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Sometimes you feel like a nut! - (9/25/2018)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Guy was in the pharmacy waiting for his cholesterol medication to be refilled. “What are you eating?” asked the pharmacist. “Peanuts,” replied Guy. “I’ve eaten bags of them since I quit smoking. They say nuts are very healthy.” Nuts are healthy, said the pharmacist. Except that peanuts are not technically nuts. They are legumes and are related to beans and peas. But that is not the real issue. They are only to be eaten in moderation, not in huge quantities. Why? They are high in saturated fats, calories, and sodium. They are susceptible to salmonella contamination. They contain lectins, which are proteins that bind with sugar in the blood and cause inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Because they grow underground, peanuts are prone to a mold that produces aflatoxin, a carcinogen that increases the risk of liver cancer and reduces the growth rate in children. Because of the mold, many peanut farmers use heavy doses of pesticides, which you do not want in your kid’s lunch box. 

“Do you want to hear about some nuts that are more nutritious?” the pharmacist asked Guy. Walnuts contain all the typical components of most nuts like protein, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain ellagic acid, a cancer-fighting substance that, according to a 2010 study, has a beneficial influence on prostate cancer. In 2016, the FDA allowed foods containing walnuts to state: research shows that eating a handful of walnuts a day may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. So, enjoy your Aunt Velma’s black walnut cake. Whipped cream at your own peril! 

Almonds have flavor, fiber, and fat-reducing properties. Things that Guy might like. A 2016 study revealed that moderate almond consumption by overweight and obese individuals resulted in a loss of body fat and lower blood pressure than those who were on a nut-free diet. Almonds also help with combating high cholesterol and the development of heart disease. A diet that includes macadamia nuts can reduce LDL cholesterol, which lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. A 2008 study compared two groups of people with one group getting its fat primarily from macadamia nuts and the other group getting its fat from other sources. The study found that after 5 weeks the macadamia nut group decreased its LDL cholesterol levels more significantly than the other group. 

Pecans are loaded with antioxidants. Hazelnuts have high amounts of vitamins E and B. Brazil nuts are replete with healthy doses of zinc, copper, iron, magnesium, and selenium. Cashews are crammed with phosphorus required for proper cell functioning, regulation of calcium, strong bones and teeth, and for making ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule which provides energy to our cells. Pine nuts (think pesto) can help with weight loss because they trigger hormones that suppress the appetite. The health benefits of pistachios include weight loss, protection against diabetes and hypertension, and improved digestion. 
 
A 2018 study involving persons at high risk for heart disease demonstrated that the incidence of major cardiovascular events was lower among those assigned to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts than among those assigned to a reduced-fat diet. A 2013 study suggested that a nut-rich diet may even extend life. This study, which involved healthcare professionals, showed that the more times per week nuts were eaten, the lower the chances of death from cancer and from heart and lung disease. Happy birthday, Sweet 116!

The pharmacist asked Guy, “Are you going to keep eating all those peanuts?” “Are you nuts?”, he replied as he tossed his bag to the pharmacist and headed out to get a supply of healthier nuts. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.com. Read more at www.rx-press.com 

 


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