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Looking for an easy and filling snack on the go? Want to finally make the perfect raw cheesecake you’ve been craving? Not sure how to include healthy fats into your diet? Well, the answers are simple– include nuts and you are good to go! Besides munching on these babies raw, roasted, spiced, or salted, nuts make great spreads as nut butters, can be blended into delicious nut milk and transformed into vegan cheese and raw desserts that will have any omnivore asking for more. And, while  all nuts boast an array of nutritious properties, today the spotlight is just on almonds and walnuts. So, keep reading for the health benefits of each!

Almonds

Almonds, with their addicting crunch, are hitting grocery stores as whole, sliced, and silvered forms in blanched, roasted, and raw varieties. Most of these options are sent from California where the majority of almond cultivation occurs in the United States. The almonds used for direct consumption are sweet almonds. However, there are also bitter almonds which are used to make almond oil, a flavoring agent for foods and liqueurs such as amaretto. Bitter almonds cannot be eaten in their natural form because they contain toxins that are removed in the processing for oil. Sweet almonds, the kind you can and should eat are ounce for ounce, one of the most nutritionally dense nuts. Check out this nutrient list for more details!

Nutrients in 1/4 cup of raw almonds (35 g):

  • 45% Daily Value of Manganese
  • 45% Daily Value of Vitamin E
  • 25% Daily Value of Magnesium
  • 22% Daily Value of Tryptophan
  • 20% Daily Value of Copper
  • 18% Daily Value of Vitamin B2

Additionally, almonds are a great source of protein! 1/4 cup of almonds provides about 8 grams of protein while a typical egg only has about 6 grams of protein. Protein, paired with almonds’ phytonutrients, supply the body with sustained energy. For instance, manganese and copper disarm dangerous free radicals within mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouse of energy) thus keeping energy flowing smoothly. Meanwhile, the 18% DV of Vitamin B2, also called riboflavin, has an important role in properly maintaining the body’s energy production. This is why almonds are an excellent choice for a midday pick-me-up snack! Besides the abundance of phtyonutrients, almonds are filled with antioxidants like flavonoids. Flavonoids found in almond skin team up with its stock of vitamin E to more than double the antioxidant punch of the whole almond. Twenty different types of antioxidant flavonoids have been identified in almond skin alone so make sure to include whole almonds in your diet! Adding almonds in to a well-balanced diet has many other beneficial effects as well. Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats found in olive oil. I’m sure by now you’ve heard all the hubbub over the Mediterranean diet! A diet proficient in monounsaturated fats is linked to a lower risk of heart disease. In fact, studies have found that there is a 45% risk reduction when fat from nuts are substituted for saturated fats from meat and dairy products. Almonds also lessen after-meal surges in blood sugar which help protect against diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Impressed with almonds? Me too but let’s see what walnuts have to offer.

Walnuts

Walnuts, with their coveted buttery flavor, provide the perfect crunch for any topping or crust. They are a part of the tree nut family along with brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, and pistachios. Only one ounce of any of these nuts per day is the minimal amount needed to gain statistically significant health benefits! However, walnuts contain the highest antioxidant content of all the tree nuts, setting them apart from the rest. One ounce of walnuts is about seven whole nuts or 14 halves so eat up! Like almonds, walnuts are mostly cultivated in California and they are also a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fats. Take a look at the nutrient list to see where walnuts and almonds begin to differ

Nutrients in 1/4 cup of raw walnuts (25 g):

  • 95% Daily Value of Omega-3 fatty acids (!!!)
  • 43% Daily Value of Manganese
  • 20% Daily Value of Copper
  • 13% Daily Value of Tryptophan
  • 10% Daily Value of Magnesium
  • 9% Daily Value of Phosphorus
  • 6% Daily Value of Folate

The soaring amounts of omega-3s, including alpha-linoleic acid, are shown to help improve a variety of cardiovascular functions like blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids also provide anti-inflammatory effects, further advancing blood quality and lowering the risk of excessive clotting and inflammation. Other than omega-3s, walnuts contain precious phenols including phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids. These are all mostly found in the skin of walnuts. Phenols act like antioxidants and can protect against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, the antioxidants in walnuts may play a special role in the support of bone health by offering better bone stability and less mineral loss from bone turnover. Next time you have some walnuts, take a good look.t  They kind of resemble little mini brains, don’t they? That makes it easy to remember that walnuts can assist in cognition and memory as you age. Grab a handful now and enjoy the benefits for years to come!

Alright, you might be agonizing over how steep nuts are calorie-wise. But don’t worry! Even though both almonds and walnuts are high-calorie high-fat foods, they are healthy calories and healthy fats. Actually, it has been found that people who eat nuts at least twice a week are less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts! Including nuts in a balanced diet keeps you satisfied so you’re less tempted to have that plate of seconds. So, stop shying away and start exploring delicious nut-filled recipes!

Image Source: mrsdkrebs/flickr



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