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The Role of Dried Plum in Bone Health

As the demographic shift to an older population continues, a growing number of men and women will be diagnosed with osteoporosis and a search for potential non-pharmacological alternative therapies is increasing. In addition to existing drug therapies, certain lifestyle and nutritional factors are known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The benefits of dried plum consumption for osteoporosis and their role in total body bone mineral density (BMD) loss have been supported by scientific research in both animal studies and clinical trials.

Dried plums and Prunes are high in fiber, vitamin K, which contributes to the maintenance of normal bones, and potassium, which contributes to normal muscle function. Dried plums are also a source of copper, which contributes to maintenance of normal connective tissues.

Research in Dried Plum

Research in dried plums has increased beginning with studies of their potential in restoring bone and preventing bone loss in animal models of osteoporosis. Some animal studies suggest that fruit consumption with antioxidant content may have a pronounced effect on bone health, as shown by higher bone mass, trabecular bone (a.k.a. spongy bone) volume, number and thickness, and lower trabecular separation (which puts the person at risk of osteoporosis) by enhancing bone formation, suppressing bone resorption and increasing bone strength. The bone protection effects seem to be mediated via antioxidant or anti-inflammatory pathways leading to osteoblast mineralization and osteoclast inactivation.

Benefits Associated to Dried Plum & Prunes

According to a randomized controlled trial published last year, dried plum (prunes) consumption may prevent the loss of total body BMD in older osteopenic postmenopausal women. Forty-eight osteopenic (bone mineral density is lower than normal but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis) women (65-79 years old) were randomly assigned into one of three treatment groups for six months: 50 g of dried plums, 100 g of dried plums or a control group.

All groups were supplemented with calcium and vitamin D. Total body, hip and lumbar bone mineral density were evaluated at baseline and six months after using DEXA. In addition, several markers of bone metabolism were determined during the trial. Data revealed that both dried plum groups were able to prevent the loss of total body bone mineral density when compared to the control group. This effect has been explained in part to the ability of dried plums to inhibit bone reabsorption. The study’s results support previous data on the role that dried plums may play in bone health, especially in older postmenopausal women.

Ref: International Nut and Dried Fruit Council

 

 

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The role of Nuts in a vegan diet

In recent years there has been a slow but continuous increase in attraction to vegetarian or even vegan diets, especially among younger individuals. They offer many health benefits but in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies and to provide all essential nutritional components a vegan diet needs to be planned with more consideration and more knowledge than an omnivorous. Including nuts in a vegan diet can be a cornerstone in a well-balanced and palatable food-pattern.

What does vegan mean?

A vegan diet is a strict form of vegetarianism and is characterized by the total avoidance of products derived from animals. Vegans do not consume any kind of meat, seafood, dairy-products, eggs or any other animal product, such as honey or gelatin. A balanced vegan diet is consisting of plant based foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains.

There are only few studies including vegans as an experimental group, but when vegan diets are directly compared to vegetarian and omnivorous diets, they show a variety of protective health benefits. Vegetarian diets conferred protection against metabolic and cardiovascular diseases and also some cancers. Vegan diets in particular provided additional protection against obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular mortality and showed a reduced risk of incidence from total cancer.

Health benefits of nuts

A current scientific review pointed out that higher nut consumption is associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular diseases, that are still No. 1 when it comes to causes of death worldwide, according to the WHO-statistics. However, a 100 % plant-based diet may increase the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies including protein, iron, zinc, calcium, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 and vegans needs to plan the composition of their nutrition with due care. Adding various kinds of nutrient-dense nuts makes a significant contribution to a vegan diet because each kind of nut offers different dietary benefits.

Nuts do not only provide energy, complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, fiber and essential fatty acids but also high amounts of protein. Pistachios, almonds  and peanuts are among the protein-rich foods, only 50 g of pistachios contain more protein than a typical egg. The combination of fiber, protein and fat in nuts provides satiety to meals and snacks. Whereas in a mixed diet vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is covered by milk-products and cheese vegans can add almonds, pistachios and cashews. Walnuts are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid, an important essential omega 3 fatty acid. Macadamias provide the highest content of health-promoting monounsaturated fatty-acids and are also rich in omega-7-fatty-acids, which are getting more into the scientific focus.

Nuts contribution into a vegan diet

Calcium can be obtained from plant-based foods like almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts and brazil nuts. In addition, the last mentioned has the highest coverage of selenium. When it comes to the supply for zinc, vegans need to make smart choices because the highest amounts are naturally found in animal products like meat and cheese. Again, nuts can make a contribution, especially brazil nuts and pine nuts. It is more difficult to obtain iron from plant-based foods, but the combination with vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables helps absorbing iron from cashews, almonds, pistachios or hazelnuts.

If people choose to live raw-vegan they do not eat cooked foodstuffs. Nuts in a vegan diet are even more important diet because vegans exclude legumes as protein-sources from their diet.

Nuts in a vegan diet do not only provide essential nutrients to prevent deficiencies and one-sidedness but are also an enrichment in flavor and variety. Nuts are characterized by being “ready to eat” and easy to transport as a snack. They can be added to various dishes either cooked, raw or soaked and finely ground for spreads, ice-cream and milk. It can be expected, that vegan eaters can boost the demand for nuts.

How do you perform? If vegan, do you include nuts in your choices?

Ref: International Nut and Dried Fruit Council

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Five Benefits of Eating Nuts and Dry Fruits

Nuts and dry fruits benefits may help to improve our health and to prevent some diseases when included regularly in eating habits. Because of their interesting nutritional profile, some studies have evaluated the impact that nuts have on health and have observed an inverse association between the frequency of nut consumption and cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes and body weight.

In addition, traditional dried fruits also provide essential nutrients, such as fiber and potassium, and a wide range of phytochemicals that have been related to health promotion and antioxidant capacity. Both nuts and dried fruits can be consumed as a snack, on top of cereal, in yogurt, salads and pasta, and can provide us with some important health benefits.

Cardiovascular Disease

The benefits of nuts in relation to CVD  have been widely supported by both epidemiological and clinical trials.

Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated that nut consumption has a cholesterol-lowering effect in the context of a healthy diet. CVD is the number one cause of death in the world. According to the International Society of Hypertension (ISH), high blood pressure (hypertension) is the major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and its prevalence is expected to increase considerably in the coming years. In fact, hypertension is expected to increase to 1.56 billion people worldwide by 2025. Nuts are low in sodium, which has been related to a lower risk of hypertension in some studies. In a 2009 scientific paper, researchers observed that nut consumption was associated with a lower risk of hypertension.

A study published in 2015 observed that tree nut intake was associated with a decrease in total cholesterol, LDL, “bad,” cholesterol and triglycerides. It also asserted that nut consumption in general, rather than just a specific type, was the major reason for the decrease. A new systematic review and meta-analysis of 18 high quality clinical studies, published in 2016, also reported that almond consumption reduces both total and bad (LDL and non-HDL) cholesterol levels. According to another study, walnuts may improve endothelial function, decrease both oxidative stress and some markers of inflammation, and increase cholesterol efflux.

There have been some scientific studies on dried fruits and cardiometabolic risk factors suggesting that they can help lower the postprandial insulin response, modulate sugar absorption, promote satiety and have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. In a study published in 2009, researchers observed that simply replacing one unhealthy snack per day with fruits, dried fruits or unsalted nuts was associated with lower cardiovascular risk, which may prevent approximately 6,000 cases of CVD per year in the UK.

Nuts and dry fruits benefits in Weight Control

Nuts not only offer nutritional benefits, but may help to control body weight. This is especially important as obesity rates continue to rise across developed nations.

While nuts have a high energy content, several studies found that frequent nut consumption was not associated with a higher body mass index. Some research has shown that nuts may have high satiety properties. In fact, long-term nut consumption is associated with lower weight gain and overweight/obesity.

Nuts and dry fruits benefits in Type 2 Diabetes

Benefits of nuts may also help reduce the risk of diabetes. The number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014, becoming a serious public health problem. A number of studies have investigated the effect of nut consumption on diabetes risk. In particular, a 2011 PREDIMED study observed a 52% reduction in diabetes incidence in two experimental groups supplemented with olive oil or 30 g (1 oz) of nuts (a mix of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) per day, compared with the control group.

Research suggests that dried fruit consumption is also good for people who have diabetes. A study by Louisville Metabolic and Atherosclerotic Research Center observed that consuming raisins as an alternative to processed snacks resulted in a significant 23% reduction in postprandial glucose levels.

Gastrointestinal Function

Dried fruits are well-known sources of dietary fiber, which has a direct effect on gastrointestinal function. In 2013, prunes were granted a specific EU health claim for their contribution to digestive health. The permitted health claim reads: “Dried plums/prunes contribute to normal bowel function”. Eating 100 g of prunes (3.5 oz, 8-12 pieces) daily promotes good digestive health and provides more than 19% of the daily recommended intake of fiber. There is also scientific evidence that suggests that prunes may improve stool frequency and consistency in cases of constipation.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a debilitating disorder that affects both men and women. Aside from existing drug therapies, certain lifestyle and nutritional factors are known to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Among nutritional factors, recent observations suggest that prunes may be helpful in both preventing and reversing bone loss. In addition, a 2011 study suggests that prunes may improve the bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.

Did you know about the benefits of nuts and dried fruits? Do you include them within your regular eating habits?

Source: International Nut and Dried Fruit Council

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How to Store Nuts and Dried Fruits?

Nuts and dried fruits are a great food to have at hand. They are incredibly good for us and are a great source of protein for those following a plant-based, vegan or vegetarian diet. They provide a unique flavor to many meals helping us whip up a delicious healthy treat in no time. So with that in mind, read on to see how to store those healthy nibbles fresher for longer.

Why have nuts and dried fruits handy

As mentioned, nuts and dried fruits are a great option to have around the home. They provide us with many essential nutrients including fiber, unsaturated fats, vegetable protein, vitamins and minerals. Nuts and dried fruits also make a great healthy snack, they can be enjoyed both in sweet and savory meals plus, they’re a great food to take with you if you need to keep your energy levels up when you’re on the go.

 Where to keep nuts and dried fruits

Nuts are best stored out of direct light and heat therefore, it is essential to find a cool, dark place to store them. The shelf life of nuts and dried fruits will also vary depending on how fresh they were at the time of purchase which, when buying in a supermarket is a difficult one to know.

However, storing them in an airtight completely sealed container, preferable glass, will help keep them fresher for longer. Contrary to popular belief, nuts should be stored in the fridge as opposed to at room temperature, this is especially true for people living in hot, humid climates or during the hotter summer months. Again, when storing them in the refrigerator it is still always best to use air glass containers. Plastic bags, as well as not being the most sustainable option, can also absorb the flavors of other foods – something that none of us want!

Store nuts and dried fruit in the freezer!

If you’re someone who likes to buy in bulk or know that you’re not going to use the ingredients straight away, did you know you can keep nuts and dried fruits in the freezer! In fact, dried fruit keeps very well in the freezer and can last up to 12 months when stored properly. Nuts on the other hand vary depending on the nut.

 Quick tips for storing nuts and dried fruits

  • Keep them away from other strong flavored foods such as onions and garlic, as they can absorb their flavors
  • Whole, raw nuts and seeds with stay fresh the longest.
  • Shelled nuts have a shorter shelf life than those still in their shell.

Remember, these are just guidelines as many factors including where you live can have an impact on the shelf life of nuts and dried fruits.

If you want to see some easy ways to add nuts and dried fruits into your diet take a look at our healthy breakfast recipes.

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How to make your Christmas servings Haute Cuisine? Add nuts and dried fruits!

Ferran Adrià, Raül Balam, Neil Perry and Mert Seran, Top international chefs, explain some secrets about how to make exclusive dishes with nuts and dried fruits for Christmas servings.

Nuts and dried fruit are essential to our Christmas meals but, most of us haven’t realized yet that adding nuts and dried fruits can help us take our dishes to the next level. Four international chefs, Ferran Adrià (El Bulli), Raül Balam (Moments, Barcelona), Neil Perry (The Rockpool Group, Melbourne) and Mert Seran (Ulus 29, Istanbul), explain some secrets about how nuts and dried fruits can make your Christmas servings become haute cuisine. One of the bests chefs in the world, Ferran Adrià, claims that “tree nuts have been present in domestic gastronomy in the Mediterranean cuisine.

However, most of chefs use nuts as high gastronomic creativity, or elements with the capability of modifying textures, emphasize taste and highlight Mediterranean flavors”. In the book, “Nuts, Health and Mediterranean Culture”, edited by INC, Cyclops and Fundación Nucis, the three-Michelin Star chef says that “the creativity in the kitchen is important but it is also fundamental to remember our ancestor’s culinary habits”. “Adding nuts and dried fruits can help us to have an assorted and healthy diet, as they make it fun and with different flavors”, adds Adrià. He suggests us to make ‘dried fruit crepes with dates, figs, dried apricots, pistachios, raisins and prunes’.

The two-Michelin Star chef of Moments (Barcelona), Raül Balam, encourages us to add tree nuts as part of our recipes, both salty and sweet. “I am devoted to a type of cuisine that focuses on pleasure and health, and tree nuts have become a source of inspiration”, explains Balam. For instance, Balam suggests that we make a ‘fine turrón of tree nuts with pistachios, pine nuts, hazelnuts, egg and sugar’. You can find the recipe here. Neil Perry, one of Australia’s leading and most influential chefs, also invites us to add nuts and dried fruit to our meals. “The options are endless. Their textures and flavours are unique. They are a game changer when it comes to any dish”, says Perry. This international chef invites us to use it in breads, loaves and cakes, but also in salads and sides. “Take tagine to another level with the addition of almonds, dates and apricots”, suggests Perry. The chef of Ulus 29, in Istanbul, Mert Seran, also invites us to use nuts and dried fruits to improve our Christmas meals. For instance, Seran suggests adding pistachios and hazelnuts to a pesto in order to make our dishes more creative. Find Mert Seran ‘roasted baby beats and lime scented goat cheese with pistachio pesto’ here.