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Q: Almonds and walnuts are said to be good for our body but they are also very expensive. How beneficial are these for our health' Are they worth the money'

AR, Dibrugarh

Almonds and walnuts contain a high concentration of important nutrients in small packages that can boost our health. Letís examine some of the health benefits of these nuts:

Almonds are high on fat but a major part of this fat is in the form of monosaturated fatty acids (MUFA) ' a healthy fat that helps in lowering the bad LDL-cholesterol without affecting the good HDL variety. Lowering of LDL-cholesterol slows down the process of narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis), thereby cutting down the risk of heart attacks and cerebral strokes. Walnuts, in addition to having MUFA fats, also contain omega-3 polysaturated fatty acids (PUFA). While both these fats lower the bad LDL-cholesterol, the omega-3 PUFA fats also lower the blood triglycerides (a kind of fat), giving further protection to the heart. The omega-3 fat contained in walnuts also helps boost our immunity besides sharpening memory and aiding other functions of the brain.

Almonds contain a fair amount of the mineral magnesium. This mineral plays an important role in keeping the blood pressure normal as well as enabling us to handle stress better. Low levels of magnesium in the blood have been linked to elevated levels of the hormone renin secreted by the kidneys which can result in increase of blood pressure. Eating almonds regularly can help keep blood pressure under control by ensuring adequate blood magnesium levels. On the other hand, stress increases the bodyís demand for magnesium besides vitamin E,vitamin C, the B group of vitamins and protein. As almonds are a good source of magnesium as well as vitamin E and protein, eating them regularly, or at least during periods of stress, can help the body cope with stress better.

Almonds and walnuts contain compounds called protease-inhibitors which act as anti-cancer agents. Developing cancer cells secrete protein-splitting enzymes known as proteases which help them to grow and spread. Protease-inhibitors form complexes which block the action of these enzymes, thereby preventing the development, growth and spread of cancer cells.

CONCLUSION: A limited number of foods are as beneficial as almonds and walnuts together as far as their favourable action on the heart is concerned. They would perhaps be worth the extra rupee spent. Thirty to 50 grams of these two nuts together are recommended daily for obtaining benefits for the heart. The nuts should be taken raw and not roasted. Magnesium can also be obtained from pulses, vegetables and seafood, while protease-inhibitors can be found in chickpea, soyabean, kidney beans, other varieties of beans, the various pulses, as also in cereals like oats, barley, wheat and rye.

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