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May 6, 2014

Value of nuts and seed

by Helene van den Berg

A nut is defined as a hard walled, edible kernel.

The macronutrient and dietary fiber content of a dried ounce of nuts are: protein content of nuts ranges from 10% in walnuts to 17% in almonds; dietary fiber ranges from 5% in macadamias to 10 – 14% in almonds and pistachios. The fat content ranges from 35% in coconuts to 70% in macadamia nuts. Most nuts contain the essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acids and are rich sources of monounsaturated fatty acids, with the exception of coconuts (saturated fats) and walnuts (polyunsaturated fats).

Nuts also supply important micronutrients: vitamin E (tree nuts- almonds, hazelnuts) and provide niacin, B6, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper and potassium. Phytochemicals (antioxidants such as phenolic compounds) add to the protective properties of nuts. It also have a very low glycemic index – therefore they are prescribed for diabetes mellitus type 2 patients, who suffer from insulin resistance.

The nutritional value of some nuts and seeds:

• ALMONDS is the best nut – it has a high mineral content and is alkine in the body.

• WALNUTS – are a good source of protein and iron, especially black walnuts (contain 40% more protein than California walnuts. Walnut extract is helpful in the elimination of parasites and heart disease (alpha linoleum acid).

• BRAZIL NUTS – they offer high amounts of the sulphur containing amino acids.

• MACADAMIA NUTS – high in calories and unsaturated fats.

• SESAME SEEDS – the unhulled variety is nutritionally superior, since most of the mineral content is found in the hull. It is an excellent source of protein, unsaturated fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, niacin, vitamins A and E. The protein of sesame seeds compliments the protein of legumes, because both contain high amounts of each other’s deficient amino acids. Tahini paste (ground sesame seeds) are high in calcium.

• SUNFLOWER SEEDS – these sun-energized seeds are rich in protein (30%), unsaturated fatty acids and high mineral content (phosphorus, calcium, iron, fluorine, iodine, potassium, magnesium, zinc), vitamins B,E and vitamin D (flowers tendency to face and follow the sun).

• ALFAFA has a high mineral value, containing phosphorus, chlorine, silicon, aluminium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur , sodium and potassium; it is also rich in Vitamin C and chlorophyll.


Clinical studies have shown there was a 48% risk reduction of coronary heart disease (CHD) in those who ate a handful of nuts ( specifically almond and walnuts) ˃5 times a week and a 26% reduction in risk in those who ate nuts 1–4 times a week, compared to those who had consumed nuts less frequently.

In another study 100g/day of raw almonds were fed to 30 adult males and females (randomly selected) over four weeks as the primary source of dietary fat. The total cholesterol (TC) was reduced by 15% and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) by 17%, with not lowering the high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). The control group which had been fed similar amounts of fat from cheese, showed no changes in TC or LDL-C. There was also no significant changes in body weight. This group also observed no increase in cancer risk and a decreased risk in mortality among those who ate nuts frequently. Therefore nuts exert beneficial and protective effects on chronic diseases, such as CHD and cancer.


Nuts and seeds are an ideal food for the vegetarian diet. They have a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates and fiber that complements whole grains and beans as staple foods. Many nut proteins also have an arginine-rich amino acid profile and copper content, that is cardio-protective. Nuts contain alpha, gamma and other tocopherols (vitamin E) , plus many other phenolic compounds that act as natural antioxidants. These protect the fats in the nut itself and contribute to antioxidant activity in the human body. In turn, this may help protect plasma cholesterol from oxidation and help lower heart disease risk.

Nuts help to replace animal proteins with plant proteins and contribute to dietary fiber needs. Ideal combinations are with fresh or dried fruits (sun-dried raisins), with cereals etc. These favorable attributes of nuts are incentives for vegetarians to include nuts in their diets on a regular basis. For people shifting from an animal-based diet to a plant-based diet, nuts and seeds play a key role in providing the necessary, healthy fats. The fat from nuts may also add to the satiety value of the diet- a few almonds in the mid-afternoon would suppress feelings of hunger and help to prevent the tendency to overeat in the evening meal.

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