January 22: I GO NUTS for NUTS

Oh My Nuts

“I can’t eat nuts.  They are too fattening!”  I hear it from so many people all the time.  What a shame!  Once again, I find that a very important constituent of the food supply is misunderstood and consequently ignored.  The reality:  Nuts are very likely nature’s perfect, bite-sized, convenient, and a power snack. They have many unique and healthy benefits and taste good.  Nuts are great God food and deserve a dedicated spot in your kitchen.  However, there are guidelines (see prescription below).  

Then what’s all the fuss and why do they get a bad rap?  A few reasons:

  1.  Because they are calorically dense, some people only hear “high in calories” and hence put them out of their mind.
  2. Nuts are associated with what you receive on an airplane or what you buy at a gas station convenience store.

Too bad!  Once again, man has taken one of God’s great gifts and processed them with so much salt and preservatives they have become something the cave man (who ate them raw) would not recognize.  Nuts have protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, and vitamins.  Some nutrients associated with nuts include magnesium, manganese, protein, fiber, zinc and phosphorus.  Nuts can prevent excessive weight gain in spite of being rich in fats. The secret lies in the fact that besides being rich in fats, they also contain a large amount of protein and fiber. Both protein and fiber require more time to get digested than fat and carbohydrate and so, eating a few nuts can reduce hunger and excessive weight gain. Apart from these benefits, they contain many important minerals like magnesium, selenium, iron, phosphorus, etc. which play a crucial role in the proper functioning of many vital life processes

My prescription:  As long as you control the quantity (like any other food), eating a handful of nuts daily may help prevent weight gain and possibly promote weight loss. The fat, protein and fiber in nuts help you feel full longer, so you may eat less during the day. By helping induce a feeling of satiety, nuts may help people feel less deprived and not like they’re “dieting.” Just limit your portion to a healthy handful.  If you’re watching your weight, in other words, a handful of nuts is a terrific substitute for less nutritious and less satisfying snacks.

A sampling of nuts in the news for their contribution to specific nutrients include:

  • Walnuts. One ounce of walnuts (about 14 shelled walnut halves) is all that is needed to meet the 2002 dietary recommendation of the Food Nutrition Board of the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine for omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Almonds. One ounce of almonds (about 20 to 24 shelled whole almonds) provides 35 percent of your daily value for vitamin E. Vitamin E may help promote healthy aging. A study reported in the Journal of the American Association (June 26, 2002) suggests a diet rich in foods containing vitamin E may help protect some people against Alzheimer’s disease. The study also found vitamin E in the form of supplements was not associated with a reduction in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Peanuts.Though often discussed with nuts, peanuts are a legume along with dry beans, peas and lentils. One ounce of roasted peanuts provides about 10 percent of the daily value of folate, a B vitamin recommended to help reduce the incidence of birth defects and lower the risk of heart disease. Peanuts also are an excellent source of niacin, providing about 20 percent of the daily value.

As a group, nuts also are important for what they DON’T offer:

  • Cholesterol. Nuts are cholesterol-free.
  • Sodium. Unless salt is added to nuts, they naturally contain, at most, just a trace of sodium.

How do I use them?

Many nuts in my cabinet include almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts and pecans (don’t care much for peanuts).   I buy raw and unsalted I put a small handful in my morning oatmeal (along with fruit and flax seeds), on my lunch sandwich, and in just about every salad I ever eat (I like the added crunch). 

Needless to say, if you are allergic, avoid them.  However, most people are not.  If that is that case, do not overlook this powerhouse of nutrients.  They are great either by themselves or added to everything edible! 

Please give nuts the respect they deserve.  If you eat them as God intended, you won’t have to look further for nature’s perfect snack. 

For more on this great GOD food, go to:

  1. Nutritional Value of Nuts
  2. University of Nebraska: Nut Nutrition
  3. Nut Nutrition A to Z

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