Doctor’s Tip: Time to go nuts about your health
Nuts and seeds are part of Dr. Michael Greger’s daily dozen, foods we should be eating every day (Greger is the author of nutritionfacts.org and the recently released book “How Not to Die”). Technically nuts are seeds and are therefore full of micronutrients.
He points out that multiple studies show that people who eat nuts tend to live longer and suffer fewer deaths from cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. His favorite nuts are walnuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios and peanuts (peanuts are technically legumes like beans, but nutritionally are like nuts). Walnuts are the healthiest nut due to their high antioxidant and omega-3 level, and their ability to suppress cancer cell growth.
We should all eat a handful of walnuts a day for brain and cardiovascular health, among other reasons (such as less E.D. if you eat pistachios). If pecans, almonds or peanuts are cheaper, they will certainly do. The nuts you eat should be unsalted, because Americans eat too much salt, which leads to hypertension. Also, don’t buy toasted nuts, mainly because if they taste too good you will eat more than a handful.
Some patients are concerned about nuts being high in calories. However, studies show that people who eat nuts don’t gain the weight you would expect based on the calories. This appears to be due to satiation after eating a handful of nuts, which keeps you from eating too much of other, less-healthy food; failure to absorb some of the fat; and increased fat-burning metabolism. Nuts can also be used as healthy sources of fat to make rich, creamy sauces or salad dressings.
What about nut butter? One-fourth cup of nuts equals two tablespoons of nut butter, so that would be your serving of nuts for the day. Be sure the nut butter has nothing but nuts on the list of ingredients, and that it has not been processed, which causes harmful trans-fats.
Dr. Greger’s favorite seeds are flaxseeds, followed by chia, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds. Because they don’t eat fish, people on a plant-based diet need to get omega-3 from other sources: a tablespoonful of ground flaxseed a day, maybe a tablespoonful of chia seeds as well, plus the handful of walnuts. Flaxseeds have also been shown to reduce high blood pressure, and because of phytonutrients called lignans help prevent breast and prostate cancer. You can also use ground flaxseeds in recipes as an egg replacement.
Another way of getting healthy fats is to sprinkle unsalted pumpkin and sunflower seeds on your salads and maybe on your morning oatmeal.
Dr. Feinsinger, who retired from Glenwood Medical Associates after 42 years as a family physician, now has a nonprofit Center For Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He is available for free consultations about heart attack prevention and any other medical concerns. Call 970-379-5718 for an appointment. For questions about his columns, email him at email@example.com.
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