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Improving the Digestibility and Absorption of Nuts

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on August 27, 2012


I’m delighted to add this guest post by a person who knows nuts like few of us do. Jerry Henkin is a nut grower from New York. As a member of the Northern Nut Growers Association (NNGA) he takes an active role as their librarian and works to build and maintain the organization’s holdings. Jerry is also Vice-President of the New York Nut Grower’s Association (NYNGA).

NNGA held their annual meeting where Jerry gave a presentation based on his well-researched article below. He was generous enough to allow me to share the article on the NutGourmet Blog. You can contact Jerry at sproutnut@aol.com

Nut Nutrition: Improving the Digestibility and Absorption of Nuts by Soaking
By Jerry Henkin, NYNGA Vice President
August, 20, 2012

As growers of nut trees, we seek to produce the best nuts we can grow for consumption by people. There is also an interest among farmers who raise livestock, especially sustainable agriculture and permaculture practitioners, in using nuts as forage for animals. All of us should know about the healthful qualities of nuts for our own well being. We should eagerly share this information with others when promoting nuts.

Since the inception of the Northern Nut Growers Association in 1910, only 1% of the articles in the Annual Report and The Nutshell magazine have dealt with the nutritional aspect of nuts. Though I am not a professional nutritionist, I have learned a great deal from studying scientific reports on nutrition that deal with nuts from NNGA literature and from the following organizations: The Food and Research Program, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; Loma Linda University; the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University; the University of Scranton; Children’s Hospital, Oakland Research Institute; Penn State University; the University of Missouri; and the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. I wish to thank Dr. Barry Kendler, a Professor of Nutrition at the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, who has helped me organize my presentation on nut nutrition.

I want to tell you what I learned about the health benefits of nuts and then describe a simple technique to increase the nutritional value of nuts by soaking and drying them.

Nuts are highly nutritious

Raw nut kernels (without salt, and not roasted in fatty oils, or “honey roasted”) are excellent sources of fiber, proteins, and the`” good fats” (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats). They contain an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Since each kind of nut has a different percentage of these healthful ingredients, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of nuts: pistachios, different species of walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans, hickory nuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. Acorns are edible, as well; those of you who attended last year’s meeting in Utah heard Howard Manning speak about the tradition of the Native Americans in California leaching acorns to remove the tannic acid. They then pound the nuts into a meal.

Nuts are concentrated energy foods. Mountain climbers, Arctic explorers, and average hikers carry a portable sack of nuts and dried fruits along with water. Captain Reid Stowe took in-shell hickory nuts on his record-breaking 1,000 day sea voyage. (I should know because I supplied them to him along with mung beans for sprouting.) While nuts are high in calories, just eating a handful – about 2 ounces, or roughly 1/4 cup – 5 days out of the week is sufficient to bring you the health benefits that nuts can offer. Nuts do need to be chewed thoroughly for their healthful properties to be used by the body. They should not be eaten after a heavy meal because that could lead to weight gain. Nor should a bowlful of kernels be left on the coffee table in front of the TV during the football season.

Lifestyle plays a role in health
Eating nuts is not a guarantee of good health: some of the other factors that come into play are our genetic inheritance; the amount of exercise we do; our lifestyle choices and stress level; and the negative factors like smoking and being overweight. But the scientific studies cited at the end of this article indicate the health benefits that can accrue from a regular diet of nuts: They strengthen the immune system, lower cholesterol, and protect the body from viral invasion and tumor growth. They can lower the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers. Moreover, eating nuts on a regular basis has been shown to reduce the risk of Type II diabetes. They can lower stress levels. Nuts also reduce the risk of high blood pressure which can lead to cardiovascular diseases. Walnuts and pecans, especially, which are high in antioxidants, reduce the damage caused by free radicals. Almonds and peanuts should be eaten with their skins because they, too, contain high levels of antioxidants. Nuts may even play a role in maintaining healthy sexual function in men.

Chestnuts have special health benefits
Chestnuts, unlike other nuts, are a significant source of Vitamin C. They are also rich in vitamin B6, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folate, and Niacin. Chestnuts have the highest percentage of carbohydrates which has given them the nickname, “the runner’s nut” because they increase the body’s ability to cope with stress. An article in the NNGA Annual Report in 1987, by G.P. Abide, describes how to make chestnut chips as a commercial product. Chestnut flour is another value-added product. Mr. Abide advises nut growers to “be in line with current consumer trends favoring healthful foods.” How much more true that advice is now than 25 years ago.

We need to advise our customers and friends who eat nuts to store them in the refrigerator, and not leave them out on the kitchen table with a cracker and a pick, as inviting as that might sound. Nuts in the shell maintain their flavor longest. Most nuts can be stored in the freezer for years.

Some words of caution about eating nuts: There may be insect larvae within the shell. Also, nut kernels may turn rancid after a period of time if improperly stored. The oils within the kernel will spoil, causing the kernels to look yellowish and waxy. So look at the nuts you’ve just cracked out of the shell for insect infestation; feel them and smell them for signs of rancidity. If you’re cracking out nuts instead of buying the nuts already shelled, make sure to eliminate all shell materials – black walnut fragments can crack a tooth; tiny shell pieces can lodge in between teeth.

Nut allergies can be serious

A very small percentage of the population of the United States is allergic to tree nuts and/or peanuts. Some people can die if they consume even minute quantities which might have been added as an ingredient to other food products. In 1964 George Borgstrom wrote an article in the Annual Report calling for nut breeders to develop cultivars that would eliminate the allergens that cause such severe reactions in some people. To my knowledge, no one has taken up this challenge. Please let the NNGA know if this breeding work has been done.

Nuts enhance the dining experience
Now for the delicious part: nuts enhance the flavor and texture in bland foods like chicken, cabbage, salad, green beans, vegetable soup, waffles, pancakes, and muffins. While vegetarian restaurants have long served simple dishes using nuts, elegant restaurants have recently been offering pistachio crusted salmon, hazelnut stroganoff, and chocolate-chestnut trifle. Nuts can be added to milkshakes and made into nut milks and nut butters. The Native Americans of Virginia pounded hickory nuts into a paste, soaked them in water, and then used the “cream” as a delicacy. They also fermented this mixture to make a liquor.

Nuts are a food staple
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a major contributor to nut research in the early 20th Century, pointed out that nuts have double the nutritive value of lean meat, pound for pound. Yet the land required to produce nuts kernels is half that required to raise livestock. Kellogg believed that nuts should be a food staple, and not just a snack. He used nuts extensively as meals to his patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan. In an age of horrible practices in meat slaughterhouses and packing plants, Kellogg said in 1916 that “the nut is sweeter, cleaner, healthier, and cheaper than any possible source of animal product.”

Marion Nestle, a noted nutrition activist, has continued Kellogg’s vision of a world where people eat healthy food. She said that one in seven people on the Earth in 2012 is hungry. She feels that the global food crisis will continue in the U.S. and abroad in cost, volatility, and availability.

In her books, Nestle links malnutrition and hunger with social problems. One approach, she believes is to encourage food co-ops as an alternative to “Big Food” because they are community-based and value-based. Therefore, they must sell clean, healthy, nutritious food. Here is all the more reason, I believe, to plant and care for nut trees now, so that we will have a supply of one kind of healthy food in the future. J. Russell Smith was one of the most outspoken proponents of this idea, which he advocated in his book Tree Crops, A Permanent Agriculture.

Soaking nuts enhances their nutrition
I’m now going to describe a simple method to increase the nutritional value of nuts which everyone can do as long as they have access to clean water. Barbara Mendez, a licensed pharmacist and nutritional consultant, and Zel Allen, the author of several books on healthy eating, have both written articles on the health benefits of soaking nuts. The process calls for soaking raw nut kernels in water for several hours. The kernels should be the freshest you can find. The soaking period varies from 7 to 12 hours, depending upon the density of the kernel, but cashews should be soaked for no more than 6 hours.

After soaking the kernels, use a paper towel to pat them dry. Then, to return the kernels to their natural crispiness, dry them in one of several ways:

1. Roast them in the oven, or a counter-top toaster oven, at 150° to 170° F. for 15 to 20 minutes
2. Place them in a pan and let them dry over the pilot light of a stove for 12 to 24 hours, depending upon how long you have soaked the nuts
3. Use a food dehydrator set at 118° F. for about 7 hours.

During this period, the kernels increase their antioxidant and phytochemical capacity because soaking releases some enzyme inhibitors. This makes the nuts easier to digest. Tannins are removed from walnuts, making them taste sweeter. Soaking nut kernels also allows the body to absorb and use this food, instead of passing kernel pieces rapidly through the body. In effect, you are maximizing the nutritional value of your food when you follow this process. Note that this method reconstitutes nuts whose moisture levels have been previously reduced. They are therefore best eaten within two days.

After you’ve done this for a while, you’ll know the best soaking and drying times for nuts. Since each batch of nuts is different, don’t be afraid to experiment with the soaking and drying times to produce the healthiest and most delicious nuts you can.

List of Sources
Abide, G.P., et al., “Chestnut Chips: A Possible Option for Chestnut Processing”, NNGA (Northern Nut Growers Association) Annual Report 78:12 – 14, (1987)
Allen, Zel, The Nut Gourmet, Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion, Book Publishing Co, 256 pages, 2006, especially “Amazing Health benefits in a Nutshell”, pp. 16 – 19
Allen, Zel, “Nuts – the Delicious Path to Good Health”, The Nutshell, Volume 62, Number 3, September, 2008, p. 16
Allen, Zel, “To Soak or Not to Soak – It’s a Nutty Question”, MNGA (Michigan Nut Growers Association) News, Fall, 2011, pp. 7 – 8
Bixby, Willard G. [NNGA President], “Resolution Adopted by the NNGA, Inc.”, September 14, 1929, NNGA Annual Report 20:158 – 159 (1929)
http://bodyecology.com/articles/how_to_eat_and_not_eat_almonds.php, “How to Eat and Not Eat Almonds”, November 9, 2006
Borgstrom, George, “Nuts in Human Food – A Critical Appraisal”, NNGA Annual Report 55:60 – 64 (1964)
Cajorie, F.A., “The Nutritive Value of Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 10:80 – 87 (1919)
Cao (Tsao), Roon, “Nutritional Data from Heartnuts”, NNGA Annual Report 98 (2007)
Chen, C.Y. and Blumberg, J.B., “Phytochemical Composition of Nuts”, Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008:17 Supplement 1:329 – 332
Chestnut, V.K., “Primitive Manufacture and Use of Acorn Meal”, NNGA Annual Report 8:43 – 45 (1917)
Downs, Albert A., “Trees and Food from Acorns”, NNGA Annual Report 40:177 – 179 (1949)
Greiner, Lois, “Marketing Naturally Nutritious Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 77:10 – 12 (1986)
Higdon, Jane (2005), [update, Drake, Victoria J., 2009], “Nuts”, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, 2012
International Nut Tree Council, “Go Nuts Go Healthy”, 11 pages, 2001
Kellogg, J.H., “Advent of Nuts into the Nation’s List of Staple Foods”, NNGA Annual Report 8:46 – 58 (1917)
Kellogg, J.H., “The Food Value of Nuts”, NNGA Annual Report 7:101 – 113 (1916)
Kellogg, J.H., “More Nuts, Less Meat”, NNGA Annual Report 21:57 – 65 (1930)
Kellogg, J.H., “Nuts Need as Supplementary Foods”, NNGA Annual Report 11:83 – 92 (1920)
Kendall, C.W., et al., “Nuts, Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes”, British Journal of Nutrition, 2010 August; 104(4)
Kendler, Barry S., “The American Diet and the Need for Dietary Supplementation”, Nutritional Perspectives: Journal of the Council on Nutrition of the American Chiropractic Association, October 2010
King, J.C, et al, “Tree Nuts and Peanuts as Components of a Healthy Diet”, Journal of Nutrition , 2008 September; 138(9):1736S-1740S
Li, L, et al. “Fatty Acid Profiles, Tocopherol Contents, and Antioxidant Activities of Heartnut (Juglans ailanifolia Var. cordiformis) and Persian Walnut (Juglans regia L.), Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, 2007 Februray 21:55(4)
Lombardini, Leonardo, “Phytochemicals and Antioxidants in Pecan”, NNGA Annual Report 99 (2008)
Lovell, John D. and Norton, Julia A., “Food and Horticultural Psychology in Relation to Nut Growing”, NNGA Annual Report 74:119 – 123 (1983)
Malinsky, Alex (aka RawGuru), “ ’C’ is for Chestnut and Vitamin C”, Natural News.com, January 26, 2011
Mendez, Barbara, “Soaking Nuts and Seeds for Maximum Nutrition”, The Nutshell, Volume 66, Number 2, June 2012, pp. 12 – 13
Moree, Shiro, “Health, Nutrition, and Nuts: In a Nutshell”, The Nutshell, Volume 61, Number 1, March, 2007, pp. 24 – 28
Nut Gourmet Blog, May 11, 2011, “Go Nuts Over Antioxidants”, MNGA (Michigan Nut Growers Association) News, Summer, 2011, pp. 11 – 16
Skylles, J. Trevor, “The Nut Crops of Turkey”, NNGA Annual Report 62:70 – 76 (1971)
Smith, J. Russell, Tree Crops, a Permanent Agriculture, The Devin Adair Co., 1953, especially Chapter XV, “Nuts as Human Food”, pp. 202 – 205
Spaccarotella, K.J., et al., “The Effect of Walnut ntake on Factors Relating to Prostate and Vascular Health in Older Men”, Nutrition Journal, 2008 May 2:7:13
Stafford, W.E., “Use of Nuts by the Aboriginal Americans”, NNGA Annual Report, 14:57 – 59 (1923)
Talbert, T.J., “Nut Tree Culture in Missouri”, NNGA Annual Report 41:134 – 135 (1950)
University of California at Berkeley Wellness Letter, “Nuts to You”, The Nutshell, Volume 51, Number 2, June, 1997, pp. 1 – 2
Villarreal J.E., L. Lombardini, and L. Cisneros-Zevallos,” Phytochemical Constituents and Antioxidant Capacity of Different Pecan [Carya illinonensis (Wangenh.) K. Koch] Cultivars”, Food Chem. 102:1241-1249, 2007
Vinson, J.A. and Cai, Y., “Nuts, Especially Walnuts, Have Both Antioxidant Quantity and Efficacy and Exhibit Significant Potential Health Benefits”, Food Function, 2012 February 3; 3(2)
Young, Robert O., “Eating Nuts May Prevent Cancerous Lungs and Prostate”, presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, Houston, Texas, December 6 -, 2009; reference: http://ivanhoe.com/channels/p_channelstory.cfm?storyid=23047

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, chestnuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Allergies, Nut Growing, Nut History, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, Uncategorized, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

RESEARCHERS GO NUTS OVER ANTIOXIDANTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on May 31, 2011


Hippocrates (480 BCE-370 BCE), the Father of Western medicine, had the secret of antioxidants in a healthy diet, even though he may not have known it when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” He knew the power of foods from nature was both healing and preventive and emphasized that message to his followers. Though he didn’t have the scientific knowledge that foods from nature, such as tree nuts, contained powerful antioxidants, he witnessed healing taking place when patients ate pure whole foods. He recognized those foods contained remarkable elements that could not only prevent disease but also restore vigor.

Fresh, plant-based foods (nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) do, indeed, contain powerful plant chemicals packed with antioxidants. What are these antioxidants and what can they do? While all plant-based foods contain these powerful healing elements, recent research has revealed the impressive antioxidant potential in tree nuts.

Researchers find nut benefits
Intensive tree nut studies have uncovered an array of antioxidant chemicals including lignans, napthoquinones, phenolic acids, phytosterols, polyphenols, flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and tocopherols that can reduce inflammation in the blood, lower cholesterol, act against viral invasion, and protect the body from tumor growth.

Because we now know that antioxidants can scavenge and prevent unstable molecules called free radicals from destroying our cells, we can take joy in devouring a delicious handful or two of tree nuts every day to reap the many benefits from their excellent antioxidant properties.

In a 2009-study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet, researchers tested thirteen subjects to study the effect of a polyphenol-rich diet of walnuts or almonds on the blood. The subjects fasted overnight, had blood tests, and then were given either a walnut or almond smoothie or one that contained no nuts. After a week, each participant switched to a different smoothie, and each time, blood was tested several times after beverage consumption. Researchers found a noticeable increase in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, after subjects consumed the nut-based smoothies, but no change following the nut-free beverage. Noted were a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity and a reduction of blood oxidation in those participants consuming the polyphenol-rich nut smoothie.

Pecans have their own antioxidant story
In another study conducted at Loma Linda University, meals including whole pecans and blended pecans were compared with a control meal with no nuts to test for antioxidant activity. This small trial of sixteen healthy men and women used the crossover method where participants were given each meal at controlled intervals with a week in-between. Blood levels of tocopherals, the vitamin E antioxidant, doubled in those consuming whole and blended pecans, while antioxidant levels increased 12% and 10% respectively two hours after consumption. After meals including whole pecans, LDL oxidation decreased considerably after consumption. Triglycerides decreased only after the participants ate whole or blended pecans in their meals.

Chemistry Professor Joe Vinson, Ph.D. presented his research at a meeting of The American Chemical Society in Anaheim, California in March 2011 showing that walnuts have more high-quality antioxidants than any other nuts. “Walnuts rank above peanuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios and other nuts,” said Dr. Vinson. “A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. But unfortunately, people don’t eat a lot of them. This study suggests that consumers should eat more walnuts as part of a healthy diet.”

To roast or not to roast
After Dr. Vinson’s analysis compared the antioxidants in walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans, he found antioxidants highest in raw, unroasted nuts. Vinson says, “The heat from roasting nuts generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants. People usually eat walnuts raw or unroasted, and get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.”

When nuts are commercially roasted in added fats, like partially hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats or coconut or palm oils that are high in saturated fats, they raise the risk of heart disease by elevating the bad cholesterol that can deposit plaque in the arteries. Commercially roasted nuts may also be roasted at high temperatures that possibly damage or reduce antioxidant levels.

Differing opinions persist regarding antioxidant loss when roasting nuts. An inquiry to the California Walnut Commission turned up this response from their nutrition consultant, registered dietician Carol Berg Sloan, “We have had independent nutrient analysis done on raw and toasted walnuts and there is no change in the nutrient profile.”

Plant chemicals in nuts improve heart health
Dr. Joan Sabate, professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University, and colleagues examined 25 nut studies from other countries. Their nut research has shown that regular consumption of nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in several ways: lowering cholesterol levels, improving endothelial function, lowering oxidation in the blood, and reducing lipoprotein(a) levels. The researchers focused both on subjects with normal and high cholesterol and noted that nut consumption led to a marked improvement in both HDL and triglyceride levels. Along with their exceptional nutritional qualities, nuts contain an array of phytonutrients or plant chemicals with high antioxidant capacity.

An almond study at Tufts University unveiled 20 powerful antioxidant flavonoids in almond skins. Some of the flavonoids were the same antioxidants found in familiar foods like green tea that contains catechins and grapefruit that includes naringenin. The research team tested the antioxidants separately and together on blood samples that contained LDL cholesterol. Flavonoids in the almond skins improved the LDL resistance to oxidation by 18%, but when tested together with vitamin E in the meat of the almond, the resistance to oxidation increased by 52.5%. This research illustrates the benefits of the synergy that occur in nature and the importance of eating the whole nut, including the skin.

Which nuts lead the antioxidant parade?
Of all the tree nuts, walnuts, pecans, and chestnuts contain the greatest amount of antioxidants. Although peanuts are technically legumes, they are nutritionally similar to nuts. Like walnuts, peanuts are packed with high levels of antioxidants. Be sure to consume nuts whole to gain their full benefit, since much of the antioxidants are contained in the skins.

Antioxidants and plant chemicals are not the only healthful attributes of nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, a quality that has placed them in the USDA MyPyramid Dietary Guidelines for Americans alongside meat, poultry, and fish. Nuts are also a powerhouse of minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, and copper that work as a cooperative team to bring excellent health and maximum immune function to the body.

Go nuts for nuts sake
It’s easy to include nuts in the diet. Nut researchers are now finding that two handfuls a day of tree nuts are better than one at delivering health benefits. Enjoy them as a snack, sprinkled in salads, blended into smoothies, ground into salad dressings, blended into nut milk, or included in muffins, cookies, and confections.

Buy them raw and keep them in the refrigerator for freshness. Though people tend to gravitate to one or two favorites, they will benefit from a variety of nuts because each kind contains different quantities of minerals, good fats, and beneficial antioxidants.

To enjoy roasted nuts, consider roasting them at a low temperature to preserve their valuable vitamin E and antioxidant flavonoid and polyphenol contents. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and dry roast them at 150 to 170 degrees F. for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool and taste their exceptional flavor and pleasantly crisp texture.

References:
Antonio AL, Ferreira IC, Bento A, Botelho ML. “Influence of Gamma Irradiation in the Antioxidant Potential of Chestnuts (Castanea sativa Mill.) Fruits and Skins.” Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2011 Feb 28.

Barreira, J.C.M., Ferreira, I.C.F.R., Oliveira, M.B.P.P., and Pereira, J.A. “Antioxidant Activities of the Extracts from Chestnut Flower, Leaf, Skins, and Fruit”. Food Chemistry: 104:(3), 1106-1113.

Bolling, B.W., McKay, D.L., Blumberg, J.B. “The Phytochemical Composition and Antioxidant Actions of Tree Nuts.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 19(1):117-123.

Chen, C.Y., Milbury, P.E., Lapsley, K., Blumberg, J.B. Flavonoids from Almond Skins are Bioavailable and Act Synergistically with Vitamins C and E to Enhance Hamster and Human LDL Resistance to Oxidation. Journal of Nutrition. 2005; 135(6):1366-73.

“Chestnuts. Antioxidants. Gamma Irradiation.” http://nutraceutical.sujanani.com/news/?p=25001719

“Chestnuts.”belly bytes: where it’s all about food. http://www.bellybytes.com/food/chestnuts.html

Hudthagosol, C., Haddad, E.H., McCarthy, K., Want, P., Oda, K., Sabate, J. “Pecans Acutely Increase Plasma Postprandial Antioxidant Capacity and Catechins and Decrease LDL Oxidation in Humans.” Journal of Nutrition. 2011. Jan: 141(1): 56-62.

“Professor Vinson’s Research Shows Walnuts as ‘Top Nut’ for Heart-Healthy Antioxidants.” The University of Scranton. March 29, 2011. http://matrix.scranton.edu/news/articles/2011/03/Professor-Vinson-Antioxidants.shtml

Sabate, J., Oda, Keiji, Ros, Emilio. “Nut Consumption and Blood Lipid Levels; A Pooled Analysis of 25 Intervention Trials.” Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010;170(9):821-827.

Sloan, Carol Berg, RD. “Roasting Walnuts.” Email from the author responding to my inquiry to the California Walnut Commission about whether roasting walnuts lowers their antioxidant levels. 15 May 2011.

Torabian S, Haddad E, Rajaram S, Banta Jim, Sabaté J. “Acute Effect of Nut Consumption on Plasma Total Polyphenols, Antioxidant Capacity and Lipid Peroxidation in Healthy Volunteers.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Diet 2009, 22:64-71.

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, chestnuts, Nut Nutrition, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, pecans, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

BRAZIL NUTS: THE DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE OF THE NUT WORLD

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 30, 2010

For many years I’ve known that consuming one Brazil nut a day supplies the human body with its daily requirement for selenium, an important trace mineral high in antioxidants. But here’s what I recently learned that gave me a bit of a jolt. Recent studies show that while Brazil nuts have many positive attributes, they also have a hidden side that sparked researchers to express cautionary advice.

I turn to nature rather than food manufacturers to provide the most nourishing foods for human consumption. I’m also cognizant that we humans absorb our vitamins and minerals best from pure, natural foods rather than from synthetically manufactured supplements. Human nature is kind of funny, though. We often have a tendency to believe that if a small amount of a nutrient-dense food or supplement is good for us, wouldn’t gobbling down double, triple, or five times the amount be even better?

That theory works well for some foods, like dark leafy greens, but it doesn’t apply across the board. That mind-set is especially problematic when it comes to Brazil nuts.


The good news
On the positive side, Brazil nuts, like all nuts, are highly nutritious and densely packed with minerals like calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. Brazil nuts also possess trace amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin in the B vitamin family, along with healthy levels of folate and vitamin E. Clearly, these nuts are remarkably nutritious.

Brazil nuts stand apart from all other nuts with their exceptionally high levels of selenium. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for selenium for adults 19 years and up is 55 micrograms a day. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, one Brazil nut delivers 95.8 micrograms of selenium, well over the daily requirement for the mineral.

In comparison, other nuts do not even come close to measuring up. Pine nuts contain the least selenium, registering only 0.2 micrograms for one ounce, while cashews weigh in with 5.6 micrograms per ounce, the highest quantity after Brazil nuts.

A randomized controlled study conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand found that consuming two Brazil nuts daily is as effective in boosting selenium levels in the blood as taking selenomethionine, a synthetic selenium supplement. The group that ate two Brazil nuts a day also measured higher in antioxidant levels than those taking the supplement. Selenium, required only in small amounts, helps the body to produce antioxidant enzymes that protect the cells from free radical damage. Study authors also found that those with adequate levels of selenium in the blood have a reduced risk for breast and prostate cancer.

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study, known as the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer trial noted that in populations where selenium consumption was low, there was a rise in the incidence of cancer. The long-term trial involving 1312 individuals found supplementation with selenium reduced the total cancer incidence by 48% to 63%, especially prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. Generally, the dietary selenium levels in the U.S. population are considered good. The trial was conducted where dietary levels were poor. Considering the results of the study conducted at the University of Otago, two Brazil nuts a day may have been equally as effective in this population as the selenium supplement.

Selenium is found in the soil where plant foods can absorb it through their root systems. Other plant-based foods high in natural selenium include most nuts, whole grains like corn, wheat, oats, and rice, along with foods of the legume family, including soybeans.

An exceptional plus for Brazil nuts is their high level of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase (GPx), that may bestow benefits on our health in multiple ways:

• Boosting the immune system
• Protecting from cardiovascular disease
• Improving fertility
• Helping ward off the growth of cancerous cells
• Increasing thyroid metabolism

Not only does our immune function work best when selenium levels are adequate, but the mineral is an important component that prevents deficiencies that could impair thyroid function.

The bad news
In spite of their many positive qualities, Brazil nuts might be considered the bad boys of the nut family. Because Brazil nuts have an exceptionally high concentration of phytic acid, measuring 2% to 6% in their hulls, they might interfere with the absorption of some nutrients like iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. While their monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may be beneficial in lowering cholesterol when ingested in small quantities, Brazil nuts high level of saturated fat (25%) could possibly raise cholesterol levels if the nuts are consumed in large quantities.

Overdosing on selenium can cause a toxic condition known as selenosis, leaving patients with a host of nasty symptoms like hair loss, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, sloughing of the fingernails, fatigue, irritability, and nerve damage. Less common are cirrhosis of the liver and kidney failure.

While a 12-week study of 60 volunteers published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2008, found that study participants consuming two Brazil nuts a day had higher levels of selenium compared with those consuming a 100-microgram supplement or taking a placebo, the research concluded with a cautionary message.

Professor Christine Thomson, Department of Human Nutrition University of Otago, says, “People should be careful to limit themselves to no more than a few Brazil nuts per day, otherwise selenium could potentially accumulate to toxic levels in body tissues. Also, as the nuts can contain relatively high amounts of the elements barium and thorium, people should avoid eating too many as it is still unclear what intake of these elements might be harmful.”

Another study, prompted by the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey, was conducted because of concern that the average selenium consumption in the UK is far below the recommended levels of 75 micrograms per day for men and 60 micrograms for women.

Several studies have shown an association of high levels of selenium in the blood and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and risk of heart disease. Researchers at the Warwick Medical School in Coventry, England, conducted an observational study involving 1,042 individuals, aged 19 to 64, to measure how selenium levels in the blood compared to their blood cholesterol status. In this UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey conducted 2000 to 2001, participants’ blood selenium was measured, and they were asked specific lifestyle questions about diet and alcohol consumption.

The findings revealed that participants with 1.20 micromols (about 94 micrograms) of selenium in the blood showed an average 8 percent rise in total cholesterol and a 10 percent rise in LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol associated with heart disease. Study authors noted that while these results raise concerns, they were unable to show positively that increased selenium levels in the blood were the cause of the jump in cholesterol levels or whether it was due to other factors. Those individuals who tested in the upper levels of selenium in the blood revealed they were regularly taking selenium supplements.

Lead author Dr. Saverio Stranges says, “The cholesterol increases we have identified may have important implications for public health. In fact, such a difference could translate into a large number of premature deaths from coronary heart disease.” Dr. Stranges expressed further concern, “We believe that the widespread use of selenium supplements, or of any other strategy that artificially increases selenium status above the level required, is unwarranted at the present time. Further research is needed to examine the full range of health effects of increased selenium, whether beneficial or detrimental.”

Study authors also examined the levels of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase and found that those with the higher levels of selenium in their blood had an 8 to 10 percent increase in total cholesterol.

When published studies revealed that selenium may be able to fight off cancer, the news sparked interest in the mineral and created a demand for the supplements. However, there still remains no definitive evidence that the antioxidants in selenium can prevent such diseases.

While a handful-a-day of most nuts is beneficial in raising antioxidant levels and effective in lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels, the handful-a-day mantra is off the table for Brazil nuts. Stick with the recommended quantity of one or two Brazil nuts per day. A whole handful of the nuts could easily boost one’s blood selenium to unhealthy levels.

As much as I love nuts and consider them a healthy food source for my everyday diet, I have adopted the safe mantra that nut researchers conclude in study after study: A LITTLE BIT GOES A LONG WAY. In the case of Brazil nuts, eat one or two nuts a day, then, STOP.

References:
“Brazil Nuts Health Benefits.” Suite101.com.
http://food-facts.suite101.com/article.cfm/brazil_nuts_health_benefits

“Eating Just Two Brazil Nuts a Day Ensures Adequate Selenium Levels.” Health Freedom Alliance.
http://healthfreedoms.org/2009/05/27/eating-just-two-brazil-nuts-a-day-ensures-adequate-selenium-levels

Jackson, Malcolm J., Caroline S. Broome, and Francis McArdle. “Marginal Dietary Selenium Intakes in the UK: are There Functional Consequences?” The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. Supplement: 11th International Symposium on Trace Elements in Man and Animals. The Journal of Nutrition, 133:1557S-1559S, May 2003

“Selenium.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selenium

Stranges, Saverio, Martin Laclaustra, Chen Ji, Francesco P. Cappuccio, Ana Navas-Acien, Jose M. Ordovas, Margaret Rayman, and Eliseo Guallar. “Higher Selenium Status is Associated with Adverse Blood Lipid Profile in British Adults.” Journal of Nutrition. doi:10.3945/jn.109.111252, November 11, 2009.

Thompson Christine .D., Alexandra Chisholm, Sarah K. McLachlan, and Jennifer M. Campbell. “Brazil nuts: an effective way to improve selenium status.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 87, No 2, 379-384, February 2008

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Brazil nuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 78 Comments »

THE POWER OF THE FEW

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on January 21, 2010

I’m back and nutty as ever! No, I haven’t abandoned my post at the NutGourmet—just took a little holiday break to spend time with family and friends and cook up a flurry of great munchies I’ll share in future blog posts.

Now, I’ve returned with a fresh vigor and a feverish desire to share the nutty pleasures. Sometimes I bemoan the fact that nuts are not exactly dirt-cheap. Then, on the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing because many of us would probably be tempted to gorge on massive amounts of them. That would be a bad thing. How bad?

What constitutes a healthy level of nut consumption? The key is to remember there is awesome power in “just a little.” That “just a little” means there are potent benefits in consuming as few as one to three ounces of nuts a day. Translate that to the equivalent of about one or two generous handfuls.

Some might be thinking that limiting oneself to just one or two ounces of nuts a day may actually feel like utter deprivation. In truth, that small quantity is actually achieving a perfectly healthy ideal. It never ceases to amaze me that such a small quantity packs a big wallop in knocking down high cholesterol and blood pressure and reducing the risk of coronary artery disease.

At the December 2009 meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, attendees learned from researchers at Texas Woman’s University – Houston Center that a mere two ounces of pistachios a day boosted levels of gamma- tocopherol, a natural form of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E. The authors acknowledge higher levels of gamma-tocopherol may offer protection against certain forms of cancer, namely lung and prostate cancer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years. In 2005, the guidelines suggested incorporating 1.5 ounces of nuts such as hazelnuts into the diet several times per week. They suggest hazelnuts are a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, folate, B vitamins and minerals that may play a role in lowering blood pressure. Hazelnuts are high in beneficial monounsaturated fats and only contain 4 percent saturated fats.

Just two handfuls of walnuts a day was the catchphrase of a study looking to inhibit the growth of breast cancer tumors in mice. W. Elaine Hardman, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, West Virginia, gives the omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and phytosterols in walnuts a thumbs up for their ability to block the progression of tumors and suggests the compounds contained in walnuts could slow down the growth of breast cancer in humans.

A study cited in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology demonstrated that just eight walnuts eaten at the end of a meal may be better than olive oil in helping to prevent damage to the delicate lining of the arteries. Walnuts were compared with olive oil in a study conducted at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinico and were found to better retain the elasticity and flexibility of the arteries when necessary to expand and increase blood flow. While many people turning to the Mediterranean diet credit the olive oil for the heart healthy focus, they miss the true hero—the little handful of walnuts.

Must one conclude that nuts are truly a miracle food? No, they certainly are not. Nuts are merely one of many of the highly nutritious plant-based foods that help us to stay healthy and assist us in returning to a state of health when we’ve fallen into the pit of chronic disease.

There really are no miracle foods, though many food purveyors work hard to convince people their product is theeee one to repair all the health ills and provide a cure-all. The power of the few remains the steadfast mantra referring to all whole, plant-based foods consumed in smaller portions than Americans have become accustomed to consuming. Feasting is best saved for special occasions.

For the daily diet, the power of a few nuts along with comfortable and reasonable portions of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and seeds brings impressive results in a surprisingly short time.

The following measurements comprise a one-ounce serving of nuts:

20 to 24 ALMONDS

6 to 8 BRAZIL NUTS

16 to 18 CASHEWS

18 to 20 FILBERTS (HAZELNUTS)

10 to 12 MEDIUM MACADAMIAS

28 SHELLED PEANUTS

18 to 20 PECAN HALVES

150 to 157 PINE NUTS (PIGNOLI)

45 to 47 PISTACHIOS

14 WALNUT HALVES

1 tablespoon PUMPKIN SEEDS

1 medium-size handful SESAME SEEDS

3 tablespoons SHELLED SUNFLOWER SEEDS

References:
Almond Board of California–http://www.almondsarein.com

American Association for Cancer Research “Walnut consumption decreases mammary gland tumor incidence, multiplicity and growth in the C(3) Tag transgenic mouse” AACR 2009; Abstract LB-247.

California Pistachio Association–http://www.pistachios.org

The Hazelnut Council–http://www.hazelnutcouncil.org

Hernandez, M.S. American Association for Cancer Research (2009. December 9). Pistachios may reduce lung cancer risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 20, 2010 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208191956.htm

International Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation http://www.nuthealth.org

National Pecan Shellers Association–http://www.ilovepecans.org

Peanut Advisory Board–http://www.peanutbutterlovers.com

The Peanut Institute–http://www.peanut-institute.org

Ros, Emilio. “Eating walnuts at the end of a meal may help cut the damage that fatty food can do to the arteries” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2006/10/10 09:38:33 GMT

The Walnut Marketing Board–http://www.walnut.org

Posted in almonds, Antioxidants in Nuts, hazelnuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

BEAT METABOLIC SYNDROME WITH NUTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 19, 2009

A beautiful summer lunch or a delicious light dinner, this tasty salad has eye appeal, flavor satisfaction, and health benefits to boot. Many health studies that focused on lowering cholesterol show that a small amount of nuts, about 1.5 to 3 ounces daily, can result in lowered cholesterol, especially when the nuts replace other saturated fats in the diet.

Hazelnuts became an effective remedy in a study conducted at the University of Rovira I Virgili, Spain, that examined the effects of nuts on a Mediterranean diet in those who showed signs of metabolic syndrome. The researchers of the randomized trial divided the patients into three groups, each following a Mediterranean diet: a low-fat control group, a group with added olive oil, and a third group that ate nuts in place of the added olive oil.

The nut-consuming group was given packets containing 30 grams of nuts to be eaten daily, a measurement that equals slightly over 1 ounce. The nuts were a combination of hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds. There were no restrictions on calorie intake. The researchers followed the participants for one year and concluded the nut group showed a decrease in metabolic syndrome of 13.7%, while the olive oil group decreased 6.7%, and the control group decreased only 2%.

Other studies suggest that eating nuts regularly show benefits for weight loss, lowered insulin resistance, lower LDL cholesterol, and lowered risk for cardiovascular heart disease.

Because nuts are so delicious and versatile, they’re easy to include in the daily diet. Enjoy!

stufftomato

STUFFED TOMATOES WITH ROASTED NUTS

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup hazelnuts

3 to 4 zucchinis, coarsely chopped (about 4 to 5 cups)
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper

4 lettuce leaves

4 large tomatoes

1/2 avocado, mashed or thinly sliced
4 black olives (Kalamata, salt-cured, or regular)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the hazelnuts and pecans on separate baking sheets and roast for 10 minutes. Pour the pecans onto a dish to cool. Pour the roasted hazelnuts onto a kitchen towel, wrap it up, and set aside for 10 minutes. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel vigorously to remove some of the skins and set aside to cool. Place both nuts in a zipper-lock plastic bag and coarsely chop them with a hammer. Transfer them to a large bowl and set aside.
2. Separately, place the zucchinis, carrot, and bell pepper into the food processor and process until finely minced, but not pureed. Add them to the bowl with the nuts.
3. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper and mix well. Adjust seasonings, if needed.
4. Line 4 plates with the lettuce leaves. Create tomato flowers by placing them with the stem end down on the cutting board. Cut 8 wedges but don’t cut all the way through. Gently spread the wedges to create a bed for the nut and vegetable stuffing. Place a tomato flower on each lettuce-lined plate.
5. Divide the stuffing between the tomatoes and stuff the tomato flowers, placing some of the stuffing between the wedges. Garnish with the avocado and top with a black olive.

Reference:

Salas-Salvado, Jordi, et al. “Effect of a Mediterranean Diet Supplemented With Nuts on Metabolic Syndrome Status. One-year results of the PREDIMED randomized trial.” Archives of Internal Medicine 168 (2008): 2,449-2,458.

Posted in almonds, hazelnuts, Nut Recipes, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ONLY A NUT LIKE ME . . .

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on July 6, 2009

Only a nut like me could get ecstatic about the Northern Nut Growers Association celebrating its 100th annual meeting from July 19 to July 23, 2009 at Purdue University in Indiana. Imagine—an organization in existence for 100 years and still going strong.
chestnut4
And I’m a devout devotee of The American Chestnut Foundation, an organization with high hopes of soon restoring the American chestnut to its once lush forests along the Appalachian slopes using scientific breeding and backcrossing methods to produce a blight-resistant American chestnut.

Both organizations work with passion and dedication to researching, planting, breeding, and growing the best tasting, most nutritious nuts in the world. And because of their research, amazing developments in health science have come to the forefront. And I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a nut groupie who loves to read their newsletters.
hazelnut
Here’s some awesome news. The researchers at the University of Portland in Oregon discovered that the nuts, shells, leaves, limbs, and bark of the hazelnut tree produce a chemical called paclitaxel. Even the fungi that attack the hazelnut tree produce paclitaxel. That’s big news because paclitaxel is the active ingredient in the drug taxol, manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and used for treating patients with breast or ovarian cancer and the AIDS-related cancer Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Until now, the drug was manufactured by extraction from the needles of the yew tree, a very costly process. With the discovery of paclitaxel contained in the hazelnut tree, nut growers now have a greater motivation to produce the varieties of hazelnut trees that contain the greatest quantities of the chemical. While hazelnuts contain some paclitaxel, eating them won’t offer sufficient quantities to offer treatment. The drug’s potency comes from a larger concentration of paclitaxel.

I was delighted to discover a recent study by the Mayo Clinic, published June 5, 2009 on their website, confirming that eating nuts regularly in small amounts, about 1.5 ounces a day, is good for the heart. The article, referenced below, quotes the Food and Drug Administration’s July 2003 statement that says evidence “suggests but does not prove” that eating nuts reduces heart disease risk.

The Mayo Clinic says the variety of nut is not what matters. It’s that nuts, in general, contain a combination of such valuable components like mono and polyunsaturated fats, L. arginine, fiber, vitamin E, and plant sterols that work together to lower cholesterol, especially the LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of developing blood clots that often cause fatal heart attacks. The amino acid L. arginine in nuts benefits the arteries by keeping them flexible to allow better blood flow. Plant sterols that naturally occur in nuts are plant fats that help to lower cholesterol by preventing its absorption during the process of digestion.

Instead of consuming less healthy snacks, the Mayo Clinic suggests those with heart disease would benefit from eating nuts instead that can help patients focus on a more heart-healthy diet.

To help keep you on the path to good health, here’s a tasty recipe for an easy summer sandwich that features hazelnuts, carrots, and healthy, fiber-rich whole grain bread.

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These tasty hazelnut-studded sandwiches can be quickly assembled for a spontaneous picnic outing. Include a bean salad packed with chopped veggies, fresh fruit, and some vegan cookies, and you’ve got the makings of a great meal outdoors. For a stay-at-home light lunch, present the sandwiches with flair by cutting them into quarters and garnishing the plate with a fruit salsa.
nuttycarrot
NUTTY CARROT SANDWICH

Yield: 4 sandwiches

3 large carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
2/3 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped in the food processor
6 to 8 stuffed green olives, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise

8 slices whole-grain bread
16 to 20 whole fresh basil or mint leaves

1. Combine the carrots, hazelnuts, green olives, and garlic in a medium bowl. Add enough vegan mayonnaise to moisten them well and hold the ingredients together.
2. Spread one side of each slice of bread with a light coating of mayonnaise, and spoon the nutty carrot mixture on 4 of the slices. Arrange the basil or mint leaves over the carrot mixture and top with the remaining bread.

Note:
For richer flavor, roast the hazelnuts. To roast, place the nuts on a baking sheet and place in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the nuts and pour them onto a kitchen towel. Wrap them in the towel and set aside for 10 minutes. Roll the nuts in the towel vigorously to remove some of the skins and set aside to cool completely. Chop the nuts coarsely in the food processor or place them in a zipper-lock plastic bag and pound them gently with a hammer until coarsely chopped.

References:

drbriffa. A good look at good health. Evidence supports the incorporation of nuts in the diet. May 21, 2009.
http://www.drbriffa.com/blog/2009/05/21/evidence-supports-the-incorporation-of-nuts-in-the-diet

Mayo Clinic staff. Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health. MayoClinic.com. June 5, 2009.
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nuts/HB00085/NSECTIONGROUP=2

Science Daily, April 11, 2000. Potent Anticancer Agent Found in Hazelnuts. Plant Could Become Alternative Source of Taxol Precursor.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/04/000410084755.htm

Susman, Ed. StopGettingSick.com Going Nuts over Paclitaxel
http://www.stopgettingsick.com/template.cfm-1572

Posted in Celebrations, chestnuts, hazelnuts, Nut Growing, Nut Nutrition, Nut Organizations, Nut Recipes, nut research, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

PISTACHIO POWER KNOCKS DOWN HEART DISEASE RISK

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 28, 2009

While there is still concern about salmonella contaminated pistachios, safe sources do exist. Check your local supplier, and ask questions about their suppliers. When you locate safe sources, stock up on them, prepare the incredibly delicious recipe below, and bone up on some heart-friendly pistachio facts.

Aside from being a tasty snack and a delicious addition to desserts, main dishes, soups, salads, sauces, and salad dressings, pistachios have proven themselves to be highly nutritious and medically effective in lowering the risk for coronary heart disease.

Several studies in recent years have focused on the natural cholesterol-lowering effects of pistachios without the use of statin drugs. One study conducted at Penn State University was a controlled feeding study using the American Heart Association Step 1 diet. The Step 1 study successfully demonstrated the powerful effects of pistachios in lowering total cholesterol by 8.4 percent and LDL cholesterol by 11.6 percent when eaten daily in three-ounce portions. Pistachios also contain high levels of antioxidants that aid in reducing inflammation in the arteries.

Another study conducted in Turkey and published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease in 2006, examined the effects of pistachios on plasma lipid profile and oxidative status in 24 healthy men and 20 healthy women. After one week on their normal diets, half the group continued their regular diet, while the other half substituted pistachios for 20% of their daily calorie intake for three weeks.
pistachio
Before and after the study, blood tests were charted for LDL (the bad cholesterol), HDL (the good cholesterol), total cholesterol, triglycerides, MDA (malondialdehyde), and AOP (antioxidant potential). After the three weeks, the pistachio group was found to have significantly decreased their total cholesterol, MDA levels, and total cholesterol to HDL levels, and the LDL/HDL ratios. The results showed that those on the pistachio diet decreased oxidative stress, improved their total cholesterol, and increased their HDL levels.

Those irresistible little green wonders are packed with protein and fiber, yet they are low in carbohydrates. Their high levels of good fats, mostly monounsaturated (fats), are part of their charm in lowering cholesterol. Pistachios are also a good source of arginine, a highly respected amino acid needed for the body to manufacture nitric oxide, known for its ability to dilate the blood vessels.

Natural plant fats called phytosterols are nature’s way of preventing the absorption of excess cholesterol into the blood. After peanuts, pistachios score next highest in phytosterols among the nut family with 214 mg of phytosterols for 3.5 ounces.

If you need a boost in potassium, count on pistachios with 1025 mg for that same 3.5 ounces. If you’re deficient in minerals like iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, or selenium, you might enjoy snacking on two generous handfuls of pistachios a day—that’s equal to about 3.5 ounces.

For so many nutritional needs, you can consider pistachios among your good friends. And to reap the benefit of pistachios to the fullest, be sure to reduce your intake of other dietary saturated fats, such as dairy products, meat, chicken, or fish. The studies and nutritional information were conducted using raw pistachios.

References:
Gebauer, Sarah K., Penny Kris-Etherton, Colin D. Kay, Sheila G. West, and P. Alaupovic. “Pistachios Lower Cholesterol, Provide Antioxidants.” Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04

Kocyigit, A, A.A. Koylu, H. Keles, “Effects of Pistachio Nuts Consumption on Plasma Lipid Profile and Oxidative Status in Healthy Volunteers.” Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Disease. 2006 16(3):202-9.

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Here’s a dish that frames beautiful, bright green pistachios with a backdrop of a golden brown garbanzo paté. Served as a casual, make-ahead dish, the paté becomes a tasty hot or cold filling for a sandwich. Cut it into squares and serve it as appetizer finger food at a party or picnic. To turn the paté into a hot or cold signature entrée, cut it into slices or wedges and serve them on a lettuce-lined platter with a dollop of Tofu Sour Cream and a sprinkling of paprika and minced chives topping each slice.

GARBANZO BEAN PATE WITH PISTACHIOS

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
garbanzopate

1 large onion, finely minced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 3/4 cups garbanzo bean flour
3 1/2 cups water

3/4 cup raw pistachios

Garnish
1 medium tomato, sliced, slices halved
1 Japanese or Persian cucumber, sliced
Sprigs of fresh dill or cilantro

1. Line a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan or a ring mold with enough plastic wrap to drape over the sides and set aside.
2. Combine the onion, carrot, garlic basil, curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and thyme in a large, deep non-stick skillet. Add the soy sauce, olive oil, and lemon juice and cook and stir over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion is soft and transparent. Reduce the heat to medium.
3. Add the garbanzo bean flour to the skillet and add the water, a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Adjust the heat to medium-high, if needed, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches the consistency of very thick porridge and begins to pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan. A thin, dry crust will form on the bottom of the pan.
4. Add the pistachios and stir well to distribute them evenly throughout the mixture. Spoon the paté mixture into the prepared loaf pan or ring mold, pressing firmly to eliminate any air spaces. Set aside for about 30 minutes to cool the paté. Fold the excess plastic wrap over the paté, covering it completely, and chill for at least 4 to 12 hours to firm.
5. Uncover the paté and unmold it onto an attractive serving platter. Garnish the top with quartered cucumber slices and surround the paté with the tomato halves topped with cucumber slices. Tuck a few springs of herbs around the base of the paté and cut it into serving slices or wedges.

Note:
Garbanzo bean flour, also called chickpea flour, can be found in Middle Eastern or Indian markets. Because this special dish needs to be refrigerated for a minimum of 4 hours to cool and firm, begin preparation several hours ahead or the day before.

Variation: Other bean flours, such as lentils or green split peas, can be substituted for the chickpea flour. To create your own bean flour, measure 2 cups of dried green or brown lentils or green split peas and grind them into flour in a small electric mini chopper-grinder or coffee grinder. This quantity will equal the chickpea flour measurement. You will also need to increase the water measurement by approximately 2 tablespoons.

TOFU SOUR CREAM

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 12.3-ounce box extra firm silken tofu
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Use immediately or chill for an hour or two before serving. Refrigerated, Tofu Sour Cream keeps for 1 week.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Bean Recipes, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, pistachios | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

WALNUTS IN A TIE WITH FISH: OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS THE PRIZE

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on April 5, 2009

Reap the immune-boosting Omega 3 benefits of walnuts while enjoying a breakfast of irresistibly delicious muffins.

In an article titled “Dietary Alpha-Linolenic Acid Reduces Inflammatory and Lipid Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Hypercholesterolemic Men and Women” published in the November 2004 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, Penny Kris-Etherton, researcher and professor of nutrition at Penn State University, says, “The important new finding with our research is that a diet high in walnuts beneficially affects multiple risk factors for coronary heart disease, which can have a greater impact on decreasing cardiovascular risk than just targeting single risk factors.”

While many people think of fish as the only source of Omega 3 fatty acids, Dr. Kris-Etherton says, “The omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts were converted to the same omega 3 fatty acids found in marine sources, and had a similar effect on inflammation. Reducing inflammation can help decrease the process of arteriosclerosis—the development and build-up of plaque in the arteries.”

Dr. Kris-Etherton stresses that walnuts are an excellent source of not one, but two essential unsaturated fatty acids, alpha linolenic acid and linoleic acid. Walnuts are also an excellent source of fiber, protein, B vitamins, vitamin E, and minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and selenium. Maple Dream Muffins is another delicious recipe from my book The Nut Gourmet.

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A FAMILY FAVORITE, these moist, spicy, and nutty muffins are an excellent choice to serve for brunch or breakfast on the run. They’re so fully flavored they need no jam or other topping. If this recipe makes too many muffins for your needs, simply tuck a few into the freezer for a future occasion. Accompany the muffins with plenty of fresh fruit in season and complete the morning meal with a steaming cup of herbal tea.
mapledream
MAPLE DREAM MUFFINS

Yield: 18 muffins

Prune Puree
1 cup pitted prunes
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

Batter
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1 1/3 cups maple syrup
1 cup vanilla flavored soymilk
1 teaspoon maple extract

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup chopped dates

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 18 standard-size muffin cups with paper baking cups.
2. Combine the prunes and water in the blender and process until smooth. Measure 1/2 cup of the prune puree for the recipe and set it aside. Refrigerate or freeze the remaining prune puree for a future recipe.
3. Toast the walnuts in a 10-inch non-stick skillet for 1 to 2 minutes over high heat, tossing continuously with a wooden spoon until lightly browned. Immediately transfer the walnuts to a dish to cool and set them aside. Alternatively, place the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Combine the reserved prune puree, maple syrup, soymilk, and maple extract in a small bowl.
5. Combine the rolled oats, whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl, and stir with a wire whip to distribute evenly. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the maple syrup mixture. Add the dates and 1 1/4 cups of the walnuts and mix well.
6. Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full with batter and top with the remaining walnuts. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out dry. Serve warm or at room temperature.
nutgourmetcover
Storage: Covered with plastic wrap or packed into zipper-lock plastic bags and stored in the refrigerator, leftover Maple Dream Muffins will keep for one week. To serve, warm them in a preheated 350-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes. For longer storage, pack the muffins into heavy-duty zipper-lock plastic bags and freeze them for up to three months.

Notes: If you prefer, 1/2 cup jarred prune puree may be used in place of the pitted prunes and water.

If you do not have whole wheat pastry flour on hand, use an equal amount of all-purpose whole wheat flour. This will produce a slight heavier muffin, but the flavor will still be deliciously satisfying.

Baking Hint: To prevent nuts from sinking to the bottom of the muffins or cakes, toss the nuts with the flour so they are lightly coated before adding them to the batter.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health, walnuts | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

MACADAMIA NUTS ON TRIAL

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on March 6, 2009

Macadamia nuts are frequently treated as outcasts, shunned because they’re charged with being TOO HIGH IN FAT. Even the FDA refused to include them on the list of nuts they considered acceptable for health claims. Do macadamias need to prove their innocent goodness with a trial?

Fear and uncertainty have caused people to hesitate before reaching for a handful of delicious, creamy macadamia nuts. But should we really hesitate to put trust in one of nature’s wondrous foods? Convincing scientific trials claim multiple health benefits from munching on a handful of macadamias a day. No trial is actually needed, but a nod from scientific studies can often clear up confusing information and reassure us about a food’s health benefits.

Several studies since 2000 have proven that macadamia nuts CAN be included in a heart healthy diet. Macadamia, like all plant foods, have no cholesterol, but they do contain 75% total fat, 80% of which is monounsaturated. This high level of fat would naturally be a concern to anyone trying to avoid excess fat in his or her diet. But these nuts possess amazing properties that actually lower cholesterol in spite of their high fat levels.
macadamia
Their high fat level also scares people who want to watch their weight or have a few pounds to lose. Several study authors expressed the same concern but found their study subjects actually lost a few pounds or stabilized their weight in macadamia trials.

Macadamias Lower Cholesterol

In a study in the April 14, 2008 issue of Science Daily, lead researcher Dr. Amy E. Griel of Penn State conducted a five-week cholesterol-lowering trial on male and female subjects with mildly elevated cholesterol by comparing the standard American diet with a diet substituting 1.5 ounces of macadamias for some of the fat and protein. Researchers matched the diets for fat content and reported the macadamia diet significantly lowered total cholesterol by 9.4 percent and LDL cholesterol by 8.9 percent compared with the standard American diet. The results were defining and the researchers stated that including macadamias in the diet lowered overall cardiovascular disease risk.

Because macadamia orchards are cultivated in diverse locations, the macadamia nut became a natural study subject in those regions. The University of Hawaii conducted a macadamia study in 2001 and reported similar success showing their participants consuming the macadamias decreased their total and LDL cholesterol when compared with those in the control group who followed the American Heart Association Step 1 Diet.

Macadamia nuts were the subject of a recent study conducted at the University of Newcastle in Australia and reported in the journal Lipids in 2007. The four-week study of 17 male participants with elevated cholesterol included 40 to 90 grams a day of macadamias. Researchers were looking specifically at blood markers for inflammation, coagulation, and arterial oxidation. The study authors found significantly lower blood markers of inflammation and oxidation. At the conclusion, the researchers suggested that regular consumption of macadamia nuts may play a role in reducing the biomarkers of oxidative stress, thrombosis, and inflammation, the typical risk factors for coronary artery disease.

Reduce Coronary Artery Risk

While the macadamia’s rich fats proved successful in reducing coronary artery risk, researchers felt there may be other bioactive factors aside from the monounsaturated fatty acids that were imparting impressive health benefits. Examining more closely, they found the monounsaturated fats contain oleic acid, known as Omega 9, a beneficial fat found in other foods like avocados, almonds, and olive oil. Oleic acid is a naturally heart protective fat that helps to maintain the function and flexibility of the cell structure.
macadamia2
Findings at a 2002 macadamia conference in Australia show that the nuts contain plant sterols, which are natural plant fats found in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds and play a role in lowering elevated blood cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Macadamias also contain palmitoleic acid, which makes up almost one-third of the content of monounsaturated fat. According to cardiologist Dr. Ross Walker at Walker Health Resources in Australia, “The palmitoleic acid in macadamias works to stabilize, the rhythm in the heart. Omega 3 fatty acids and the palmitoleic acid in macadamias settles the heart down.” He also believes that if you are prone to heart disease or to irregular heartbeats, you would benefit from a daily dose of 10 to 15 macadamias and reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death.

Health Claims for Nuts

In July 2003, the FDA issued the following health claim statement: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts (such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, peanuts, some pine nuts, and walnuts) as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

The FDA’s list of approved nuts for this health claim does not presently include macadamias because they exceed the limit of 4 grams of saturated fat per 50 grams of nuts. Macadamias contain 6 grams of saturated fat for the 50 grams, but researchers studying macadamias suggested they should be included considering their significant health benefits.

Over the years several studies agree that macadamia nuts are effective in the prevention of coronary artery disease and stressed they should be included in the daily diet by substituting them for other saturated-fat-containing foods. Aside from their multiple heart-health advantages, macadamias are just plain good eating and are an excellent source of high protein, high fiber, and healthful plant fats that make them a nutritious food. Enjoy macadamia nuts and reap the benefits.

Posted in Antioxidants in Nuts, Macadamias, Nut Nutrition, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE WONDERS OF HAZELNUTS

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on February 5, 2009

Because I know how beneficial hazelnuts are to our health, I wanted to incorporate them into a recipe that also has other nutritious ingredients that are low in fat. So here’s a tasty recipe that allows the hazelnuts’ healthful monounsaturated fats to help bring down high cholesterol.

In an 8-week cholesterol-lowering study published in the September 13, 2006 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the participants began with a 4-week control diet. Then they were placed on a diet enriched with 1 1/2 ounces of hazelnuts a day and were successful in decreasing their total cholesterol by 5.2 % in the remaining four weeks of the study.
hazelnut
Hazelnuts are high in copper, the mineral that plays an important role in forming collagen crucial for bone formation. Collagen is also the connective tissue of our skin and helps to maintain our appearance. Copper also helps sustain elasticity of the blood vessels that, in turn, aids in stabilizing our blood pressure.

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Deliciously caramelized onions possess an alluring natural sweetness that’s hard to resist. This unique recipe makes a richly flavored spread to enjoy on toast or bagels for breakfast, or an appetizer spread for toasted pita wedges or crackers. Nice thing is you don’t have to spend oodles of time in the kitchen to make this tasty spread. It’s one of those simple preps you easily can start, stop, and assemble when it’s convenient.

ROASTED ONION AND HAZELNUT BUTTER

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

2 medium onions, sliced 3/8-inch thick
1 medium carrot, sliced thin

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw hazelnuts

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne (optional)

Garnish
Dash paprika
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs like parsley, chives, or mint

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and have ready a lightly oiled baking sheet.
2. Place the onion and carrot slices on the baking sheet and roast them for 20 minutes.
3. While the onions are roasting, grind the hazelnuts to a fine powdery meal in batches in the food processor, a small electric coffee grinder, or mini chopper and set them aside.
4. Remove the onions from the oven and sprinkle the balsamic vinegar over them. Toss them well with a spatula and roast them for 10 minutes longer.
5. Transfer the roasted onions to the food processor and add the hazelnuts, chives, salt, and cayenne, if using, and process until the mixture is almost pureed. Tiny visible bits of carrots and chives give the spread an appealing appearance.
6. Spoon into an attractive serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika and a pinch of fresh herbs.

Suggestion: Another way to enjoy this extraordinary buttery spread is to turn it into an open-faced cheese melt. Spread a generous portion of the “butter” on slices of whole-grain bread. Top with sliced tomatoes and arrange slices of vegan cheese over the top.

Place the open-faced sandwiches on a baking sheet and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts. Cut into quarters and serve as finger food, or serve with a knife and fork and enjoy for breakfast or lunch.

Posted in hazelnuts, Minerals in Nuts, Nut Nutrition, Nut Recipes, Nut Studies, Nuts and Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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