (including plant omega-3 fatty acids) and are low in saturated fats. They are also a great source of vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, manganese and selenium) and other plant-based chemical compounds with potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They can provide several health benefits including reducing inflammation, regulating metabolism, promoting cell regeneration and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Let’s begin by discussing some of the best tree-based nuts you can incorporate into your diet or snack. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium and are an excellent source of fiber and protein. They can help lower your LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” cholesterol) and thus positively influence your heart health but can also help support bone and dental health while also contributing to more rapid metabolism. And recall that vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, so almonds are also very effective at combating oxidative attacks on our cells that can lead to inflammation and inflammatory skin related conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and hair loss.

A handful of Brazil nuts are another great choice for a quick snack. They aid thyroid function, boost immunity, and are a great source of selenium, magnesium, and thiamin (vitamin B1).  In fact, they are one of the best sources of selenium which is essential for the body’s production of an enzyme known as glutathione peroxidase, which is a powerful antioxidant. For this reason, Brazil nuts are also very effective at preventing the inflammatory results of oxidative attack in our bodies and on our skin.

Feeling a little sluggish and need an energy boost? Walnuts would be an excellent choice.  They help regulate blood sugar levels and insulin response and for this reason, would be a particularly good choice for diabetics as they are an excellent source of dietary fiber, which the body is slow to breakdown and digest, leading to a slow and regulated release of sugar into the bloodstream. It comes as no surprise that they rank very low on the Glycaemic Index, which ranks how quickly the carbohydrates in foods affect blood sugar levels when that food is eaten alone. Walnuts are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and contain high levels of complex vitamin B that can help moisturise skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

If we consider seeds from crops and plants, chia seeds are an excellent choice as they are high in all the usual suspects (fiber, magnesium, phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids) and can also help support brain function and digestion. Chia seeds are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is necessary for your body to produce the hormone serotonin,  where deficient levels are linked to mood disorders such as anxiety or depression.

Pumpkin seeds are another excellent choice and along with all the common nutritional benefits of nuts and seeds, they also provide an excellent source of iron, zinc and protein and can also help boost immunity levels. They additionally have a particularly high level of squalene, which is an important component of the sebum mixture of lipids produced by your body to help protect and moisturize your skin. Your body’s maximum production of sebum occurs during your teen years and begins to decline as early as your 20’s to 30’s, which can lead to drier and rougher skin.  Incorporating pumpkin seeds into your snack mixture of nuts and seeds can therefore provide additional help for the appearance of your skin. Finally, there is some controversy about the benefits of pumpkin seed oils in preventing hair loss based on confounding factors present during trials. Though a recent study points towards a more definitive positive effect, more studies need to be undertaken to provide more conclusive proof.

Aside from all these general health benefits, including those for your skin, hair and nails, there is another benefit of including nuts into your diet. They can assist with fertility, having positive effects for both females and particularly for sperm health in males, where it was shown that by including nuts in a typical Western-style diet,  the total sperm count and the motility, vitality, and morphology of the sperm were found to improve.

Take away message

So what are the health benefits of eating nuts and seeds? We all lead very busy and active lifestyles so when an opportunity arises where a very small change in behavior can lead to positive effects, we are more likely to adopt it. That is the beauty of the health benefits of eating nuts and seeds. With little effort, you can add an amazing source of protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your diet. Sprinkling a few nuts on top of salads or swapping out that chocolate bar snack for a handful of nuts and seeds are just a couple of examples of really how little effort it takes to add the nutritional punch provided by nuts and seeds to your diet, with the added bonus of livening up otherwise fairly bland meals with great taste.  And they will help with fertility too!

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