If you feel a little nutty some days, go ahead be that way – as in terms of adding them to your diet. In the past, nuts were often considered taboo – not any more. These nutritional standouts have risen to the top of the good-for-you food list ranking up there with fruits and vegetables as a nutrient dense food. Once considered too high in fat and calories to be good for us, nuts have done a nutritional turnaround. Years of research has turned the once frowned upon indulgence into a nutritional powerhouse and are now encouraged to be added to our daily diet.
Nowadays we know the composition of fat in nuts is a good type of fat which is quite healthy for us. Nuts are rich in the healthy oils of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats along with omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts comes from plants therefore they contain no cholesterol; in addition they are free of trans fats and very low in saturated fat. The healthy fats combined with fiber, phytosterols and flavonoids also found in nuts, all make contributions to lowering blood cholesterol improving heart health.
Nuts’ high fat and calorie content have made people fearful of weight gain. A ½ cup of pistachios contains 160 calories while a ¼ cup of walnuts or almonds each contain 180 calories. However, no need to abstain as nuts’ high protein and fiber content counteract making us feel full and studies have shown eating nuts can actually be associated with a reduced risk of weight gain. A medium-sized handful a day is the perfect portion to eat.
Nuts to choose from
The variety of nuts is outstanding – so many to choose from. Also outstanding is the superior nutritional composition of each type of nut. Listed are some of the nutritional benefits each has to offer:
Almonds – A top food source of vitamin E, curbs cravings, rich in magnesium, 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber per serving and has prebiotic potential.
Brazil Nuts – Coming from a tree that grows in the Amazon, Brazil nuts are exceptionally high in selenium, and provide a very good source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium and manganese.
Cashews – Sweet yet crunchy, cashews contain a lower fat content than most other nuts, are rich in soluble fiber and provide zea-xanthin an antioxidant to help prevent age-related macular degeneration in the eyes.
Hazelnuts – Also known as filberts, they rank #1 among tree nuts in the B vitamin folate helping to reduce neural tube birth defects. They are abundant in copper needed for iron absorption and manganese necessary for bone formation.
Macadamia nuts – Their sweet taste provides the most fat and calories of all nuts but they are packed with health-benefitting nutrients. They contain excellent sources of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.
Pecans – Rich in vitamin E which provide protection against cell damage helping to fight Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease. Pecans are considered to contain the highest antioxidant content among all nuts.
Peanuts – Botanically, peanuts are a legume packed with all kinds of good nutrients. They are an excellent source of niacin necessary to convert food to energy and manganese, important for processing cholesterol. Peanuts have more protein than any other nut at 7 grams per ounce.
Pine nuts – These are the small, edible seeds of a female cone of a pine tree, with a crunchy yet buttery texture. They provide a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids helping lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and increase HDL or “good” cholesterol in the blood.
Pistachios – A one-ounce serving has as much potassium – 290 mg – as half of a large banana and 3 grams of fiber. They also contain 6 grams of protein and as much fiber – 2.9 grams – as a ½ cup of broccoli.
Walnuts – This is the only nut containing the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid at 2.5 grams in a one-ounce serving. They also provide 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber helping you to feel full and promote healthy bowel function.
Adding nuts to your daily diet
The neat thing about nuts is they are the ultimate “fast food.” There is little to no preparation involved and are easy to take with you wherever you go. Note they can go rancid due to their high fat content so store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. They also can be stored in the freezer if you don’t plan on using them for several weeks.
Here are some ideas for adding nuts to your daily diet:
· Top salads with nuts instead of croutons or cheese
· Add to Greek yogurt with fresh berries
· Mix into a homemade trail mix or granola
· Add to baked goods such as muffins or quick breads
· Add to stir-fry vegetables
· Add to oatmeal with fresh berries
· Eat a small handful of nuts each day
Websites for more information
Listed below are websites to obtain more information on the health benefits of nuts. Go ahead, it’s okay to “go nuts” a little each day.
Cheryl Mussatto | Registered Dietitian
Cheryl Mussatto has over 30 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian and has worked in a variety of settings that cover a wide span of nutrition experience. Currently she works as an adjunct professor for two community colleges, Allen Community College in Burlingame and Butler Community College in Council Grove, Kansas teaching two courses, Basic Nutrition and Therapeutic Nutrition. She is a consulting dietitian for the Cotton O’Neil Medical Clinic in Osage City doing individualized nutrition counseling. Cheryl also is a contributing author for osagecountyonline.com, an online newspaper and Edietitians, a global free nutritional and health magazine. Her articles for both publications pertain to nutrition topics that cover a diversity of health and nutrition interests for the general public. She is also certified as a health and wellness coach. Visit her website atwww.eatwell2bewellrd.com and Facebook page: Eat Well 2 Be Well.