Thursday, September 28

Nuts, yes, but… they do not replace the Omega 3 of oily fish or the iron of meat

It is best to combine roasted and raw

Marta Fdez Vallejo

Nuts are a food of high nutritional value? Yes. But, can a handful of walnuts replace a fillet of meat or a portion of oily fish because it provides us with a similar amount of iron or Omega 3? No. These foods live a golden age. They are recommended for everything: if we want to lose weight, for brain health, to reduce cholesterol, to protect the heart… If we play sports, nothing better than carrying a handful of nuts, and it is also the ideal snack between meals.

There is no nutritionist who does not put them at the top of the healthy diet pyramid. But they have their limitations, we run the risk of excessive consumption, of relying too much on their properties and not eating other foods or harmful ingredients sneaking in when we buy them packaged. Here are some rules for taking advantage of your ‘superpowers’.

Combine roasted and raw to take advantage of all its properties

There is no doubt about the need to include them in our diet. “They provide proteins, healthy fats –Omega 3 and Omega 6– antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc”, highlights the Galician nutritionist Saúl Sánchez. He warns that it has been shown that fried foods lose their high nutritional value, but be careful, you don’t just have to eat them raw. The best option, he says, is to alternate natural and roasted to benefit from all its properties. “Toasting them maximizes the contribution of iron and calcium. The reason is that they contain a series of substances that function as ‘antinutrients’, such as phytic acid, which interfere with the absorption of minerals but are inactivated when roasted. And they can also be crushed or taken in cream to better absorb the iron. But be careful, if they are subjected to high temperatures (roasted, cooked…) some antioxidant compounds are lost and the amount of vitamin E and B1 that they originate decreases.

They should not replace other foods

The specialist underlines one of its great advantages: they provide many nutrients in a very small space. And, for this reason, they are highly recommended to consume when we play sports, to take to the mountains or as a healthy and satiating snack. “They are perfect to complete a healthy diet, but we should not use them as food substitutes. Vegetable iron is poorly absorbed, worse than animal iron, that of red meat”, clarifies Saúl Sánchez. That is, they cannot substitute for a chop. Another warning: they do have a high content of Omega 3, but in no case should we do without oily fish no matter how many nuts we eat. “Especially the salmon is indispensable. Its contribution of Omega 3 is not comparable with that of any dried fruit », he insists. “They do not have miraculous properties or magically cure diseases, but they can cover various nutritional needs,” summarizes nutritionist Julio Basulto in his book ‘Eat shit’ (Vergara).

You have to look at the ingredients, neither salt nor unhealthy fats

If the ideal is to opt for natural or roasted nuts and avoid fried ones, you also have to look at what ingredients are added to them. “If they are toasted we must check that they do not have salt and, if they have added fat, at least that it is of quality,” highlights the spokesperson for the Official Association of Nutritionists of the Basque Country, María José Ibáñez. “It’s problematic to take them with salt because it contributes to problems like high blood pressure,” she warns. And it is not uncommon to find packages of almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts… in which ‘bad’ fats are used: for every 100 grams of nuts they contain between 200 and 450 calories, largely coming from those low-quality oils . “If these conditions of avoiding salt and saturated fats are met, they are very interesting foods, since they are a source of cardioprotective fats and fiber, as well as antioxidants,” explains Ibáñez.


Controlling the quantity is very important, there is no open bar

Let’s not practice the ‘open bar’ just because it is a healthy food. “It is very caloric and in excess it could contribute to weight gain,” warns the head of the Basque nutritionist college. We should not exceed 30-40 grams a day four or five times a week. “If they are consumed in the right amount, they do not cause weight gain and can even be incorporated into a low-calorie diet,” says María José Ibañez.

The ‘trick’ that makes them ideal for inclusion in low-calorie menus is their great satiating capacity. «They do not lose weight, but by taking them we would stop eating other products that are probably less healthy. Those who eat them regularly tend to consume less red and processed meat, which is related to weight gain,” explains Julio Basulto. In addition, to digest our body spends more energy than to digest ultra-processed foods, for example.

Only 8% consume them daily and one in three never

Science supports the benefits of nuts. There is a long list of studies that prove its high nutritional value. One of the most popular was the Predimen (Prevention with Mediterranean diet), which was carried out with 7,447 patients at high cardiovascular risk who were followed up for five years. This work analyzed the effects of two Mediterranean-style diets, one enriched with extra virgin olive oil and the other with nuts, versus a low-fat diet. The research showed that supplemented with nuts managed to reduce up to 30% of cardiovascular complications. Despite the evidence, statistics show that one in three Spaniards never consume them and that less than 8% do so on a daily basis.

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