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Are Nuts Good for Diabetics? by Shu Golda
Lifestyle interventions are recommended in the management of diabetes for already diagnosed patients, and for prevention in individuals who are at high risk of diabetes. Amongst these changes is the replacement of refined carbohydrates with whole grains, increase intake of vegetables and foods rich in dietary fiber, and reducing the number of saturated fats in the diet.

According to the American Diabetes Association, nuts are one of the several foods that are beneficial to the health of diabetics. They are rich in nutrients and provide some health benefits. Also, not all nuts have the same nutritional value. Some nuts are more recommended for diabetics.

Why are nuts useful for diabetes?

Nuts are highly composed of unsaturated or healthy fats which perform vital functions like protecting body organs and supporting cell growth.

These nuts are also rich in other healthy nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins (thiamine, folate, vitamin E), carotenoids, and minerals such as potassium and magnesium.

It is important to note that, not all nuts are recommended for diabetics.

Do different nuts have different health benefits for people with diabetes? 

The nutritional composition of nuts varies, hence their effects in health differ too. For example;

  • Cashew nuts are rich in magnesium
  • Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Almonds are rich in vitamin E
  • Almonds and peanuts help in the elimination of bad cholesterol

Thus, almost if not all nuts have health benefits for diabetes patients. They should, however, avoid salted nuts. Salt increases blood volume, increases blood pressure, and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Nuts and cholesterol 

Nuts play an essential role in the reduction of blood cholesterol levels in diabetics. Hyperglycemia in diabetes can cause the narrowing of arteries. It is therefore important to avoid an increase in blood cholesterol levels. “Bad” cholesterol in blood refers to low-density lipoproteins, too much of it in the blood can impair blood flow by blocking arteries.

Walnuts, peanuts, and almonds reduce LDL in the blood by increasing HDL in the blood. HDL clears out LDL, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Nuts and the glycemic index (GI) 

The Glycemic Load (GL) and Glycemic Index (GI) are used to measure the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar, that is, the extent to which your body absorbs carbohydrates. Foods with low glycemic load (index) raise blood sugar modestly and thus are better choices for diabetics. Most nuts have a low glycemic index, thus slow absorption of their carbohydrates by the body. The body absorbs carbohydrates in nuts more slowly than carbohydrates in white bread. Nuts are less likely to cause blood glucose spikes due to their low glycemic index

Nuts and heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the complications of diabetes. A high proportion of diabetes patients suffer from cardiovascular problems and eventually die from it. Nuts have a positive health impact on the heart, thus reducing the possibility of heart diseases in diabetics.

Walnuts, peanuts, and almonds reduce LDL in the blood by increasing HDL in the blood. HDL clears out LDL, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. They contain vitamin E which prevents the accumulation of plaque that can clog arteries and inhibit blood flow. Walnuts also constitute omega fatty acids, a class of unsaturated fatty acids that increases the levels of high-density lipoproteins in the blood. L-arginine is an amino acid that is present in most nuts. L-arginine strengthens

The walls of arteries and makes them flexible. Diabetics with flexible arteries will less probably suffer from restricted blood flow.

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How many calories are in nuts?

Diabetes patients should be cautious of the calorific contents of nuts before consuming to avoid weight gain. 100g of almonds has 576 calories present. This is high for a diabetes patient to consume. Thus diabetes mellitus patients should limit the consumption of nuts if they intend to lose weight.

The following are the best nuts for people with diabetes:

Almonds.

Almonds are highly beneficial to diabetes patients, thus incorporating them in diabetic diets is a healthy choice. They positively affect blood sugar and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Almonds contain vitamin E which helps reduce the levels of Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood. This prevents the blockage of arteries. Almonds also increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein in the blood. HDL helps in the removal of LDL from the blood. Almonds there have the ability to prevent cardiovascular diseases and their complications.

Walnuts.

Walnuts can potentially prevent the development of diabetes. Almonds also increase the ratio of high-density lipoproteins against low-density lipoproteins cholesterol which blocks arteries and prevents blood flood flow.

Cashews.

Cashew nuts can improve HDL to LDL cholesterol ratio as well. This eating cashew can potentially reduce the risk of getting heart diseases. Diets rich in cashew can lower blood pressure and increase HDL cholesterol.

Pistachios.

Pistachios are energy-dense. They are however rich in dietary fibers and unsaturated fats. It is important to enrich diabetic diets with pistachios because they increase HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio and lower triglyceride levels, thus they help to better heart health. The rich fiber content slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.

Peanuts.

Peanuts are rich in protein, fiber, and unsaturated fats. Thus can help both in preventing cardiovascular disease and reducing weight gain. Because peanuts can help with weight loss, it can reduce the risk of developing diabetes in those who are prone to it.

Are nuts generally good for people with diabetes? 

I believe nuts are generally beneficial to diabetes patients. However, the effects depend on the type of nuts. Most nuts are beneficial in heart health; thus it is advisable to generously incorporate a variety of nuts into your diet.

Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are considered to be the most important nuts because they play a key role in improving cardiovascular functioning. As such, if you were to choose just a few nuts for your diabetic diet, consider these. Endeavor to avoid salted nuts as high salt concentrations in blood increase blood pressure.

Nuts are a diverse type of food that can be incorporated into a healthy diabetic diet. They are a good source of proteins, unsaturated fats, and some vitamins in diabetics.

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When consuming nuts, pay attention to the serving size to prevent excess calorie intake. Also, diabetics should avoid eating salted varieties of nuts.

References

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/food/nuts-and-diabetes.html

https://res.mdpi.com/d_attachment/nutrients/nutrients-09-01271/article_deploy/nutrients-09-01271.pdf