Nuts are nature’s way of showing us that good things come in small packages.
These bite-size nutritional powerhouses are packed with heart-healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of different nuts, as well as the best and worst products on supermarket shelves today. Of course, you can get too much of these good things: Nuts are high in fat and calories, so while a handful can hold you over until dinner, a few more handfuls can ruin your appetite altogether. And although nuts are a healthy choice by themselves, they’ll quickly become detrimental to any diet when paired with sugary or salty toppings or mixes.
All nuts are about equal in terms of calories per ounce, and in moderation, are all healthy additions to any diet. “Their mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber will help you feel full and suppress your appetite,” says Judy Caplan, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The lowest-calorie nuts at 160 per ounce are almonds (23 nuts; 6 grams protein, 14 grams fat); cashews (16 to 18 nuts; 5 grams protein, 13 grams fat); and pistachios (49 nuts; 6 grams protein, 13 grams fat). Avoid nuts packaged or roasted in oil; instead, eat them raw or dry roasted, says Caplan. (Roasted nuts may have been heated in hydrogenated or omega-6 unhealthy fats, she adds, or to high temperatures that can destroy their nutrients.)
Ounce for ounce, macadamia nuts (10 to 12 nuts; 2 grams protein, 21 grams fat) and pecans (18 to 20 halves; 3 grams protein, 20 grams fat) have the most calories—200 each—along with the lowest amounts of protein and the highest amounts of fats.
However, they’re still good nuts: The difference between these and the lowest calorie nuts is only 40 calories an ounce. As long as you’re practicing proper portion control and not downing handfuls at a time, says Caplan, any kind of raw, plain nut will give you a good dose of healthy fats and nutrients.
While all nuts contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, walnuts (14 halves contain 185 calories, 18 grams fat, 4 grams protein) have high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Research has suggested that ALA may help heart arrhythmias, and a 2006 Spanish study suggested that walnuts were as effective as olive oil at reducing inflammation and oxidation in the arteries after eating a fatty meal. The authors of this study, funded in part by the California Walnut Commission, recommended eating around eight walnuts a day to achieve similar benefits.
Technically legumes but generally referred to as nuts, peanuts are high in folate—a mineral essential for brain development that may protect against cognitive decline. (It also makes peanuts a great choice for vegetarians, who can come up short on folate, and pregnant women, who need folate to protect their unborn babies from birth defects, says Caplan.) Like most other nuts, peanuts are also full of brain-boosting healthy fats and vitamin E, as well. One ounce of peanuts (about 28 unshelled nuts) contains about 170 calories, 7 grams protein, and 14 grams fat.
By Amanda MacMillan – http://www.self.com/
Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health
Eating nuts helps your heart. Discover how walnuts, almonds and other nuts help lower your cholesterol when eaten as part of a balanced diet.
By Mayo Clinic staff
Eating nuts as part of a healthy diet can be good for your heart. Nuts, which contain unsaturated fatty acids and other nutrients, are a great snack food, too. They’re inexpensive, easy to store and easy to take with you to work or school.
The type of nut you eat isn’t that important, although some nuts have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts — you name it — almost every type of nut has a lot of nutrition packed into a tiny package. If you have heart disease, eating nuts instead of a less healthy snack can help you more easily follow a heart-healthy diet.
Can eating nuts help your heart?
People who eat nuts as part of a heart-healthy diet can lower the LDL, low-density lipoprotein or “bad,” cholesterol level in their blood. High LDL is one of the primary causes of heart disease.
Eating nuts reduces your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also improve the health of the lining of your arteries. The evidence for the heart-healthy benefits of nuts isn’t rock solid — the Food and Drug Administration only allows food companies to say evidence “suggests but does not prove” that eating nuts reduces heart disease risk.
What’s in nuts that’s thought to be heart healthy?
Although it varies by nut, most nuts contain at least some of these heart-healthy substances:
Unsaturated fats. It’s not entirely clear why, but it’s thought that the “good” fats in nuts — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — lower bad cholesterol levels.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a healthy form of fatty acids that seem to help your heart by, among other things, preventing dangerous heart rhythms that can lead to heart attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in many kinds of fish, but nuts are one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fiber. All nuts contain fiber, which helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full, so you eat less. Fiber is also thought to play a role in preventing diabetes.
Vitamin E. Vitamin E may help stop the development of plaques in your arteries, which can narrow them. Plaque development in your arteries can lead to chest pain, coronary artery disease or a heart attack.
Plant sterols. Some nuts contain plant sterols, a substance that can help lower your cholesterol. Plant sterols are often added to products like margarine and orange juice for additional health benefits, but sterols occur naturally in nuts.
L-arginine. Nuts are also a source of l-arginine, which is a substance that may help improve the health of your artery walls by making them more flexible and less prone to blood clots that can block blood flow.
What amount of nuts is considered healthy?
Nuts contain a lot of fat; as much as 80 percent of a nut is fat. Even though most of this fat is healthy fat, it’s still a lot of calories. That’s why you should eat nuts in moderation. Ideally, you should use nuts as a substitute for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs and dairy products.
Instead of eating unhealthy saturated fats, try substituting a handful of nuts. According to the Food and Drug Administration, eating about a handful (1.5 ounces, or 42.5 grams) a day of most nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachio nuts and walnuts, may reduce your risk of heart disease. But again, do this as part of a heart-healthy diet. Just eating nuts and not cutting back on saturated fats found in many dairy and meat products won’t do your heart any good.
Does it matter what kind of nuts you eat?
Possibly. Most nuts appear to be generally healthy, though some more so than others. Walnuts are one of the best-studied nuts, and it’s been shown they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans are other nuts that appear to be quite heart healthy. Even peanuts — which are technically not a nut, but a legume, like beans — seem to be relatively healthy. Coconut, which is technically a fruit, may be considered by some to be a nut, but it doesn’t seem to have heart-healthy benefits. Both coconut meat and oil don’t have the benefits of the mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Keep in mind, you could end up canceling out the heart-healthy benefits of nuts if they’re covered with chocolate, sugar or salt.
Here’s some nutrition information on common types of nuts. All calorie and fat content measurements are for 1 ounce, or 28.4 grams (g), of unsalted nuts.
Type of nut Calories Total fat
Almonds, raw 163 14 g (1.1 g/12.2 g)
Almonds, dry roasted 169 15 g (1.1 g/12.9 g)
Brazil nuts, raw 186 19 g (4.3 g/12.8 g)
Cashews, dry roasted 163 13.1 g (2.6 g/10 g)
Chestnuts, roasted 69 0.6 g (0.1 g/0.5 g)
Hazelnuts (filberts), raw 178 17 g (1.3 g/15.2 g)
Hazelnuts (filberts), dry roasted 183 17.7 g (1.3 g/15.6 g)
Macadamia nuts, raw 204 21.5 g (3.4 g/17.1 g)
Macadamia nuts, dry roasted 204 21.6 g (3.4 g/17.2 g)
Peanuts, dry roasted 166 14 g (2g/11.4 g)
Pecans, dry roasted 201 21 g (1.8 g/18.3 g)
Pistachios, dry roasted 161 12.7 g (1.6 g/10.5 g)
Walnuts, halved 185 18.5 g (1.7 g/15.9 g)
*The saturated and unsaturated fat contents in each nut may not add up to the total fat content because the fat value may also include some nonfatty acid material, such as sugars or phosphates.
How about nut oils? Are they healthy, too?
Nut oils are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, but they lack the fiber found in whole nuts. Walnut oil is the highest in omega-3s. Nut oils contain saturated as well as unsaturated fats. Consider using nut oils in homemade salad dressing or in cooking. When cooking with nut oils, remember that they respond differently to heat than do vegetable oils. Nut oil, if overheated, can become bitter. Just like with nuts, use nut oil in moderation, as the oils are high in fat and calories.