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Nuts, seeds and kernels

Although the little powerhouses contain plenty of calories and fat, they don’t make you gain weight. They may even help you lose weight. This is because nuts, seeds and kernels provide lots of valuable nutrients.
Nuts
A look at the calorie content may put some people off: nuts provide between 600 and 700 calories per 100 grams. But unlike many other high-calorie foods, such as sweets or crisps, nuts provide many valuable nutrients. These include dietary fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
The high levels of fats are also the good kind: nuts contain essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce by itself. Depending on the variety, nuts provide relevant amounts of iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium, as well as B vitamins, vitamin E or folate. Many people in Switzerland are deficient in the latter.
Because they contain many valuable nutrients, it is recommended that we eat a handful of unsalted nuts, seeds or kernels every day. Depending on the variety, nuts contain different amounts of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and dietary fibre. Therefore, it is worth alternating between the different varieties. Unblanched almonds, for example, contain about four times more dietary fibre than cashews. While hazelnuts mainly provide monounsaturated fatty acids, walnuts contain a high proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Good for the heart?

Scientific studies show that nuts can have a beneficial effect on blood lipid levels and the cardiovascular system. Some studies showed that regular nut consumption could reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
In addition to the beneficial fatty acids, other ingredients such as secondary plant constituents may also have a positive effect on health. These include polyphenols, which are antioxidants and thus so-called radical scavengers. They help to reduce oxidative stress.

Does regular nut consumption lead to weight gain?

In scientific studies, regular nut consumption did not lead to weight gain. Some studies even showed weight loss. There are different explanations for this:
  • Nuts prolong the feeling of satiety because they are high in dietary fibre and fat, which slows down gastric emptying.
  • The dietary fibre in nuts binds fatty acids in the intestine. This means that fewer calories are consumed. Studies have shown that different types of nuts increase energy loss through the stool by 5 to 20 per cent.

Do seeds and kernels provide the same health benefits as nuts?

Various seeds - sesame, linseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, chia in shells on a grey background.
Yes, seeds and kernels also provide plenty of valuable ingredients. Seeds such as linseed, chia and hemp seeds even surpass nuts with their high levels of dietary fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, folate, zinc and magnesium.

Is coconut comparable to other nuts from a health perspective?

Coconut
Unlike other nuts, coconut contains few ingredients which are beneficial for our health. It contains a high proportion of saturated fatty acids, consumption of which should be reduced from a health perspective. Coconut does not contain notable amounts of vitamins or minerals.

Tips for eating more nuts, seeds and kernels daily:

  • Supplement your muesli with nuts, seeds and kernels.
  • Enjoy a handful of unsalted nuts as a snack.
  • Spice up salads with a mix of seeds and kernels.
  • Refine soups with roasted pumpkin or pine nuts.
  • Add one to two tablespoons of nut puree to homemade smoothies.
  • Knead nuts, seeds and kernels into bread dough.

Susanne Stephan

Author:

Susanne Stephan
BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics