Friday, August 26, 2011

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut....

In 2003 a qualified health claim was released stating nuts are good for the heart. Good news for in-laws everywhere. But also good news for those small gems that often get an undeserved bad reputation as high fat diet busters or worse…deadly! And while many foods are allergens, nuts take the brunt of the blame. But 2003 was years ago and we have done plenty of new discovering since then. So you ask, what is the new news on nuts? Well they are still high in fat and still potentially deadly but they are also still good for you and now also have a laundry list of healthy benefits to tout.

We were told in 2003 that 1.5 ounces of nuts added to our daily (low in saturated fat and cholesterol) diet can reduce the risk of heart disease. And then in 2008 the Journal of Nutrition told us that eating tree nuts five times a week can do that and also help with weight management, satiety as well as controlling diabetes. Eating nuts became an easy way to obtain an all natural source of a slew of vitamins as minerals. As a matter of fact as long as eaten in moderation and unsalted nuts are a great addition to your diet each type has its own strengths. So go ahead…get nutty.

Almonds - It was identified by The Institute of Food Research that almonds have potential pre-biotic properties that increase the levels of particular beneficial belly bacteria. Almonds are also your best source for fiber in the tree nut category.

Brazils - While not the most popular nut choice (although one of my personal favorites) one Brazil nut provides the daily recommended amount of selenium. Just one nut…amazing! What is selenium? (Just in case anyone else didn’t know either selenium has antioxidant properties which help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. A further note…you don’t actually need too much of this mineral as it can have negative effects on cholesterol levels. So pop a nut, not a supplement, and you are set for the day.

Cashews – This favorite is an excellent source of protein and fiber and is rich in mono-unsaturated fat. These nuts are also a good source of potassium, B Vitamins and folate.

Hazelnuts – Growing in popularity and for good reason, this delicious nut also known as the filbert are your best source for proanthocyanidins (PAC) as long as you eat them with the skins on.

(I know I don’t know either….but according to Nutrition Science News, PAC’s are flavonoids, and in so many words the super fruit of antioxidants. They are known to have antioxidant capabilities 20 times more powerful than Vitamin C and 50 times more powerful than Vitamin E.)

Macadamia’s – Raw, roasted, salted…I’ll take a macadamia nut anyway it is given to me. While these guys are the highest in fat (boo!!), they are also the highest in mono-unsaturated fat, the good heart healthy fats (yea??!!).

Pecans – These babies are naturally sodium free and can play a part in preventing coronary heart disease and gallstones. They may be so tasty because of all the nuts they come up second in the amount of fat per serving, 20 grams per ounce compared to macadamia’s 22 grams and pistachio’s with the lowest at 13 grams per ounce. Hooray pistachio’s!

Peanuts – The red-headed stepchild of the nut family, because it’s a legume. But it’s so similar to nuts in all its properties it is often guilty by association, plus the name doesn’t help much. Peanuts are the “nut” with the highest amount of protein per serving. It also boasts a low glycemic index which can help manage blood sugar levels.

Pistachios – Now here is something you probably didn’t know. Adding pistachios to your diet can delay the emptying of the stomach blunting the blood sugar spike (hellooo trivia night!). Another nut favorable to preventing type 2 diabetes. These nuts are also a good source of plant sterols which aid in immunity, and again…lowest in fat!

Walnuts – It has been shown that omega 3’s in walnuts can promote bone health, assist in weight and diabetes management as well as reduce breast tumor growth and enhance cognitive and motor function. Smart nut.

With health issues being more publicized and people becoming more involved in what they eat, (or read on ingredient labels) the growing trend towards gluten free and special dietary issues has led to an increase in the demand for nuts. Nuts and seeds are being used in different ways and we all are benefiting. For example sunflower seed butter is amazing with fantastic taste and texture and is as yummy as peanut butter. It’s slightly sweeter and unfortunately slightly more expensive, but worth it if peanuts aren’t welcome. Sunflower seeds possess many of the same benefits as tree nuts –good fat, high protein and fiber, and minerals. They have been also shown to fight against cardiovascular disease. Your take away from all of this? Next time someone says “you’re nuts”, thank them. It could definitely be a compliment.

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