Friday, May 20, 2011

Everyone go NUTS!!!!

I'm assuming most of you have heard at some time or another that nuts are good for your health. You hear the Almond Board telling you that Almonds are good for your health and Snookie says that she eats pistachios because they are the "lowest calorie nut."

Side story: Growing up I used to hate nuts, I liked Peanut Butter, and sometimes could eat pistachios, but no one could ever convince me to eat almonds. Then... I studied nutrition and read research articles, and I was able to make myself like cashews.... then I learned that almonds are way healthier than cashews, and I learned to like almonds. Yes, through repetitive exposure to almonds, I made myself like almonds. I tell every parent this fact: it is likely that if you expose your child to a food enough times (research estimates 12-14 exposures) your child will learn to like the food. So, if you or your child doesn't like any vegetable now, keep giving them vegetables, and soon enough your child will like (some) vegetables (or at least tolerate them).

Anyway, as far as nuts go, they are all good for you so don't believe someone when they say cashews are bad for you, or nuts are going to make you fat. In fact, people that eat nuts regularly tend to have lower body weights than those that don't eat nuts. Why, you ask? Experts aren't entirely sure, but it is believed that nuts are more satiating (i.e: make you feel more satisfied after eating) than other foods because of their fat, protein, and fiber content. Furthermore, they don't think that nuts are well absorbed, meaning that even if you eat 200 calories worth of almonds, you might not actually extract, absorb, and store all of that energy.

So, why are nuts good for you?
- Nuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats (the "healthy" fat in olive oil) and omega-3 fatty acids (like in salmon!)
- Nuts are a good source of protein and fiber
- Nuts contain Vitamin E, a very powerful antioxidant that most of us don't get enough of
- Nuts contain phytosterols which help to lower your blood cholesterol levels
- Nuts contain phytonutrients which can potentially help prevent diseases like cancer

Which nuts are the best for you?
If I had to rank nuts through the research studies I have read, classes I have taken, and experts I have heard from, it would go something like this (best to 5th best):

1. Walnuts- just 12-14 walnut halves have 2.5 g ALA (an omega-3), 4 g protein, 2 g fiber, 10% DV of maganese and phosphorus, some calcium and iron, and 190 calories
2. Almonds- one ounce (~22 almonds) has 160 calories, 6 g protein, 3.5 g fiber, and contain high levels of antioxidants and Vitamin E
3. Pistachios- 1 ounce (~49 kernels) contains 170 calories, 20% DV of Vitamin B6 and 15% DV of thiamin, as well as 3 g of fiber
4. Peanuts (technically a legume)- 1 ounce (~3 tbsp peanuts) contains 170 calories, 25% DV of Vitamin E, 20% DV Niacin, 10% DV of potassium and phosphorus
5. Hazelnuts- 1 ounce (~21 nuts) contains 180 calories, 4 g protein, 3 g fiber, and contain the lowest levels of saturated fat (along with almonds & pine nuts) compared to other nuts

What do you recommend I eat and how much?
In most studies related to cardiovascular health, people eat 1.5 ounces (~1/3 cup) of nuts each day which will cost you about 220 calories on average. I recommend you eat whatever nuts you like, but if you do like any on my top 5, try to choose those (especially almonds & walnuts). Even though nuts are high in fat, they are high in HEALTHY fats and are chock full of other good-for-you nutrients. Remember, fat isn't what will make you fat, too many calories and lack of exercise will! If you don't like any of the nuts listed, but like the butter versions (e.g: almond butter, peanut butter), you will get similar health benefits from those.

So, try to enjoy nuts as a healthy snack each and every day!

"Nuts: Which Nuts Are the Best and Why?" RD411. June 2008.

1 comment:

Peace of Grace Designs said...

I like BBQ flavored almonds. Or slivered almonds on ice cream...although that may defeat the purpose!! Beth Ann