Are nuts really good for kids? This is a common question plaguing parents as their child grows. The answer is simple. Eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet is essential to the overall health and development of children. One particular food group that is known for its innumerable benefits for children is nuts.
Nuts are power-packed with beneficial nutritional components, vitamins, and minerals necessary for child growth. Despite their small size, these nutritional powerhouses can provide significant health benefits for children including improved brain development, heart health, weight management, digestive health, strong bones, reduced inflammation, improved nutrient absorption, and allergy prevention.
Here are some key nutritional benefits of including nuts in children’s diets.
Nutritional value of Nuts
Most nuts are incredibly nutritious, high in healthy fats, fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals essential for child development. Most nuts comprise significant amounts of Vitamin E and B group vitamins, along with various antioxidants.
Let us explore the nutritional value of some commonly consumed nuts:
Almonds: Almonds are a good source of plant protein and are rich in monounsaturated fats which are heart-healthy and help reduce bad cholesterol levels. They are the best source of Vitamin E and magnesium which are essential for various bodily functions. Almonds are also high in calcium, ensuring healthy bone development.
Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids known for promoting brain and cardiovascular health.
Pistachios: Pistachios are protein-rich nuts offering a good amount of essential amino acids. They are a good source of fibre, promoting digestive health. Rich in Vitamin B6 and potassium they are good for supporting heart health.
Cashews: Cashews are rich in healthy fats, iron, magnesium and zinc that support bone health and immunity.
Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts contain selenium, a potent antioxidant that supports the immune functions.
Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are a good source of Vitamin E and folate which contribute to good skin and hair health.
Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts are high in monounsaturated fats and provide Thiamine (Vitamin B1) that converts food into energy.
Why include nuts in your child’s diet
Due to their rich nutritional profile, nuts are nutrient-dense foods contributing to the feeling of fullness (satiety) that can aid in managing a healthy weight in children. Their high fibre and protein content makes them an excellent option for between-meal snacks and can help reduce overeating, leading to healthier weight management.
Walnuts, for example, are famous for their high content of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. Studies show that DHA supports cognitive development and improves memory and learning in children.
With their rich array of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, the consumption of nuts can also help in managing healthy cholesterol levels in children, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
A handful of nuts has the potential to provide you with a good amount of energy. Here is a sample of the amount of nutrition 30g of mixed nuts can provide:
174 Kcal /722KJ
8.2g mono-unsaturated fat
3.5g poly-unsaturated fat
28 mg calcium
67 mg magnesium
Also Read: How Many Eggs Can Children Eat Every Day?
Benefits of nuts in children’s diet
1) Adequate Nutrition: As a nutrient-dense food, nuts can contribute immensely to the overall nutritional adequacy of children’s diets. They are an excellent source of unsaturated fat and contain a significant amount of fibre, protein, vitamins E and B2, folate, and essential minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium.
2) Improved Cardiovascular Health: Regular consumption of nuts from early childhood could be a vital step in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Nuts have high unsaturated fats, and low saturated fats, and are cholesterol-free, thus contributing to good cardiovascular health.
3) Cognitive Development: Certain nuts like walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which help in cognitive development and enhanced brain function in childhood. Omega-3 also helps improve memory and concentration in kids.
4) Weight Management: Even though nuts are high in fats, they aid in weight management in children. Research suggests that nut consumption does not lead to weight gain in children.
5) Improved digestive health: The dietary fibre in nuts, such as almonds, promotes healthy digestion and prevents constipation in children. Fibre also helps regulate blood sugar levels and contributes to a feeling of fullness.
6) Strong bones: Nuts are rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, which are essential for strong bones and teeth
7) Enhanced immune system: Nuts contain vitamins and minerals that contribute to a strong immune system. For example, vitamin E found in almonds acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage, while selenium in Brazil nuts supports immune function.
8) Allergy tolerance: Early exposure to nuts can help the child build tolerance and reduce the likelihood of developing allergies later in life.
Are nuts safe for everyone?
While discussing nuts’ benefits, it is also crucial to mention nut allergies, which is one of the most common food allergies in both children and adults. Therefore, before introducing this highly beneficial food group into a child’s diet, caregivers should consult a healthcare professional for allergy testing.
Ways to add nuts to your child’s diet
Nuts can be a choking hazard for children, especially those under the age of four. Providing nuts in safe forms, such as nut butter or finely chopped nuts, can alleviate this concern. Nuts can also be introduced into your child’s diet in the form of paste or powder to avoid choking hazards. For children above five years, raw, dry-roasted and unsalted nuts are the healthiest form. Nuts are a smart snack choice for children. Pack it in their snack box or give it as a treat when they are back from school. Either way, it is a completely nutritious and protein-rich food that parents can provide to their children.
Nuts, with their rich nutritional profile, offer a plethora of health benefits for children, such as promoting cognitive skills, managing a healthy weight, and supporting overall growth and development. While potential allergies and choking hazards necessitate caution, with appropriate precautions, nuts can be a significant addition to a child’s diet, benefiting their health.