Veganuary 2021 recently finished and had a record 582,538 people sign up to take part. This is fantastic news! Whether you signed-up or not, completed the challenge or not, considered taking part, or not, it is hard to ignore the mounting list of proven benefits in moving to a plant-based diet, from helping the planet, to helping your heart.
A recent article in The Guardian outlined the urgency in cutting out, or at least drastically reducing, the consumption of meat and dairy products in order to save the world´s wildlife and it has been widely publicised that a vegan diet is one of the most effective things you, as an individual, can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
But we will come back to that topic another day. For now, we want to talk about our health, and as you may have guessed, it has a nutty focus!
If you are thinking about moving to a plant-based diet, whilst there are a huge range of very realistic ´fake meat´ products to calm those cravings (The Grocer offers a comprehensive guide to the best substitute products and producers out there). What is best for people (and planet) is choosing and using unprocessed, ethically-sourced plant-based ingredients. We at Liberation are obviously big advocates of the nut genre and luckily for us, this category of food is not only diverse, delicious and versatile but also has a huge range of health benefits too!
Here are just a handful of them and why they are SO good for us.
They may not be the first to spring to mind as particularly healthy, (even less so when washed down with a nice pint) but despite being high in calories, peanuts, in their original form, are nutrient-rich and low in carbohydrates.
Here are just a few of the health benefits:
- An excellent source of protein, essential for building and repairing cells.
- Are full of healthy fats which can help prevent heart disease and strokes.
- Are a good source of fibre. Fibre rich foods can improve blood cholesterol and lower the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
- Also, an excellent source of vitamins, including E, Magnesium and Folic acid.
- Studies have shown that they do not contribute to weight gain and can even help with weight loss if used in the correct way.
- Being low in carbohydrates means they have a low glycemic index and enter the bloody stream slowly, preventing spikes in blood sugar levels and a more sustained energy release.
The Brazil nut or ´Amazon nut´, as referred to by members of the Bolivian gatherer cooperatives Liberation works with, are almost solely grown naturally, and therefore organically (though not always officially certified as such), in the Amazon rainforest. Heavy pods fall from these giant trees and, once broken into, are stuffed with dense, creamy kernels that are full of nutritional value.
- They are rich in selenium, an element essential for healthy body functions, most significantly thyroid, cell growth and immune system.
- Tests have suggested that having higher levels of selenium in your body also helps outcomes for cancer, infections, infertility, pregnancy, heart disease, and mood disorders. And apparently only 2 brazil nuts a day will give you the same quantity as a supplement!
- They are also high in monounsaturated fats (good fats!) which improve your cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.
- The antioxidant properties of these nuts can reduce inflammation in the body, which has associations with many chronic diseases including kidney-related diseases.
Cashews, which grow on the outside of the cashew apple, are creamy and delicious, whether eaten roasted, raw or added into a wide variety of dishes. So it is great to know that they are also packed with nutrients and beneficial plant compounds. Cashews are:
- High in copper, needed for energy production, brain development and can help prevent the growth of cancerous tumors. On top of that, copper creates natural collagen to help with bone development.
- Full of antioxidants which help keep skin healthy and glowing as well as maintain elasticity.
- Rich in unsaturated fatty acids (called polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats), linked to lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular diseases.
- High in lutein, another type of antioxidant that prevents damage to the eyes.
- A recent study including over 80,000 women also discovered a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones if cashews were included in the diet.
(Before we continue we should probably admit that technically none of the above are ´nuts´. Cashews and Brazil nuts are considered to be seeds whilst peanuts are actually a legume, closely associated with lentils, beans and soy…but let´s not worry too much about labelling!)
Creamy cashews are high in copper, lutein and antioxidants.
The Macadamia nut IS a nut though. It originated in Australia and is synonymous with luxury due to the fact that it is the most expensive nut in the world. The cost is so high mainly due to the slow harvesting process and the fact that only two types of the macadamia tree produce edible fruits. However, the rich, buttery nuts are stuffed with oily goodness and fats that are truly beneficial to your health, inside and out.
- One of the richest sources of omega 7, which help with hair, nail and skin health by preventing oxidative damage.
- Particularly helpful for those suffering from type 2 diabetes as the monounsaturated fatty acids can reduce metabolic risks and improve glycemic control.
- 100% cholesterol free and are very helpful in reducing cholesterol levels.
- They have something called tocotrienols which is a form of Vitamin E. Not only does it have cancer fighting abilities and can help protect brain cells from developing Parkinsons and Alzheimers.
- Full of proteins and fibres which help stave off hunger, prevent spikes in blood sugar and are generally helpful in reducing craving, so whilst they have a high fat content they can help with weight reduction.
We could continue but the list of nuts (seeds and legumes) and their benefits is pretty long…and we think you get the gist!
Choosing nuts that are unprocessed with nothing added have the most health benefits (as with all foods!), and choosing those with a fairtrade label means that you are not only being good to yourself but also good to other people.
And just so you know, Liberation provides all the Fairtrade, organic cashew and brazil nuts to Tesco and the Fairtrade brazil and cashew nuts to Sainsburys as well as our just slightly less unprocessed, but incredibly delicious own range of snacks to Waitrose.
Finally, to get you started or to offer a little bit of cooking inspiration, here are a few nut recipe ideas from One Green Planet that are so luxurious you won´t even notice they´re vegan!
So make sure you take advantage of these incredible natural benefits and explore the extensive, wonderful world of nuts!