seeds and nuts

Healthy Nuts for an Athlete’s Diet

Healthy nuts are a great way for athletes to get quality nutrients like protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.  They are easy to carry as a quick snack and an easy way to add much needed calories and protein to a meal.

healthy nutsBesides having a lot of good nutrients, healthy nuts are also high in fats which gives them a lot of calories. Eating more than a handful at a time can spell disaster for your diet. Nuts are healthy but some do have draw-backs as well. Here are some of the pros and cons of different types of nuts.

All nuts are nearly equal in calories per gram. They have a healthy mix of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and protein which helps you feel full and eating less. For example, all of the following have 160 – 170 calories in one ounce of nuts:

– almonds: 23 nuts,  6 g protein, 14 g fat

– cashews: 18 nuts, 5 g protein, 13 g fat

– peanuts: 28 unshelled nuts, 7 g protein, 14 g fat

– pistachios: 49 nuts, 6 g protein, 13 g fat

The following nuts have 190-200 calories:

– Brazil nuts: 6 nuts, 4 g protein, 19 g fat

– Macadamia nuts: 11 nuts, 2 g protein, 22 g fat

– pecans: 19 halves, 3 g protein, 20 g fat

– walnuts: 14 halves, 4 g protein, 18 g fat

healthy nutsThe difference in calories between all of the nuts is not large enough to make a noticeable difference to your diet because you are not eating large amounts every day.

The important thing to remember is that healthy nuts are treated in different ways. The best are raw or dry roasted nuts.  Some nuts have added oil when roasted or have been coated with sugar or honey.

All nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids which are very useful for contact sports. Research has shown a possible connection between omega-3 and the positive effects it has in treating and preventing concussions. The best healthy nuts source is walnuts which have high amounts ALA. Your body breaks down ALA into EPA (reduces inflammation)  and DHA (helps cells in the brain). It is recommended that your diet includes eight walnuts a day.

Other Healthy Nuts Nutrients

Besides protein and omega-3, what else can your body acquire from healthy nuts?

fats– peanuts: contain folate, a mineral used for development of the brain and protecting against the break down of cognitive ability. Folate is also critical for protecting unborn babies from birth defects. Peanuts, as well as many other healthy nuts, contain vitamin E.

– Brazil nuts: contain selenium, an element that might help protect against prostate cancer. One nut has more than the daily recommended dose. Eating too many may be an issue as research indicated that too much selenium may put you at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

– pecans: contain a plant steroid beta-sitosterol which may help treat an enlarged prostate.

– almonds: contain loads of calcium, fiber and vitamin E, that can help fight inflammation, lung cancer and cognitive decline with increased age.

Nuts help to slow down the breakdown and digestion of sugar so are great to eat with fruit or juice. Eat them on salads, oatmeal for breakfast, yogurt and as nut butter on fruit or toast.

Healthy nuts are a very good snack for athletes and can be eaten as mixed nuts for the best variety of nutrients and health benefits you can gain.

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