Prolong your life: eat a handful of nuts a day

Packed full of protein, fibre and more vitamins and minerals than you can shake a stick at: it's no wonder everyone's gone nuts for breakfast sprinkles

Studies have shown people who eat more nuts tend to have lower cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer
Studies have shown people who eat more nuts tend to have lower cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer

If you are looking for a quick and tasty way to get your five a day, up your protein intake or get more fibre, try sprinkling some dried fruit, nuts and seeds on your porridge: you won’t be alone.

Sales of dried fruit, nuts and seeds have rocketed in recent years, as the UK has undergone a shift towards more healthy eating, and the numbers of vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians has increased.

“It can start with just a sprinkle at breakfast time. A few grams of pumpkin chia seeds, a mini cascade of cranberries or gojis, a few chopped almonds or walnuts, three dried apricots or dates.

“And suddenly your breakfast and your future health is taking a turn for the better. Seeds bring you protein and vital minerals, and those dried fruits count as one of your five a day,” said Jodi Kirby, marketing manager at health food shop, Grape Tree, which has just opened a branch in Chichester.

Regular nut eaters live longer, she added: studies have shown people who eat more nuts, as part of a healthy diet, tend to have lower cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer.

Jodi said that was because nuts and seeds are a great source of micronutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin E and B vitamins. They are also very high in fibre and protein.

This was particularly good news for the UK’s 1.2millon vegans and vegetarians, Jodi added.

“More and more people are moving to a plant-based diet, and the number of vegans and vegetarians has really increased recently. Most people get their protein and iron from meat and dairy, so if you are not eating animal products, you need to make sure you get these nutrients from somewhere else.”

The British Nutrition Foundation explained protein is essential for growth and body repair, as well as the maintenance of good health.

All cells and tissues in the body contain protein, which is involved in a wide range of metabolic interactions. It provides people with 10 to 15 per cent of their dietary energy and is one of the most abundant compounds in the body, second only to water. In the UK, adults are advised to eat 0.75g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight a day.

Iron is needed to make the red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body, and a diet lacking in the mineral can lead to iron deficiency anaemia.

Men aged 19 to 64 and post-menopausal women should consume 8.7mg a day. Younger women, who lose a lot of blood during their monthly period, need more iron and should try to consume 14.8g through their diet.

Nuts and seeds are also rich in dietary fibre, which has many health benefits, including the potential to reduce heart disease and diabetes risk. It is important for digestive health, as it can help prevent constipation and may also protect against colorectal cancer.

“The only thing to say is watch your portion size, as nuts and seeds also contain a lot of fat, and dried fruit has a higher concentration of sugar than fresh fruit. That’s why sprinkling a handful on your porridge or yoghurt in the morning is a great way to get all the goodness, without worrying about eating too many,” said Jodi.

Grape Tree is bringing the finest natural whole foods to hundreds of thousands of customers, at prices they can afford. And not just for breakfast.

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