Nutrition Articles

A Power Food for Health Nuts

The Tasty and Surprisingly Healthy Snack

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We’re not nuts for saying it – a daily dose of nuts is a healthy way of snacking. Ditch the guilt and dig in. The only caution, keep it to about a handful.

Nuts have had a long-time bad rap as a high calorie, indulgent food that we should decline whenever tempted. True, nuts get more than half of their calories from fat. But there’s more to it than that. We’ve got three reasons to fit nuts into healthy living: (1) Eating plenty of nuts could actually lower the risk of heart disease, particularly for women. (2) Nuts are high in protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. (3) Eating nuts in reasonable portions can also be a good way to maintain a healthy weight, or even lose weight!

Healthy for Your Heart
Nuts are rich in an amino acid that could be linked to heart benefits. This amino acid, called arginine, helps relax blood vessels, which can reduce the danger of coronary artery disease. A Harvard School of Public Health study showed that women who ate nuts regularly had a 32% lower risk of having a non-fatal heart attack compared to women who avoided nuts.

How can a high fat food such as nuts be good for the heart? The biggest danger to the heart and arteries comes from saturated fats, found mostly in meat and high-fat dairy products. The fat in most nuts is unsaturated, the "friendlier" kind of fat that lowers LDLs, the so-called bad cholesterol. Cashews, almonds, and peanuts are full of monounsaturated fats. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated fats similar to oils found in fish such as salmon.

Nutty Nutritious
Nuts are nutritious too. In the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid, nuts are included with the protein-rich foods in the meat, poultry, fish, eggs and beans category. A one-third cup of nuts provides about five grams of protein and is equivalent to one ounce of lean meat. Almonds, cashews, pine nuts, peanuts, pistachios, and walnuts are particularly high in protein.

Nuts are also packed with essential vitamins such as A and E, and minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, iron and zinc. And their high fiber content helps lower cholesterol, too.

Nuts for a Healthy Weight
People who eat nuts regularly do not typically gain weight. Some even lose weight! The nutrients and fat in nuts tend to make you feel fuller longer. When you feel full from a small snack of nuts between meals, you are less likely to have the urge to pig out at your next meal. Nuts seem to satisfy appetites without causing weight gain, unlike high carb, low fat snacks such as pretzels, which don’t seem to be very filling. The people who lose weight while eating daily controlled portions of nuts seem to naturally self adjust their calorie intake. This means they naturally eat fewer calories in later meals as a result of feeling satisfied from nuts.

Of course, moderation is everything. About 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of nuts are recommended per day to fall into the healthy category. This is approximately one handful. If you eat much beyond that, you’re eating a lot of calories (about 170 calories per handful of peanuts). Since it’s hard to practice restraint with the whole jar or bag nearby, get in the habit of taking your one handful in a special nut bowl, or use a recycled mint tin for a portable container.

Nut Add-ons
Don’t want to eat nuts alone as a snack? Use nuts as an ingredient for an easy way to control your nut portions if you don’t trust your snacking habits. There are many creative and delicious ways to add nuts to your meals. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Toss a handful of nuts into a salad, stir-fry, pasta, or rice dish.
  • Sprinkle chopped nuts on yogurt or cereal.
  • Add nuts into the batter of breads, muffins, or other baked goods.
  • Top softened cheeses such as brie or camembert with chopped pistachios or walnuts.
  • Sprinkle chopped pecans on potato soup or hazelnuts on split pea soup.
  • Toss pecans, walnuts, or pine nuts with bleu cheese or gorgonzola on spinach salad.
  • Add toasted almonds or pine nuts to steamed vegetables and pasta dishes.
  • Mix ground nuts into breading for fish or chicken.

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Member Comments

  • Coconuts are not nuts, botanically, they're a stone fruit. My son has a nut allergy and can has had coconut and is fine. Coconut is very healthy. The oil has a high smoke point, so it doesn't degrade when cooking. Coconut also has medium-chain fatty acids which are excellent for your health in so many ways. Just wanted to clarify that coconuts are NOT nuts, FDA or no. Nutmeg has "nut" in the name, but isn't a nut either. So not a nut, but excellent for your health, as long as what you're getting is good quality and doesn't have fillers or lots of extras that you can't identify.
  • I love all kinds of nuts. I buy the cans of mixed nuts and use my 1/4 cup measuring cup and pour it into a small bowl (and it makes it look like more) and sit down and enjoy them one at a time! Yummy!!!
  • I know that nuts are healthy. BUT ... they are definitely a binge food for me. I have to buy small quantities when I'm out. I can't buy a can or large bag --- because I have a problem limiting myself.
  • A whole article about nuts, and then they use peanuts (which are of course beans, not nuts) as an example. SMH.
  • I love them, but I do measure every time I eat them because it is easy to eat way more than a serving.
  • Only having a measured amount of nuts per day stops the binging, and for me, I totally avoid salted, roasted nuts. I could easily wolf down a whole can. I stick to raw, unsalted nuts, and still measure my allotment , but I never gorge on raw nuts. Most roasted nuts are coated in some other kind of oil first before roasting, so beware of those kinds. Raw is healthiest.
  • I love the 'mint tin' idea! I'm going to put some in my purse right now!

    I try to stick to walnuts though, just because those cashews and peanuts are way too delicious!
  • MYLITTLEZYGI
    Nuts, oh nuts. I have been eating these little power houses for years. Throughout the day, I grab a few different ones. Walnuts, Cashews, Almonds, and Pistachios are all my favorite. I also combine them with jumbo black raisons for added benefit. Most breakbast days consist of a bowl of oatmeal on top of walnuts, and cinnamon. I don't eat meat, so these little creatures really satisfy me. Oh! not to forget, before I go to bed or while reading in bed, I grab a few Walnuts. There I've given my body protein to munch off of throughout the night. That way it leaves my hard earne muscles alone.
  • Love pecans or walnuts on my oatmeal. They are so good on some salads with craisins added, too. Especially the salads with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries/
  • I eat mixed nuts daily and love them! I make my own trail mix so I can control the portions and I can cut out peanuts (which I hate!) and add whatever else works. Weigh your nut portions b/c everyone's idea of a handful is different. :)
  • BAMAJAM
    I am pleased about the health benefits of nuts. I keep a small container in my desk drawer at work. It is a great suggestion to measure out the nuts in mint tins, or small baggies, to prevent overeating. Also, as others have stated, limit the salted kind. Having nuts handy at work, helps to tame my hunger pangs! :-) Thanks for the information.
  • ACERENO
    I almost always have cashews available for an afternoon snack at work. They keep me from hitting the vending machine, satisfies salty cravings and staves off hunger until dinnertime. And of course they are delicious :)
  • DENI_ZEN
    I measure out an ounce of Trader Joe's Spicy and Tangy Almonds every evening and slowly savor them. If I didn't measure them first, though, I could eat the whole package! They are a very satisfying snack.
  • Nuts are an important part of my weight loss and health journey. I LOVE them, and I know I am doing something good for myself every time I eat them! My faves are cashews and pecans, and I almost always buy the raw organic unsalted kind - better taste AND better health!
  • I am dibetic, I carry a snack bag with 2 dozen almonds inside with me when i am out. If I get the hungries which is rsre for me i can avert a HYPO reaction every time. Pat in Maine.

About The Author

Laura Bofinger Laura Bofinger
As a freelance writer, Laura uncovers some kind of inspiration every day when she writes about health and fitness.

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