Often a subject of bad press because of their high fat content, nuts offer so much more including vitamins, protein, and minerals. A handful of nuts every day will fill you up, help maintain energy and provide your body with enough nutrients to put many “superfoods” to shame. So which are the main health benefits of nuts?
Weight-conscious runners often avoid consuming nuts due to their high levels of calories and fat. But keep in mind that runners have to consume fat to help fuel the muscles, transport proteins and vitamins around the body and to absorb “fat-soluble” vitamins A, D, E and K.
In reality, a runner’s diet should include about 25-30% fats, and nutrition experts recommend that no more than 11% of this should be saturated fats. Fortunately, nuts are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, especially omega 3s, which can reduce inflammation as well as lower cholesterol. Nuts also contain protein, vitamin E, essential minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium, and dietary fibre. And these are the most important elements for efficient post-run recovery.
Choose quality over quantity
Let’s face it, nuts can be highly addictive! A small handful of nuts daily is recommended. Take fistfuls, however, and you’ll quickly overdose on calories and fat. And don’t forget, nuts are healthy when eaten raw or dry-roasted; that pack of nuts with your pint in the pub will probably be high in salt and cooked in unhealthy fats at high temperatures, which destroys the nutrients.
Six ways of using nuts
- Post-run meal: An almond, peanut, or cashew butter sandwich makes a nutrient-rich combo of carbs and protein loaded with electrolytes to replace those lost through sweat.
- Gluten-free alternative: Replace wheat flour with ground walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds when making cakes and crumble mixes. This is beneficial for the heart and great for reducing muscle soreness and inflammation.
- Saucy nut: Mix crushed peanuts into soups and stews as it’s common in oriental and African cuisine to boost nutrients and enrich the sauce.
- Nut roast: Roast pistachios for 5 minutes in the oven at 160°C, allow to cool and store in a screw-top jar to sprinkle on couscous, salads, porridge or use in granola. They taste delicious, are lower in fat than other nuts and are rich in potassium which may help prevent cramping.
- Dressings: Use almond, hazelnut, or walnut oil in salad dressings or drizzle over vegetables.
- Smoothies: Enrich your favorite smoothie with a handful of almonds for a delicious boost of vitamin E, magnesium and calcium.