Why Nuts Really Are the SUPER SNACK

Daily Mail (London), May 28, 2015 | Go to article overview

Why Nuts Really Are the SUPER SNACK


Byline: Tanith Carey

WE HAVE always been a nation of grazers. On average, we squeeze in at least two snacks a day on top of our three main meals.

But while we are now grabbing food on the go more than ever before, we are also considering the best choices for our health -- and that isn't crisps, with their high levels of artery-clogging saturated fat.

According to the latest industry figures, sales of crisps are falling while sales of nuts are rising.

'There is a trend towards more natural, healthier products,' says retail analyst Chris Longbottom who has carried out research on the snack industry.

Happily for nuts, they have enjoyed an image change. For years, their high fat content was seen as something to be avoided. But that message has now been flipped, with dietitians insisting that we need to consume more of the unsaturated fats they contain. These can help prevent blood clotting and maintain a regular heart rhythm.

'Nuts are also seen as more healthy because they are often sold in a relatively natural state, while crisps are, by necessity, heavily processed,' says Giles Lury, a leading brand consultant.

Nuts also have a better image, with an array of exotic varieties and a reputation as a classy snack option, offered in five-star hotels and on private jets.

While nuts are as high in calories as other snacks -- a small handful can contain as many as a Mars Bar -- studies have found that crisps are far more likely to trigger weight gain.

In one study, researchers analysed changes in the diet and lifestyle habits of 120,877 people every four years for two decades. On average, participants gained nearly 17lb over the 20 years -- and it was found that when they experienced creeping weight gain, crisps were the most likely cause.

Part of the problem is that it's very hard to stop at just one.

'Crisps are very tasty and have a very good texture,' says obesity expert Dr Xavier Pi-Sunyer of New York's St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Centre. 'People generally don't take one or two: they have a whole bag.' NUTS, on the other hand, have a positive effect on appetite due to their high protein content, which makes people feel fuller and helps to curb hunger.

While carbohydrates such as crisps trigger a rise in blood sugar that leads to more hunger when it drops, nuts cause no such rise.

As a result, nuts may aid weight loss. A review of 31 trials found people whose diets included extra nuts, or nuts substituted for other foods, lost an average of 1.4 lb and half an inch from their waistlines.

Experts believe this is because nuts are so high in fibre, they pass through the body without being completely broken down. Pistachios are the most popular nut, according to a recent consumer poll, followed by cashews, almonds, peanuts (although these are not technically a nut, but a type of vegetable), walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamias and chestnuts. But while peanuts are usually relatively cheap (around [euro]3.50 a kg), some nuts are extremely expensive, with the cost difference depending on how hard they are to grow, harvest and crack open.

Macadamia nuts, for example, cost more than [euro]21 a kg because it can take between five and ten years for a tree to mature enough to produce them.

The latest trend is to 'supercharge' nuts by soaking them in water overnight, before drying them out and eating them. Nutritionist Chris Hall says this makes it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients -- even though they look and taste the same. The theory goes that, as nuts are basically seeds, soaking triggers the germination process, allowing them to release more of nutrients. …

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