So Many Good Reasons to Go Nuts

Are you a fan of nuts? Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, hazelnuts…so many wondrous options, so many good reasons to eat them.

 

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hazelnuts by cairistine on flickr

That’s the topic of my latest post for WebMD.  Hope you’ll go over there to check it out.

Nuts are one of those foods that have enjoyed a complete turnaround.  Once shunned during the low-fat era, nuts have gained new-found respect for the “good” fats they contain.  Now there’s growing evidence that adding nuts to your daily routine can be beneficial in so many ways.

For starters, nuts are a core component of the Mediterranean Diet, which made headlines recently after one of the largest studies of its kind examined the heart health benefits of this style of eating.  The participants in Spain eating the Mediterranean Diet – supplemented with an ounce a day of nuts (walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts) — experienced a 30 percent reduction in stroke, heart attacks and deaths from heart disease.

The latest evidence, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is a meta-analysis of 31 different studies that were conducted around the world.  These findings should help reassure you that nuts can be safely added to your diet without gaining weight.  The researchers found that a nut-enriched diet did not increase body weight, body mass index or waist circumference compared with the control diets (without nuts).

Three new studies were just presented in April at the Experimental Biology meeting in Boston.  This research found that eating nuts was associated with a better quality diet (richer in nutrients), lower body weight, lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and reduced cardiovascular disease risk.   The nuts examined in the study included  almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.

So there are so many reasons you can feel good about going nuts.  Besides the healthy fats in these prized packages, nuts are rich in fiber, plant protein and a bundle of different phytonutrients.  They’re a highly satiating food, which means they can tame your appetite and keep you feeling fuller longer.  Each nut has a slightly different claim to fame – such as walnuts can boast about omega-3 and almonds are rich in vitamin E – but all nuts are worthy of your attention.

Seven nuts qualify for a FDA health claim related to heart disease prevention: almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts.  Even though Brazil nuts, cashews, and macadamias do not meet the criteria because of their higher saturated fat levels, they’re still a healthy choice.

The best approach is to swap nuts for something else you typically eat, rather than just adding nuts to your usual routine.   You still need to keep sight of portions, but nuts should be celebrated, not feared.

Dietary guidelines recommend 4 ounces of nuts per week.  Here are some ways you can easily add them to your day:

  • Add chopped walnuts, pecans or sliced almonds to your bowl of oatmeal  or yogurt parfait in the morning.
  • Top your whole-grain toast, English muffin, bagel, pancakes or waffles with peanut or almond butter.
  • Snack on nuts instead of pretzels, crackers or chips.  You can find an array of 100-calorie packs of nuts so you’ll have built-in portion control.
  • Sprinkle your salad with nuts instead of croutons or bacon bits.
  • Throw some nuts into the batter when you’re making muffins or quick breads.
  • Add pine nuts or slivered almonds into your whole-grain dishes, such as quinoa, bulgur or farro.
  • Try nut-based sauces like pesto to use as a dip for vegetables or to top grilled meats.  I’m especially fond of Muhammara, which is made with ground walnuts, and Spanish Romesco, which is made with ground almonds.

You can find more ideas on how to enjoy more nuts, along with recipes for nutty sauces and nut mixes,  in my chapter on healthy fats in the Food Lover’s Healthy Habits Cookbook.  What are your favorite ways to enjoy nuts?

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1 Comment

  • This post is informative. I just like to add that nuts are rich in anti-oxidants properties specially in raw and unroasted wallnuts. Make it a habit to eat nuts. 🙂

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