Nuts and dry fruits

You ask any Indian what he or she understands by “dry fruit” and an immediate reply would be – Badam(almonds), Kaju(cashews), Akhrot(walnuts), brazil nuts and all.

Most of us would have read or heard the legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore’s story, Kabuliwala , a dry fruit seller in Kolkata who hailed from Kabul.

How do we distinguish between nuts, dry fruit and dried fruit? After all, they are not the same in nutritional parlance. You ask any Indian what he or she understands by “dry fruit” and an immediate reply would be – Badam(almonds), Kaju(cashews), Akhrot(walnuts), brazil nuts and all.

Dry fruit can include nuts as well. There are 2 types of dry fruit, dehiscent (those that are in a pod,like pistachios) and indehiscent (those that are not in a pod). Cashews, almonds and walnuts and most other “nuts” are examples of indehiscent dry fruits.

We all know that nuts are an excellent reservoir of nutrients & energy when eaten in the right portion (remember they are calorie dense foods!), at the right time and in the right combination. They are packed with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals like folate, magnesium, potassium, calcium and Vit E. They are a source of healthy fats like PUFA & MUFA.

Well documented researches substantiate that nuts can help improve heart health, reduce the risk for diabetes and even enhance longevity, when had as a part of a diet that is well-balanced on both macro and micro nutrients. WHO recommends having 2-3 tbsp (up to 45 gm) of nuts a day. The best way to have them is as it is and not as fried, salted or sugar coated. In fact, a few pieces of honey/ jaggery coated almonds/ walnuts can be a great way to manage sweet cravings. I always recommend starting the day with almonds and ending it with cashews. Almonds are gold standard food when it comes to nutrient density so having them in the morning can boost energy, immune system and regulate blood sugar levels for the day ahead. Cashews can be the perfect night cap as they contain tryptophan which can ensure a calm and sound sleep.

It is advisable to soak nuts before consuming to help reduce anti-nutrients like phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Both phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors protect and preserve the nuts from sprouting prematurely. If consumed without soaking, these anti nutrients prevent complete assimilation of nutrients in our digestive system. Soaking them in warm salted water is even more beneficial as warm water neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors and ups the bioavailability of nutrients, mainly the B vitamins. Salt helps activate enzymes. And live active enzymes mean better absorption and digestion.

On the other hand, dried fruit includes raisins, prunes, dates, dried apricots, figs, and dehydrated mango slices, kiwi slices, cranberries, apples etc. These fleshy fruits may be dehydrated synthetically or naturally. Dried fruit are an excellent source of anti-oxidants, fiber & minerals. They have been part of dietary and naturopathic treatments for issues like anemia, heart disease, poor digestion, obesity and even some types of cancer. They count towards one’s intake of fruit. However, we should follow a caveat of portion while consuming these energy bombs. While one may not be able to eat 3 fresh apricots and 30 grapes as a single serving, but it is easy to munch on 3 dried apricots and 30 raisins carelessly. When buying dried fruits, choose the ones which do not have added chemical preservatives and extra sugar. If buying them packaged, there should be only 1 ingredient on the pack- the fruit itself.

Both nuts and dried fruit can be a healthy replacement to snacks like biscuits, namkeens and chips in between main meals. Like mid-morning, late afternoon and even for late night hunger pangs when awake till late.  

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