Dry fruits in winter diet: Know how much is too much

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Dry fruits are a staple in Indian culture, and now that the winter season is on, you’ll see more varieties of them on the streets or in shops. They are tasty and keep you warm. But how much dry fruits should you eat to avoid any health complications?

As winter is here, and consumption of dry fruits shoots up, Health Shots asked Simrun Chopra, a deep health coach and nutritionist, to help us dive a little deeper into this question.

Firstly, she says that in India, we use the term “dry fruits” loosely to indicate everything from raisins and plums to almonds or cashews.

What are dry fruits?

The expert shared that in nutritional research, the classification is segregated when it comes to dry fruits.

These usually refer to fruits that have been dried or dehydrated like prunes, raisins, apricot, figs or even dehydrated strawberries and berries.

1. Nuts: These will cover the usual almonds, cashews and walnuts. Chopra noted that peanuts are actually not classified as nuts, but as a legume

Walnut is a powerhouse of health benefits. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Seeds: This one is self-explanatory. However in India they might come under the larger umbrella of dry fruits as they are usually available at dry fruit stores and priced and positioned similarly to nuts.

How much dry fruits is safe to eat?

Many make the mistake of eating dry fruits in huge quantities. But Chopra said, “When consumed daily, dry fruits like a handful of raisins, figs and prunes increase LDL cholesterol and mean fasting glucose levels compared to a controlled group.”

Nuts, like almonds and walnuts, on the other hand, show a positive response where nut consumption reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, apolipoprotein B and triglycerides.

Chopra said that results would obviously be affected by the overall dietary patterns of a person where “adequate plant-based foods, lean proteins, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates play a big role.”

Nutrition is a complex science that is individualised.  So, while nuts might reduce LDL cholesterol, some nuts like almonds and cashews are high in oxalates. Their overconsumption can cause or worsen calcium oxalate stones in the kidneys.

However, eating a few of them with calcium-rich foods can lower the risk. Just mix your nuts with some yoghurt, suggested Chopra.

She noted that none of these work in isolation, and good nutritional guidance usually accounts for all other health aspects such as pre-existing conditions, predispositions and lifestyle.

The expert said that most nuts are generally healthy and assuming there are no health conditions, four to six servings a week of unsalted, unflavoured and organic nuts are a good benchmark for adults.

Nuts eaten in moderation is good for health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Nuts and their benefits

Some nuts are more beneficial than others based on conditions. For instance, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and walnuts are great for heart health. Chopra shared that having one Brazil nut a day, adds selenium that is great for people suffering from thyroid. But it is best to check with a professional nutritionist before following this religiously.

No roasting nuts at high temperatures

Chopra advised to avoid roasting nuts at high temperatures for long. If you are looking for long-term storage, ensure that you store them in a cold place like a refrigerator or a freezer. “The polyunsaturated fats in roasted nuts are more susceptible to oxidation. If you wish to roast your nuts, you should do so at a low temperature,” she explained.

Overall, dried fruits are a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but most water-soluble vitamins like vitamin c are depleted.

Chopra warned that dry fruits are beneficial only when they are consumed in very small amounts. So, don’t eat them in handfuls.

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