Walnuts are the richest known food source of melatonin, a hormone with powerful antioxidant properties to fight disease.
Many people avoid nuts because of the high fat and calorie content. While nuts are high in both, there are numerous other beneficial components of nuts that make eating them worthwhile and even beneficial.
Components of Nuts & Seeds Fat
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim stating, Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. The type of fat in nuts is unsaturated, either in the form of monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat. Walnuts and flax seeds are particularly high in alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat found to reduce blood pressure, inflammation, and prevent plaque buildup in arteries. This is good news for heart disease prevention, but also for a golfer looking for natural anti-inflammatories. Research has shown promise using omega-3s to reduce inflammation in people with arthritis, a big concern for golfers, says Amy Jamieson- Petonic, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Nuts and seeds also contain plant sterols, which research shows helps to reduce LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels.
Even though nuts and seeds are high in calories, they do not seem to lead to weight gain. Studies on walnuts, almonds, and peanuts have shown that people can substitute nuts for other fats in the diet with positive results. When nuts are added, the subjects studied reported feeling more satisfied, helping them to control the total number of calories they were eating that day. The high fiber, protein, and fat in nuts all contribute to feelings of satiety, or fullness.
Nuts are a tasty and convenient way to boost your fiber intake. They contain mostly insoluble fiber, but also some soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is great for promoting digestion, while the soluble fiber acts like a sponge soaking up cholesterol, says David Grotto, RD, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life! He also points to the fiber in nuts to aid in blood sugar control.
Golfers are unique athletes because of the low intensity but long duration of the sport. Nuts are beneficial for golfers as a snack to maintain energy levels and keep you satisfied throughout your game, states Jamieson- Petonic, a specialist in sports nutrition. Nuts are convenient and easy to pack into the golf bag without concern of spoiling in the heat. Because nuts can give you long lasting energy, they can keep you mentally sharp, something very important when you are trying to make those tough putts.
Nuts are high in selenium and Vitamin E, both of which act as antioxidants, protecting our cells from damage. Most nuts also contain some magnesium, copper, and vitamin B6. All nuts have some phytonutrients, but each type of nut is slightly different in which nutrients it contains. For that reason, it is a good idea to eat a variety of nuts to get a nice mix of nutritional value.
Just a handful a day
Because nuts taste so good, it is easy to go overboard with our portions. Just a small handful, or about an ounce, is just the right size for most people. The number of nuts that fits into an ounce varies per nut. A handful of nuts every day may keep the doctor away, the scale at bay, and you golfing another day, says Grotto.
Creative ways to add nuts to your day:
Spice up your oatmeal with some chopped walnuts, pecans, or sliced almonds
Make any salad more exciting with added whole or candied nuts
Add ground flax seed to smoothies or muffins and quick breads
Throw some chopped walnuts into your blueberry pancakes
Instead of peanut butter, try Sunbutter (sunflower seed), almond butter, soynut butter, or cashew butter
Top your low fat frozen yogurt with chopped pecans or peanuts
Make your own granola using flax seeds, almonds, pecans, and oats
Mix various nuts with some dried cherries, blueberries, and cranberries for a convenient energy snack on the course
Grind pecans and mix with bread crumbs to coat fish or chicken
Toss pine nuts (or any nut) with your favorite pasta or rice dish
Tara Gidus, MD, RD, CSSD, is a Board Certified specialist in Sports Dietetics, a nutrition consultant and a member of the GFM Advisory Team. For further information on Tara, log onto www.golffitnessmagazine.com/advisoryteam.
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