Take a look at your food log. How often are you eating nuts? If nuts aren’t already a part of your healthy eating plan, maybe the results of a recent study would entice you to give them a try. Researchers found that a one-ounce serving (28 grams) of almonds has 20% fewer calories than previously thought. This means that instead of 170 calories/serving almonds actually have 129 calories/serving.
Turns out that the method food scientists have been using for calculating the calorie content of nuts may not be entirely accurate. Although this study only evaluated almonds, researchers believe that most likely the energy content of all nuts has been over-estimated. Scientists speculate that the fiber-rich structure of the nut’s cell membrane could lock in a portion of the fat, preventing it from being fully digested and absorbed.
If research on the caloric density in nuts continues to show a similar trend, we may see Nutrition Facts labels changing in the near future. However, regardless of the exact number of calories, you can feel good about the fact that nuts provide heart-healthy fats, fiber, protein, minerals and powerful antioxidants. Nuts also pack other heart-healthy phytochemicals such as flavonoids, resveratrol and plant sterols. Most of all, they’re delicious! Here are some quick facts on different nuts.
An ounce of almonds (about 20 to 25 almonds) contains as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk. Almonds are a great source of phytonutrients which help protect us against heart disease and cancer. Almonds are a great whole-food source of Vitamin E (an ounce of almonds contains 35% of your daily allowance). They also contain phosphorus, zinc, folic acid and fiber.
Walnuts are another heart-healthy snacking choice. Walnuts (along with pecans and chestnuts) have the highest antioxidant levels of any tree nuts. Eating just a handful of walnuts 4 times weekly may reduce your risk of heart disease! One-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100% of the daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amounts of copper, manganese, molybdenum and biotin. Take a close look at a walnut without the shell. What does it remind you of? Since ancient times, the walnut has actually been revered as a symbol of intellectuality, since the bi-lobed kernels have a convoluted surface resembling the human brain!
Cashew nuts are the kidney-shaped seeds that adhere to the bottom of the cashew apple, (the fruit of the cashew tree), which is native to Brazil. In addition to being heart healthy, cashews are a great source of minerals. They contain 31% of the daily recommended value for copper, along with 23% for manganese, 20% for magnesium and 17% for phosphorus, along with 12% of the daily recommended value for vitamin K.
Pistachios are an excellent source of protein, fiber and healthy fats. They also provide phosphorus, manganese and copper, which are important for strengthening your bones. They contain a significant amount of arginine—a substance that produces nitric oxide in the blood—and helps to prevent damaging build-up along artery walls.
Peanuts are actually a legume—not a tree nut. Just one ounce of peanuts provides 9% of your daily fiber needs and 16% of your daily requirement of vitamin E. Like other nuts, peanuts can help you with weight control. A Harvard Medical School study found that 3 times as many participants were able to stick to their diets when they included peanuts as part of their daily food. Although nuts tend to be high in calories, their high fiber content helps us feel full after eating just a small amount. Peanut butter, however, is not as effective as raw nuts for weight loss. For maximum weight loss benefits, choose raw nuts over butters and get your chew on!
Tips for Adding Nuts to Your Nutrition Plan
A combination of different types of nuts in moderation can have great health benefits. The trick to eating nuts—and not over-doing it—is to portion a one ounce serving instead of eating right out of the can! If weight loss is your goal, make sure that you eat them in place of other snacks—not in addition to them. If you choose the sugar-coated, chocolate-dipped, dry-roasted or oil-roasted, know that these pack a higher fat and calorie punch along with the added salt, and/or sugar.
A great way to add nuts into the diet is to make homemade trail mix with raw or slightly roasted mixed nuts and dried fruit like raisins. Raw nuts are higher in nutrients than their roasted counterpart because processing the nuts diminishes some of the nutritional benefits. For this reason, most would agree that it’s better to eat closer to earth and choose nuts in their most natural state with minimal processing.
In a Nutshell: Just like raisins, nuts are companionable!
- You can take them with you wherever you go
- There is no need for special containers
- They have long a shelf life
- You can enjoy them whenever and wherever you like
- They require no preparation
- They can be added to breads, biscuits and muffins