Sickle cell and nuts – Healthwise

Tola Dehinde

Anyone living with Sickle Cell needs to be mindful about what they eat, as a healthy diet will help fight infection. Today, I want to talk about the benefits of eating nuts. Be aware though that people do suffer from nuts allergy, as I do and, therefore, cannot eat all nuts.

Nuts (tree nuts and peanuts) are nutrient-dense foods with complex matrices rich in unsaturated fatty and other bioactive compounds. By virtue of their unique composition, nuts are likely to beneficially impact health outcomes.

Nuts are seed kernels that are widely used in cooking or eaten on their own as a snack. They’re high in fat and calories. They contain a hard, inedible outer shell that usually needs to be cracked open to release the kernel inside. All nuts have different nutrition credentials and will offer various health benefits. Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein, healthy fats, fibres, vitamins, and minerals. Nuts and seeds regulate body weight as their fats are not fully absorbed, they regulate food intake and help burn energy.

They are rich in protective antioxidants; they are a good source of fibre; they are high in fat; they support heart health; they may reduce inflammation. Tree nuts are nutrient-dense, edible seed kernels encased in a hard shell – the most popular being almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachios as well as cashews, pine nuts, pecans, macadamias, and Brazil nuts.

Although chestnuts (Castanea sativa) are tree nuts, they are different from all other common nuts because they are starchier and have a different nutrient profile. Often thought of as a ‘nut,’ peanuts are technically legumes just like peas and beans.

Packed with protein, fibre and essential fats, a golf ball-sized portion (about 30g) of unsalted nuts makes a vitality-boosting snack and, unlike most other options, contributes a mix of valuable vitamins and minerals. Let’s look at some nuts in detail below:

PEANUTS/GROUNDNUTS: They are rich in vitamins and minerals and contain 13 different types of vitamins; they include vitamins A, B, C and E. They are also rich in 26 essential minerals, including calcium, iron, zinc, etc… All these help to strengthen the bones and purify the blood. They are known to combat depression and help blood-related problems in women. Lastly, they have a high concentration of antioxidants.

ALMONDS: If you avoid dairy, calcium-rich almonds are a good choice to ensure you’re getting enough of this bone-building mineral. Almonds are also high in vitamin E, a nutrient that helps to improve the condition and appearance of your skin. For some extra heart help, swap flaked almonds for the whole nut – with the skin intact – because the almond’s skin is full of heart-protecting compounds called flavonoids.

BRAZIL NUTS: Brazil nuts are a good source of the mineral selenium, which we need to produce the active thyroid hormone. Selenium also supports immunity and helps wounds to heal. You only need three or four Brazil nuts a day to get all the selenium you require.

CASHEW NUTS: Because they contribute a good level of protein and are a useful source of minerals like iron and zinc, cashews make an excellent choice if you’re following a vegetarian diet. They’re also rich in the mineral magnesium, which is thought to improve recall and delay age-related memory loss. Add a handful to a vegetarian stir-fry or use it as nut butter on crackers or bread.

CHESTNUTS: By far the nut with the lowest fat and calories, chestnuts are rich in starchy carbs and fibre, and in their raw form are a good source of vitamin C. They’re lower in protein than other nuts but make a useful contribution of B vitamins including B6. Ground chestnut flour can be used as gluten-free flour for cakes and bakes or buy fresh and roasted for a tasty snack.

MACADAMIAS: Although high in fat, they do supply good levels of the healthy mono-unsaturated variety. They’re a rich source of fibre and make a useful contribution of minerals, including magnesium, calcium, and potassium.

PECANS: Heart-friendly pecans are packed with plant sterols, valuable compounds that are effective at lowering cholesterol levels. Pecans are also antioxidant-rich, which helps prevent the plaque formation that causes the hardening of the arteries. They’re rich in oleic acid, the healthy fat found in olives and avocado. As a good source of vitamin B3, pecans are the perfect option if you’re fighting fatigue because this vitamin helps us access the energy in our food.

PISTACHIOS: Being especially rich in vitamin B6, which is important for keeping hormones balanced and healthy, pistachios are a good option for those with problem periods. They’re the only nut to contain reasonable levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that play an important role in protecting the eyes. Pistachios also contain potassium and fibre – in fact, a 30g serving has more than three times that supplied by the equivalent weight of plums.

WALNUTS: Their superior antioxidant content means walnuts are useful in the fight against cancer. They’re also a good source of monounsaturated, heart-friendly fats, and studies show they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol (LDL). Finally, they’re rich in omega 3, so they’re a great alternative if you don’t eat oily fish.

On the whole, nuts are consumed as snacks, desserts, or part of a meal, and are eaten whole (fresh or roasted), in spreads (peanut butter, almond paste), as oils or hidden in commercial products, mixed dishes, sauces, pastries, ice creams and baked goods. Nuts are also rich sources of other bioactive macronutrients that have the potential to beneficially affect metabolic and cardiovascular outcomes. They are an excellent source of protein (approximately 25 per cent of energy) and often have a high content of L-arginine.

Sources: BBC/NCBI and Healthline.

If you would like to get in touch with me about this article or about Sickle cell, do so, via email: [email protected] and do visit my blog: www.howtolivewithsicklecell.co.uk. The e-copy of my book on Sickle Cell – HOW TO LIVE WITH SICKLE CELL is available for purchase on www.toladehinde.com and if you want to purchase a paperback version, it is available on Amazon.

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