The hidden health benefits of Ramadan nuts

Ingy Deif, Sunday 28 Jul 2013

In Ramadan, Egypt consumes tons of different kinds of nuts. Experts talk to Ahram Online about the health wonders of these seasonal delights

Photo: Reuters

The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce announced this year that the annual cost of food consumption for Egyptian families in Ramadan soared to reach LE3.7 billion, while the cost of importing nuts — yameesh Ramadan — reached $100 million.

Heavy food consumption has been associated with the holy month for decades, despite the economic burdens it imposes on both the economy as a whole and the budget of each individual Egyptian family, which often struggle to make ends meet, especially under current circumstances.

The consumption leap also takes place every year, despite the health hazards that go along with increasing the amount of food we eat. The only exception, on the health level, seems to be the assortment of nuts Egyptians traditonally consume in Ramadan, either on their own or as an ingredient of oriental desserts. Health experts rave about the benefits of each kind of nut.

Food of the gods

Dr Fawzi El-Shobaky, professor of nutrition at the National Research Centre, lists the healthy nutrients in nuts as follows:

Pistachios: Loaded with vitamins and other immunity boosting ingredients, like manganese, which boosts the metabolism, magnesium, which is good for the bones, copper, which is very beneficial to the cardiovascular system, vitamin A, which is good for vision, and a host of different kinds of vitamin B, which are useful for immunity.

Almonds: A rich source of vitamin E, which is good for the bones, lowers the level of bad cholesterol, and maintains the sugar level in the blood. Also contains iron and copper.

Walnut: 117 grams contain 765 calories. Walnuts are dubbed the "food of the gods." They are an excellent source of Omega E and the anti-oxidant melatonin. They also contain vitamins and proteins.

Peanuts: A transfats-free source of protein and sodium, that also contains magnesium, niacin, phosphorous, vitamin E, and fibre.

Hazelnuts: Good for the heart, and contains Omega 7.

Cashew: In addition to general benefits of nuts, cashews help in treating stomach ulcers and are a rich source of Zinc.

The mighty seven

Dr Ahmed El-Said, an obesity and underweight treatment consultant, says that the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved seven kinds of food as natural factors that decrease risk of heart diseases. These include almonds, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, pine nuts and peanuts.

El-Said stresses that in general all nuts are abundant in fibre, proteins, vitamin E, Omega 3 and non-saturated fats that lower bad cholesterol in the blood, the main factor in heart disease.

He adds that there has been increasing evidence that including nuts in one’s diet fights free radicals in the blood and decreases the risk of cancer, due to the presence of Selenium, provided that we make sure to buy nuts from a trusted outlet where they are well stored and kept away from pollutants and dirt.

A badly stored product can actually do more harm than good.

Dr Maha Radamis, a member of the American Society for Bariatric Physicians, points to another catch, saying that she always tells people that moderation is essential, no matter how healthy the food item you are consuming. “Yes, nuts are extremely healthy and the fats inside them are mostly non-saturated fats, so they are actually healthy rather than harmful as they lower bad cholesterol levels. Nevertheless, they are loaded with calories, so eating them in excess will just pack extra kilograms on your weight by the end of Ramadan.”

This calories guide can help you keep track of your intake:

Almonds: 143 grams contain 822 calories.

Walnut: 117 grams contain 765 calories.

Pistachios: 100 grams contain 562 calories.

Hazelnuts: 135 grams contain 848 calories.

Peanuts: 28 grams contain 166 calories

Cashews: 28 grams contain 163 calories

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