Happy Belated National Nut Day! Why am I so excited? Because nuts are something to celebrate! Nuts have shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation that is at the core of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eat a handful of nuts (~1 oz) a day and keep the doctor away? That just might be the case!
Many health benefits can be found specifically in tree nuts i.e. nuts that grow on trees. Peanuts are technically legumes (because nutrition isn’t confusing enough) that grow underground and are more closely related to soybeans, peas and lentils. This explains why some people are allergic (even deathly allergic) to peanuts and not almonds. Don’t get me wrong, tree nut allergies can be just as severe as peanut allergies, but they are much less common.
Tree nuts include almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, cashews and walnuts.
Nuts are a good source of protein, healthy fats, vitamin E, folate, fiber and phytochemicals. They are also filled with minerals such as magnesium, zinc and copper. One handful (~1 oz) packs a protein punch of 2-6 grams! In that same handful, and what most people are concerned about, are 160-200 calories and 13-21 grams of healthy fat.
Cracking it Open
Nuts have been touted for their ability to improve heart health by reducing the “bad” LDL cholesterol and inching away belly fat. It has been proved that even though nuts have a significant amount of calories from fat, they are the healthy type of fat—specifically monounsaturated (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA)—that are heart-health protective.
Did you know that tree nuts can help manage and even prevent diabetes? The high content of healthy fats and low sugar content promotes better glucose control.
Nuts have shown a positive association with cognitive health, specifically walnuts, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have shown to reduce inflammatory markers. Some other health benefits have been associated with increased fertility, increased bone health and cancer prevention. Now that is something to chew on.
How Much Is Enough
Nuts are caloric, true! But studies show that if you replace (not add) some of your calories with nuts, they can help with weight maintenance and weight loss. The high fat and fiber content help satiation. In addition, they are fun to eat. There is much variety and each flavor is unique.
As part of a healthy diet, 1-ounce has shown great health benefits. The USDA National Nutrient Database has an easy breakdown of 1-ounce equivalents such as 23 almonds, 7 Brazil nuts, or 48 pistachios to mention a few. As a vegetarian protein source—½ ounce of nuts or 1 tablespoon of almond butter would be considered one serving of protein.
Absolutely! Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are my favorite.They not only have the highest amount of protein and lowest calorie range but they all have a little something special. One serving of almonds has 37% of our daily value of vitamin E. Walnuts have a good source of essential omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha-Linolenic acid- ALA). And I love pistachios as a snack. The shell forces you to slow down and enjoy!
Nuts can be a great addition to any dish. Yogurt, cereal and French toast can be garnished with nuts. Nuts can add a nice crunch to salad or pasta. Some of my favorite side dishes include nuts, for example, green beans with toasted almonds and squash with pistachios.
A Few General Tips
- Opt for low sodium options.
- Store in an airtight container, like a mason jar. Putting them in the refrigerator will also extend their shelf life, because of their high fat content.
- If you are allergic to peanuts be careful with tree nuts. Even though they are technically not the same family, people with peanut allergies tend to have additional allergies.
- Whether you are using the stove or the oven, toast nuts BEFORE chopping them into smaller pieces. It keeps a nice fresh taste.
What’s your favorite nut dish?
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr
Nuts for Nutrition. UNL Food: Food, Nutrition & Health.
Go Nuts for Health. Environmental Nutrition, November 2012.
Edited by TCabrarr
Picture from DeusXFlorida on Flickr