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Chemical composition of nuts and edible seeds and their relation to nutrition and health

Jullyana Borges Freitas Maria Margareth Veloso Naves About the authors

This systematic review compares the chemical composition among different types of nuts and edible seeds with regard to nutrients and other bioactive compounds and relates this composition to nutrition and health. This literature review was based on Biological Abstracts, CAB Abstracts, Food Science and Technology Abstracts, Medline and Lilacs, in accordance with the following selection criteria: original research articles published in the last five years in Brazilian or international journals in the fields of Food Science, Medicine I and Medicine II, indexed in the Institute for Scientific Information. The articles were analyzed according to pre-established quality criteria. True nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts and pistachios) and edible seeds (peanuts and baru almonds) are good sources of lipids and proteins. The lipid fractions are composed especially of oleic (C18:1) and linoleic (C18:2) fatty acids, with emphasis on the ω-6 to ω-3 relation in macadamia, walnut, chestnut and baru almond, whose profiles favor the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk. Their proteins present an amino acid profile that meets the requirements of school children and contain more sulfur-containing amino acids than legumes such as beans. These nuts and edible seeds are also good sources of phytoesterols, mainly β-sitosterol; minerals, particularly calcium, iron, zinc, selenium and potassium; tocopherols, especiallyα-tocopherol; and insoluble fiber. These nutrient-dense foods contain bioactive substances that maximize their beneficial health effects and, for this reason, their study and consumption should be encouraged.

Fatty acids; Amino acids; Minerals; Nuts; Tocopherols; Nutritive value


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