Nuts and Seeds Offer a Wealth of Health Benefits
If you’re looking for a snack that’s rich in essential vitamins and minerals, may help in weight management, and offers heart- and brain-health benefits, consider adding a handful of mixed nuts to your daily diet.
Nuts and seeds are highly nutritious, low in carbs, and jam-packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, essential vitamins and minerals, and an array of phytochemicals. Research suggests eating nuts and seeds can lower the risk of certain conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammation that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke.
Although nuts and seeds pack a wallop of nutrients and complement a well-balanced diet, they’re best eaten in moderation because of their high-fat and caloric content. But even though they’re high in fat, nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which are preferred heart-healthy substances. However, eating them in excess, as with eating anything in excess, can be counterproductive when you’re seeking to eat more healthful snacks void of fat and calories.
What makes nuts and seeds so beneficial?
Nuts and seeds are considered superfoods, meaning a little bit can go a long way in providing a wealth of health benefits. These superfoods:
- Won’t affect your lipid panel. If anything, they could even lower bad cholesterol levels. Consuming them in moderation won’t increase your triglycerides or cholesterol. Research shows consumption does not affect your lipid panel nor does it affect weight or blood pressure.
- Contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, but many nuts are also rich in this nutrient. Did you know the brain is made up of 50 to 60 percent omega-3 fats? These nutrients are key to the structure of every cell wall in the body; they’re an excellent source of energy; and they help keep the heart, lungs, blood vessels, brain, and immune system functioning properly. When there is an imbalance, the risk for neurodevelopment disorders increases.
- Are packed with fiber. Fiber is necessary to regulate the immune system, fight inflammation, and help keep the bowel system regular and working. Nuts and seeds are rich in fiber, which is important for gut health. How much is needed? If you’re over the age of 50, the Institute of Medicine recommends 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men. A handful of nuts provides nearly four grams of fiber.
- Contain Vitamin E and L-arginine. Nuts and seeds are a great source for Vitamin E, which deters the development of plaque in your arteries. A buildup of plaque in the artery walls can lead to heart disease, angina, and cardiac arrest. L-arginine is a substance that can improve blood flow by making the artery walls more flexible and less prone to blockages.
- Are an excellent source of protein. Some nuts and seeds are higher in protein than others, which makes eating a variety a good idea. Protein helps your body repair cells and generate new ones. Protein should be about 15 to 25 percent of your daily calories. For older adults, that translates to 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal.
- Contain sizeable amounts of folate. This B-vitamin is necessary for normal cellular function.
- Are antioxidant powerhouses. They contain antioxidant vitamins and phenolic compounds, which aid in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress creates an imbalance in the body, which allows an excess of free radicals in the body’s cells. Free radicals can damage cells and lead to illness and unhealthy aging. Nuts and seeds have been shown in studies to suppress oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals.
- Contain phytosterols. This substance may help lower cholesterol.
Sterols occur naturally in nuts and seeds.
How often should nuts and seeds be eaten and why?
The American Heart Association recommends eating about four servings of unsalted nuts a week. Raw or dry-roasted options are preferred over those cooked in oil. A serving is about a small handful of nuts and about a tablespoon of seeds.
Most nuts contain a host of beneficial nutrients. For good heart health, choose walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans. Select walnuts and almonds for their antioxidant properties. To promote weight loss, opt for almonds. Pistachios may help reduce triglycerides plus fight inflammation. Brazil nuts are beneficial in fighting inflammation as well. So, when you eat an assortment, you cover all your bases.
How to incorporate them into your diet
- Add pumpkin seeds to salads, oatmeal, rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa for added flavor, fiber, and texture.
- Add nuts and seeds—like pine nuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds—to smoothies. These choices are great for their protein, fiber, and omega-3 nutrients.
- Prepare your own trail mix with a blend of nuts and seeds and add the mix to yogurt or enjoy a handful as a snack.
The bottom line
A well-balanced diet that includes eating nuts and seeds can deliver a host of heart- and brain-health benefits. The key to enjoying this nutritious, high-fiber superfood is in moderation. The Aviv Medical Program provides dietary coaching and consultations to ensure your diet aligns with your cognitive and physical goals.
Contact the clinic to learn more.
Does High Blood Pressure Cause Memory Loss?
We all know that high blood pressure can cause a host of other health issues, although most of us are unaware that high blood pressure can cause memory loss. Cognitive decline is a side effect that isn’t always discussed. But having high blood pressure can directly affect your cognitive function, causing problems like brain fog and forgetfulness, as well as severe cognitive issues like vascular dementia.
Nearly one in three Americans and two-thirds of adults age 60 and older have high blood pressure, making it one of the most notorious killers in the United States. Fortunately, there are actionable steps you can take to manage your blood pressure, no matter your age.
Treatment options, such as the research-based hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) protocol available at Aviv Clinics, target associated health challenges like post-stroke, and age-related cognitive decline. Keep reading to learn more about how high blood pressure can cause memory loss, plus what you can do.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Also called hypertension, high blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is too high.
Every blood vessel in your body requires a certain amount of pressure to stay intact. High blood pressure may damage arteries, making them less elastic. Lower elasticity slows blood and oxygen flow to vital areas of the body. Health problems happen when your blood pressure wanders outside the acceptable range.
The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk for health problems like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. It also increases your risk of cognitive problems later in life.
What’s An Acceptable Blood Pressure?
Normal blood pressure levels differ for every person and depend on age, weight, and other factors. According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association:
- Stage 1 hypertension occurs at 130/80 mm Hg
- Stage 2 hypertension occurs at or above 140/90 mm
High blood pressure is unique because it doesn’t present symptoms on its own. The only way most people even discover that their blood pressure is high is when something more serious happens, like a clot. The best way to learn whether your blood pressure is at a healthy level is to measure it with a blood pressure machine at a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or on a home blood pressure machine.
Tip: A home blood pressure device is a worthwhile investment to monitor your health. Take your measurements at the same time every day for consistency, as your blood pressure will naturally rise and fall during the day.
How Exactly Does High Blood Pressure Impact Memory Loss?
The brain receives roughly 20–25% of the body’s blood supply. When high blood pressure causes the supply to decline, the brain lacks the nutrition needed to perform at optimal levels.
High blood pressure can also harm the tiny arteries that feed “white matter,” or the wire-like cells that transfer information to different brain areas. These issues may manifest with memory problems, confusion, lack of concentration, and other side effects.
Age-related cognitive decline studies show having high blood pressure during midlife can affect cognition later in life. We’ll let these research studies help clear the fog on the link between the brain and blood pressure:
- In this study, men at an average age of 78 years logged their blood pressure. After adjusting for biases like prior education and age, the men who performed the most poorly on the test were those who had experienced high blood pressure in middle age. This suggests a direct connection between hypertension and cognitive decline later in life.
- More recent studies have helped to reaffirm the connection between hypertension and cognitive decline. Researchers found mental processing speed and executive function were the top two cognitive skills most affected later in life.
High blood pressure directly increases the risk of developing vascular dementia—a type of dementia caused by blood flow problems in the brain from strained blood vessels. The strain on the blood vessels makes it difficult for the brain to get the oxygen needed to function correctly.
Fortunately, vascular dementia symptoms can be improved through hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), such as the type available at Aviv Clinics in central Florida. HBOT works by delivering oxygen directly to the brain in a pressurized environment. The direct supply of oxygen allows the damaged blood vessels in your brain to heal, helping you regain some cognitive functions.
How Can You Manage High Blood Pressure?
While medication is often the first thing people think of, investing in your health via lifestyle choices and research-backed therapies is really the best medicine for managing high blood pressure.
The absolute best things you can do for your high blood pressure and brain health are the following:
- Eat a clean diet of whole foods to promote your gut health.
- Exercise to help maintain or manage your weight.
- Get enough sleep by establishing a bedtime routine, working up a sweat, and turning off the TV.
- Engage your mind by gardening, reading, or even playing a video game with your kids or grandkids.
- Reduce and manage your stress levels with activities like yoga or meditation. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help you stay grounded in the present moment and reduce stress.
- Seek unique and comprehensive therapies, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Research-backed HBOT programs, such as the one offered as part of the Aviv Medical Program, encourage damaged vessels to heal and cognitive functions to improve.
Aviv’s unique protocol may include HBOT, along with cognitive training, dietary coaching, and physical performance training. This holistic approach has been key to restoring our patients’ optimal health.
Find Hope and Healing with Aviv
While high blood pressure is dangerous, especially later in life, it is possible to manage it. It’s never too late to start, even after a cognitive decline diagnosis.
If you’d like more guidance, reach out to the Aviv Clinics team.