• Health Nuts: Eating Nuts May Be Healthful

    Image for nut article You are what you eat. You may think you are a health nut—you eat whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. However, if you avoid nuts because they are high in fat, you may not be as healthy as you can be. Nuts have traditionally received a bad reputation for their high-fat and high-calorie content, especially from people watching their weight. Yet, there are many reasons to include nuts in your diet—one of which is the very fat that made you avoid them!

    Get Your Nut Nutrition

    Nuts contain mostly “good,” unsaturated fat—the type that is believed to help improve heart health. Most Americans consume too much “bad,” saturated fat, which is found mostly in meats and high-fat dairy products. Research has shown that reducing saturated fat and increasing unsaturated fat can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
    There are two types of unsaturated fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Nuts contain both types of unsaturated fat and only small amounts of saturated fat, in varying amounts depending on the type of nut. Some research suggests that one type of polyunsaturated fat, called omega-3 fatty acids, may offer benefits like a reduced risk of heart disease. Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids.
    This table shows the calories, protein, and fat in a 1-ounce serving (28 grams) of nuts.
    Nut Calories Protein Total Fat
    Grams(g)
    Saturated Fat
    Grams (g)
    Monounsaturated Fat
    Grams(g)
    Polyunsatured Fat
    Grams(g)
    Almonds 160 6 14 1 9 3
    Brazil nuts 190 4 19 5 7 7
    Cashews 160 4 13 3 8 2
    Hazelnuts 180 4 17 1.5 13 2
    Macadamias 200 2 22 3 17 0.5
    Peanuts 170 7 14 2 7 4
    Pecans 200 3 20 2 12 6
    Pine Nuts 160 7 14 2 5 6
    Pistachios 160 6 13 1.5 7 4
    Walnuts 190 4 18 1.5 2.5 13
    Source: International Tree Nut Council Research and Education Foundation

    Protein

    As the above table shows, nuts are a great source of protein. Nuts are also rich in one amino acid (a building-block of protein) called arginine, which may be linked to heart health benefits.

    Vitamin E

    Vitamin E is an antioxidant that is important for normal development of nerves and cells in the lungs and blood. Nuts like peanuts and almonds can help you to reach your dietary requirement of vitamin E.

    Other Nutrients in Nuts

    Nuts contain many other nutrients, such as:
    • Calcium—For example, one cup (95 grams) of almonds has 251 milligrams of calcium.
    • Selenium—Brazil nuts have an especially high amount of the mineral selenium, which acts as an antioxidant.
    • Folate—Nuts like walnuts have this B vitamin, which plays a role in reducing the risk of neural tube birth defects in babies.
    • Plant sterols—Plant sterols, found in peanuts, may help to reduce cholesterol levels.

    Make Room for Nuts

    Of course, while nuts have many benefits, you still need to make room for them in your diet by cutting down on calories from other foods or drinks. Check out these 10 foods and drinks you could skip today to make way for an ounce (a small handful) of nuts.
    Each serving listed is approximately 180 calories, the amount in one ounce of nuts.
    • 9 restaurant-style tortilla chips
    • 1-½ chewy chocolate-chip granola bars
    • 14 ounces of soda or beer
    • 1 package of 6 cheese and crackers (found in vending machines)
    • 1/3 cup ice cream
    • 10 ounces of Fresh Samantha fruit juice smoothie (a little more than half the bottle)
    • 18 Baked Lays (potato chips)
    • ¾ of a package of plain M&M’s
    • Six ounces of a 10-ounce café mocha
    • 1-¼ Nutri-Grain (cereal bar) strawberry

    Add Nuts to Your Diet

    Nuts are easy. They do not require cooking or preparing. They are portable and even found in vending machines. And they go well with everything—from salads to desserts. Here are some ways to make your meals nuttier:
    • Add nuts to your morning meal.
    • Make an easy batch of homemade granola bars with oats, cheerios, peanut butter, and dried fruit. Grab and go.
    • Make your own trail mix with your favorite nuts, dried fruits (apricots, cranberries, raisins), and a high-fiber cereal.
    • Mix some nuts into your pasta dishes. Try adding walnuts to your pasta tossed with olive oil, fresh basil, and tomatoes. Also try using peanut butter as a sauce, tossed with penne pasta, roasted butternut squash, eggplant, and shallots.
    • Add nuts to side dishes. Try brown rice, raisins, and hazelnuts. Or add pine nuts to your couscous with feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Add almonds to your green beans, or hazelnuts to your sautéed spinach.
    • Mix finely chopped nuts with an equal amount of seasoned breadcrumbs to coat your fish or chicken with flavor before baking, broiling, or grilling.
    • Stir nuts into your stir-fry dishes. Try adding some peanut butter to create a thicker stir-fry sauce.
    • Add nuts to your favorite chicken salad recipe. Spice up your chicken salad with curry powder, grapes, and almonds. Or try chicken salad with apples and walnuts.
    • Try whipping up an almond smoothie. Put a handful of nuts in a blender with some milk, ice, vanilla or almond extract, and a sweetener of your choice (maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, etc). Blend well. Make it thick, freeze it, and eat it like ice cream.

    RESOURCES

    American Dietetic Association http://www.eatright.org/

    American Heart Association http://www.americanheart.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canada's Food Guide http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/

    Dietitians of Canada http://www.dietitians.ca/

    References

    Abbey M, Noakes M, Belling G, et al. Partial replacement of saturated fatty acids with almonds or walnuts lowers total plasma cholesterol and low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol. Amer J Clin Nutr. 1994;59:995-999.

    Albert CM, Willett WC, Manson JE, et al. Nut consumption and the risk of sudden and total cardiac death in the Physicians Health Study. Abstract, American Heart Association. November 9-11, 1998.

    Appel LJ, Moore TJ, Obarzanek E, et al. A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. NEJM. 1997;336:1117-1123.

    Arginine. EBSCO Natural and Alternative Treatments website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated April 11, 2011. Accessed April 11, 2011.

    Awad AB, Chan K, Downie A, et al. Peanuts as a source of B-Sitosterol, a sterol with anticancer properties. Nutr and Canc. 2000;36:238-241.

    Feldman EB. LSRO Report: The scientific evidence for a beneficial health relationship between walnuts and coronary heart disease. J Nutr. 2002;132:1062S-1101S.

    Fraser G, Sabate J, Beeson LW, et al. A possible effect of nut consumption on risk of coronary heart disease. Arch Inter Med. 1992;152:1416-1424.

    Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Frequent nut consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women: prospective cohort study. Brit Med Jour. 1998;317:1341-1345.

    Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et al. Dietary fat intake and risk of coronary heart disease in women. NEJM. 1997;337:1491-1499.

    Kelloff GJ, Crowell JA, Steele VE, et al. Progress in cancer chemoprevention: development of diet-derived chemopreventive agents. J Nutr. 2000;130:467S-471S.

    Kris-Etherton PM. AHA Science Advisory: monounsaturated fatty acids and risk of cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2001;2280-2284.

    Kris-Etherton PM, et al. The effects of nuts on coronary heart disease risk. Nutr Rev. 2001;59:103-111.

    Kris-Etherton PM, Yu-Poth S, Sabate J, et al. Nuts and their bioactive constituents: effects on serum lipids and other factors that affect disease risk. Amer J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:504S-511S.

    Kris-Etherton PM, et al. High-monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations. Amer J Clin Nutr. 1999;70:1009-1015.

    McManus K, Antinoro L and Sacks F. A randomized controlled trial of a moderate-fat, low-energy diet compared with a low fat, low-energy diet for weight loss in overweight adults. Int J Obes. 2001;25:1503-1511.

    Nuts and your health. Food Reflections website. Available at: http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ftmar04.htm. Published March 2004. Accessed April 11, 2011.

    Nuts and your heart: eating nuts for heart health. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nuts/HB00085. Updated November 5, 2010. Accessed April 11, 2011.

    O’Byrne DJ, Knauff DA, Shireman RB, et al. Low-fat monounsaturated rich diets containing high-oleic peanuts improve serum lipoprotein profiles. Lipids. 1997;32:687-695.

    Sabate J, Fraser G, Burke K, et al. Effect of walnuts on serum lipid levels and blood pressure in normal men. NEJM. 1993;328:603-607.

    Sabate J. Nut consumption, vegetarian diets, ischemic heart disease risk, and all-cause mortality: evidence from epidemiologic studies. Amer J Clin Nutr. 1999;70 :500S-503S.

    Sanders TH. Non-detectable levels of trans-fatty acids in peanut butter. J Agric Food Chem. 2001;49:2349-2351.

    Sanders TH, McMichael RW, Hendrix KW. Occurrence of resveratrol in edible peanuts. J of Agric Food Chem. 2000;48:1243-1246.

    Singh RB, Dubnov G, Niaz MA, et al. Effect of an Indo-Mediterranean diet on progression of coronary artery disease in high risk patients (Indo-Mediterranean Diet Heart Study): a randomised single-blind trial. Lancet. 2002;360:1455-1461.

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