Many people may be surprised to learn that nuts are the hard shelled fruit of plants. There are 53 different types of nuts in the world and every kind has a multitude of health benefits. I won’t describe and go into the details of each one in this article, but I want to discuss two that are extremely beneficial for people with SCI.
Walnuts are a healthy source of protein, Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Eating these brain-shaped nuts is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (number one killer of people with SCI) and improved brain health (SCI is associated with reduced brain function). If this weren’t enough to get you snacking on these earthy tasting gems then maybe this next fact will. Research recently published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reveals that walnuts also contribute to better gut health. Specifically, eating walnuts can significantly increase the number and function of beneficial bacteria, like Lactobacillus, in the gut. In turn these bacteria help support the immune system, aid overall digestion and help improve bowel function/bowel management routines (many people with SCI experience compromised immune function, as well as chronic digestive and/or bowel dysfunction).
Almonds in addition to being loaded with protein and fibre, a new Penn State study published in The Journal of Nutrition revealed that eating this nut as a snack, versus eating a muffin with the same amount of calories, reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increases the levels and function of “good” HDL cholesterol (individuals with SCI are at high risk of dyslipidemia – high LDL and low HDL – which can contribute to cardiovascular disease).
So in a nutshell, a simple way to improve and protect your immune, digestive, bowel and cardiovascular health is to eat some nuts every day! You don’t need a lot- just a golf ball size of raw, unsalted almonds or walnuts will do. Or try this nut butter recipe.