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Benefits of Nuts in Your Diet

You've probably heard that nuts are a great snack for dieters, but do you know why?

The Mayo Clinic staff has released some great information about the health benefits of nuts. Surprisingly, nuts can improve your heart health, lower your cholesterol, and help you lose weight.

Why are nuts so beneficial? Because they contain an amazing blend of fiber, unsaturated fat, and vitamins.

Here are some of the nutrients found in nuts, and the effect those nutrients can have on your health:

Vitamin E

Researchers are optimistic about the effect of vitamin E on heart health. Studies are ongoing, but it is thought that vitamin E can prevent plaque build-up and even heart attacks.

Vitamin E also promotes good circulation, increased healing capability, and healthy skin and hair. It is a fat soluble vitamin, so the unsaturated fat found in nuts helps your body process and use vitamin E.

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Fiber

Fiber is one substance that most of us don't get enough of. It keeps our digestive systems in top condition, stabilizes blood glucose, fills us up, and may even lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Doctors recommend a high-fiber diet as a preventative measure against diabetes. Even if you're already diabetic, adding fiber to your diet can prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes.

The recommended daily allowance of fiber is 30 grams. Whole almonds deliver 4 grams per 1/4 cup. If you need to increase your fiber intake, you can do so easily by snacking on almonds.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids protect the heart. Nuts are a rich source of these acids, so adding nuts to your diet can help prevent heart disease and high cholesterol.

Recent studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can also lower high blood pressure, decrease the amount of fat in the blood (triglycerides), and even protect against Alzheimer's disease.

B Vitamins & Antioxidants

B vitamins are important for a healthy metabolism and high energy levels. You can get a good dose of B vitamins by snacking on nuts or sprinkling a handful over your salad.

Nuts also contain antioxidants, which protect your body from damage brought on by stress and aging. These antioxidants can also prevent the formation of certain cancers.

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How Many Nuts Do You Need?

So how many nuts should a person eat to take advantage of these health benefits? Just one handful of nuts seems to be enough to reduce risk factors for heart disease.

It's important to note that nuts are high in fat. Even though their fat is heart-healthy, it is still high in calories. Nuts provide the most benefit when they are eaten in place of saturated fats from meat and dairy products.

As long as nuts are part of an overall healthy diet plan - including an appropriate number of calories - they will promote weight loss while they ward off disease.

While all nuts contain fiber and unsaturated fat, some seem to be more beneficial than others. Walnuts have the most science to back them up. They have been linked to lower levels of bad cholesterol and better blood glucose control.

Almonds, pecans, and macadamias also contain high levels of omega-3's. Sprinkle them on your oatmeal, or simply eat a handful when you need quick energy. They contain good carbs that will help you feel energized without sending your glucose soaring.

Adding Nuts to Your Diet

Here are some delicious ways to add nuts to your diet without hurting your plans to lose weight fast:

- Snack on a handful between meals.
- Add chopped pecans to flax seed muffin mix.
- Sprinkle almond slivers into pasta or veggie side  dishes.
- Top your leafy green salad with chopped walnuts.

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