Remember the school days. When your mom used to place a bunch of almonds in your hands especially during the exam days so that you would have a better memory? Well, she was not wrong. Since ages, dry fruits have been known to be the powerhouses of nutrition. They have been and continue to be an essential part of the Mediterranean diet as well as other regional diets. Learn more about Top 12 dry fruits.
Dry fruits are tree nuts with one or two seeds in which the ovary wall has become hard at maturity. They are commonly called nuts to avoid confusion with dried fruits that include raisins, figs, dates, etc. Dry fruits can be consumed as snacks, desserts or part of a meal. They are consumed as a whole (fresh or roasted), spreads (almond butter, peanut butter), mixed dishes, sauces, oils, ice creams, pastries, and baked goods. The examples of dry fruits include almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, macadamias, pine nuts, and pecans.
The composition of dry fruits
Dry fruits are rich in high-quality proteins, vitamins (vitamin E, choline, niacin and/or folic acid), minerals (magnesium, calcium, potassium and/or phosphorus), dietary fiber, essential fatty acids [monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA)], tocopherols, phytosterols, and antioxidants. However, they also rich in saturated fats and have a high calorific value. Hence, they must be consumed in moderation. The general nutritional composition of dry fruits comprises of a high amount of total fat (43.9–78.8%) and unsaturated fat (31.6–62.4%) with a relatively low amount of carbohydrates (11.7–30.2%) and vegetable protein (7.9–25.8%).
The overall effect on Health
Dry fruits endow us with a wide range of health benefiting properties, provided they are consumed in moderation. Thus, they provide an ideal healthy substitute for high-calorie snacks. The beneficial health outcomes include tackling obesity, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular diseases, with a reduction in mediators of chronic diseases such as inflammation, oxidative stress, hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, visceral adiposity, endothelial dysfunction, and metabolic syndrome.
Health experts have always recommended eating dry fruits daily to stay healthy. Few of the suggested dry fruits include:
Almonds, being rich in unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, as well as the presence of magnesium and potassium, maintain normal blood pressure. These factors help protect heart health and prevent diabetes. The MUFA present in almonds regulates blood sugar level and aids weight management.
These nuts are called the brain food as they have a number of neuroprotective compounds like vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants that enhance cognitive function. They also help to fight stress and promote a sense of calm. The omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce the risk of breast and pancreatic cancer while the vitamins and antioxidants delay wrinkles in the skin. Walnuts contain biotin that strengthens hair and reduces hair loss. Check the health benefits of walnuts.
These dry fruits are a rich source of selenium which helps maintain normal thyroid functioning. Selenium also enhances the effect of antioxidants present in these nuts to prevent the formation of cancerous cells. Brazil nuts contain minerals and unsaturated fats that regulate blood pressure and maintain cholesterol levels, thereby promoting heart health.
These contain the highest amount of protein among all nuts with the lowest amount of fat. They are rich in oleic acid, carotenes and vitamin E. Pistachios help in lowering bad cholesterol level and are therefore good for the heart. They also aid in preventing diabetes and boost the body’s immunity.
Cashews are a rich source of vitamins E and B6. They also have abundant MUFA and PUFA, which are associated with reduced cardiovascular disease risk and reducing blood cholesterol levels.
Peanuts contain MUFA (oleic acids) and PUFA, which help improve the quality of the diet by stimulating satiety, increasing fat oxidation and thermogenesis, and reducing the glycemic response. This promotes weight loss in patients suffering from diabetes.
Macadamia nuts are a rich source of MUFA (oleic acid and palmitoleic acid) and polyphenol compounds. These provide cholesterol-lowering effects to macadamia and aid in the prevention of coronary artery disease.
Dry fruits, therefore, are energy dense foods with unique compositions that are critical for their health effects. They play a huge role in the prevention and treatment of certain chronic disease-related risk factors, such as changes in glycemic and lipid metabolism, oxidative stress, and inflammation. It has been found that inclusion of dry fruits in the diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, fetal neural defects, and other diseases. The presence of dry fruits in the meal increases the quality of the diet. However, do note that it is inadvisable to go nuts over nuts i.e. they should only be eaten in small amounts, preferably along with other nutritious foods.