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With Christmas only days away, and the lure of all those calorie-laden treats which fill our cupboards at this time of year, why not instead try some healthier alternatives, such as nuts and dried fruit. These nutritious alternatives can be enjoyed as a snack or dessert and will bring numerous health benefits such as boosting your metabolism, promoting weight loss, and keep you healthy.

Whilst dried fruit is higher in sugar content than fresh fruit, due to the reduced water content and more concentrated nature, they are also very nutritious when enjoyed in moderation. So, before you reach for that chocolate box, consider dried fruit as a much healthy alternative whilst still giving you the ‘sugar kick’ you are after.

Below are some popular nuts and dried fruits which can be enjoyed as a delicious snack and a quick source of energy, with the added bonus of counting towards your five-a-day.

Almonds

Almonds are one of the most popular nuts and for good reason. They are high in healthy fats, antioxidants, and a host of vitamins and minerals – especially when eating the full almond (the nut and skin).

Healthy heart
Almonds are rich in vitamin E and monounsaturated fatty acids that maintain blood cholesterol levels. Being rich in magnesium and potassium, almonds help maintain blood pressure and improve the health of your heart.

Reduce inflammation in the body
Almonds provide all important antioxidants, which scavenge free radicals within the cells reducing oxidation damage within the body contributing to inflammation, ageing and some diseases.

Maintain body weight
The presence of protein, fats, and dietary fibre in almonds helps create a feeling of fullness, which may help to maintain your weight by reducing overeating. In fact, some research shows that a diet rich in almonds reduces body fat and causes weight reduction when snacking on almonds in between meals.

Control blood sugar level
Some researchers believe that the presence of monounsaturated fatty acids in almonds reduces glucose levels in the bloodstream thus preventing a sudden increase in blood sugar level.

Dates

When we think about winter, these sweet, rich caramel, super-delicious, treats come to mind, especially around the Christmas season. They are cholesterol free and very low in fat.

Energy Booster
This dried fruit is very high in glucose, fructose, and sucrose, which is an immediate source of energy, making them the perfect pick me up if you’re feeling low. Eating dates with some protein or fat, such as nuts or nut butter, will slow down the sudden increase in blood sugar levels.

Rich in Iron
Dates are a rich source of iron and very beneficial for people suffering from anaemia.

Promote digestion
The high fibre content of dates helps to slow down digestion and ease constipation. Ripe dates are also an excellent source of potassium which helps control diarrhoea.

Overall health
Dates also contain elements of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, riboflavin, Vitamin K and Vitamin A promoting a good overall health.

Walnuts

If there is one nut that everyone should be eating, this is it. These crunchy delights are the powerhouse of the nut world. Known as the nut for brain health, they provide healthy fats, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Not only do walnuts make a great snack, but they are also an excellent addition to salads, desserts as well as breakfast, such as sprinkled on oats or yoghurt.

Brain Booster 
Walnuts contain compounds such as polyphenols, which decreases inflammation, and alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega 3 fatty acid which improve brain functions. The presence of vitamin E and flavonoids in walnuts have shown to ease dementia and stress.

Reduce risk of cancer
Regular intake of walnuts in your diet can reduce the risk of cancer as well as a decline the proliferation of cancer cells. Several researchers believe that the presence of melatonin and omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts is responsible for their chemo-preventive properties.

Good for hair and skin
The presence of biotin helps to reduce hair loss and makes your hair sleek and shiny. B-vitamins and antioxidants prevent the signs of aging and remove wrinkles from your skin.

Promote healthy gut
Studies have shown that eating walnuts resulted in an increase of good bacteria in your gut which is vital for digesting your food and overall health and happiness

Dried Apricots

These nutritious and low-calorie dried fruit make an excellent snack or addition to cheeseboards this Christmas. They are full of vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, potassium, fibre, and antioxidants which are excellent for healthy skin and also keep the immune system in check.

Good for vision 
The enrichment of pro-vitamin A and Beta carotene help to strengthen the optic nerves and prevent sight loss in old people.

Rich in antioxidants and iron
Antioxidants help fight the negative effect of free radicals and inhibit cancerous growth. They are also rich in iron which can prevents you from anaemia.

Healthy bones 
Being high in calcium and potassium, these important minerals keep your bones healthy.

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts are commonly known for their high selenium content, however they are also a good source other nutrients such as protein, fibre, magnesium, and iron. They also contain a high proportion of the healthy fat, monounsaturated fat.

Antibody Production & Healthy Immune System
Being high in selenium, this aids the production of antibodies, which are integral to your body’s immune fight against pathogens. Brazil nuts are the richest known food source of this vital nutrient. A single Brazil nut can meet your daily recommended allowance.

Brain Health 
Ellagic acid which is a type of polyphenol found in Brazil nuts act as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory providing neuroprotective and antidepressant effects on the brain.

Support healthy cholesterol 
As Brazil nuts are high in fibre, heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids and a high mineral content, studies have shown they can reduce total and LDL cholesterol (also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol).

Helps maintain thyroid health
Selenium helps to support thyroid health, particularly good for people who are deficient in thyroid hormone levels.

Dried Figs

Dried figs are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre, which minimize problems related to blood sugar and other health issues. Dried figs are a great addition to your Christmas cheeseboard or added to granola or raw energy bites.

Prevent health issues
Dried figs help reduce the amount of insulin in diabetic patients and has also found to be a treatment for various other diseases like constipation, and indigestion.

Remedy for asthma and a cough
Studies have shown that dried figs can aid in flushing out the phlegm and clear mucus from bronchial tubes therefore helping with asthma and a cough.

Maintain healthy bones 
Minerals like calcium, potassium, copper, and Sulphur help protect against bone loss.

Fibre
Being high in fibre, these fruits will help keep you regular and reduce abdominal discomfort.

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