There are a lot of elements to a healthy diet and lifestyle, especially when that lifestyle needs to be tailored around strict and intensive strength training. Building muscle and keeping fit is about more than just lifting weights and chugging the odd protein shake.
Of course, there are all sorts of guides explaining that people need leafy greens and lean proteins to be on top of their game, but how often do people take the time to look at individual foods and ingredients to see the effect they have on the body? Not as often as they should.
This article though looks a little closer at one ingredient in particular. A protein, fat and nutrient packed food that is small but mighty and incredibly beneficial to your health and to your training.
And what is this wonder food?
The Nut. The humble, tasty and healthy nut.
So without further ado, let’s talk about nuts!
What are nuts?
Speaking in culinary rather than botanical terms, a nut is technically classed as a fruit; a fruit composed of a (usually) edible seed and a hard shell. Interestingly, many nuts – like almonds, pecans, pistachios, walnuts and Brazil nuts – are not botanical nuts, but have been grouped as such for food purposes.
Nuts tend to be edible, large, oily kernels found in shells and despite being a common allergen, they are important to both human and animal diets. Packed full of protein and nutrients, their high oil content makes them a great source of energy.
Versatile as well as nutritious, nuts can be consumed in a number of ways: raw, cooked, roasted, pressed (for oil) to be used in cookery, snacks and even cosmetic products.
Why are nuts good for a healthy lifestyle?
Nuts are superb for healthy lifestyles and for those who are weight training. The super healthy compounds they contain as well as their muscle and health friendly properties make them somewhat of a body building superfood.
The reason nuts are so high in nutrients because they were once a plant’s main energy source. This is why they are packed with (good) fat, vitamins and essential amino acids and being so nutrient dense, nuts are also very filling.
There have been all sorts of studies into the impact eating nuts can have on your health and the results are generally positive, concluding that as long as nuts are not consumed in ridiculous amounts (even too much good fat can be bad for you), they are an excellent, healthy food.
Some reports also state that nuts can help to counteract coronary heart disease and cholesterol. What’s more is that nuts are also praised for having a very low glycaemic index (GI), as well as a high fat, high protein and low carbohydrate content.
Nuts are healthiest when consumed in an unprocessed, raw form because the roasting process actually loses up to 15% of the naturally occurring healthy oils and nutrients.
For some ideas about the composition of different nuts, here is the nutrition content in some popular nuts (based on 100g of raw nuts):
Name Protein Total Fat Saturated Fat Polyunsaturated Fat Monounsaturated Fat
Almonds 21.26 50.64 3.881 12.214 32.155
Walnuts 15.23 65.21 6.126 47.174 8.933
Dry Roasted Unsalted Peanuts 23.68 49.66 6.893 15.694 24.64
Pistachio 20.61 44.44 5.44 13.455 23.319
Which nuts offer what?
Almonds are calcium-rich so they offer a great way to strengthen bones without having to drown yourself in dairy. They are also high in Vitamin E which helps boost your skin’s appearance (perfect for showing off the work you’ve done at the gym). Almonds with the skins still on are excellent for heart health too.
The mineral selenium can be found in Brazil nuts which makes them a good choice for anyone with a low thyroid function. The selenium found in Brazil nuts is also good for immunity and healing. Plus, you only need three or four a day to get all the minerals your body needs for 24 hours.
As well as being packed full of minerals like iron and zinc, cashew nuts are a superb source of protein. They are even high in the mineral magnesium which is good for the brain as well as the body.
Pecans are full of healthy bits and bobs. They contain plant sterols which lower cholesterol, antioxidants which clear arteries and oleic acids which are the good fats found in avocadoes and olives. What’s more is that the Vitamin B3 content in pecans helps to fight fatigue and lets our bodies access energy in food more easily – perfect if you are training hard.
Peanuts are packed with monounsaturated fats, making them incredibly heart healthy and beneficial to your cognitive function. Though technically a legume, they are one of the most popular and versatile nuts in the human diet. They are also full of superb nutrients like Vitamin E, niacin, folate, manganese and all-important protein.
What are the best ways to get nuts?
Nuts can be consumed in a number of different ways, raw or cooked, liquid or solid. If you are looking for different ways to incorporate nuts into your daily weight-training diet, there are a few options available so you can enjoy a bit of variety.
Almond milk is a great alternative to the dairy variety. You can use it on your cereal, in your shakes and smoothies or in a glass on its own. It does not offer quite the benefits that a handful of raw almonds might, but it does offer a quick and easy way to get your nut fix and do your body good.
A handful of raw nuts has long been praised as the best way to get your nut-based nutrients. Whether you sprinkle some on a salad, chuck them in a smoothie or munch on them on the run, they will provide you with lots of good fats and protein in a completely unprocessed form.
Nut butter is a superb snack, especially if you are looking for something to munch on post-workout. Use Nuts ‘n More Almond Butter as a dip for healthy carbohydrates like chopped apple or greens like celery sticks. Filling, full of good fats and steeped in protein.
Protein Rich Super Smoothie
There are so many protein rich smoothie recipes out there, all of which will provide you with an energy boost and a tasty post-workout snack. Most of them use nut butters but some use raw nuts too.
Seed and Nut Protein Bars
With these bars you can make your own tasty post-workout snacks and make them just right for your training needs and your taste buds. There is a lot of recipe inspiration out there, much of which includes protein powder and some form of nut or nut-based ingredient.
Of course, this is just a beginners’ guide to nuts. Having read it though, you will hopefully have a better understanding of nuts as a food and as a valuable part of your healthy training diet. So stock up on the cashews and bulk buy the almond butter!
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