Recently a group of dietitians suggested nuts as one of the new hot topics areas in the field of nutrition. After looking at the supermarket shelves I must agree. The labeling is getting catchier and more intriguing to lure us into purchasing this nut over that nut. So what makes nuts healthy? How much should you eat and what should you look for when purchasing nuts.
• Nuts and seeds are good wholesome foods full of unsaturated fats, magnesium, as well as some protein, fiber and iron. Nuts have a combination of fats actually and have varying levels of saturated (bad), polyunsaturated (good) and monounsaturated fat (good).
• Nuts and the FDA: In 2003 the FDA approved this qualified health claim for nuts: “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1 ½ ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
o Remember a qualified health claim means there is evidence to support the claim, but the evidence may not be conclusive.
How many nuts should you eat?
A good recommendation is 1 to 1 ½ ounce of nuts a day as a SUBSTITUTE for less healthy fat from things like chips, cookies, crackers and cheese. A handful equals about 1 ounce. On average 1 ½ ounce is equivalent to about 1/3 cup of nuts.
• Try sprinkling nuts over your cereal in the morning, or tossing some on a salad
• Make your own trail mix (easy on the chocolate chips)
• Add them to baked goods.
The best way to get the most out of your nuts is to:
• Look for unsalted, raw, lightly salted or 50% less salt on the label.
• Always be aware of portion control (remember they are a concentrated source of calories). I like to include nuts on my salads or over vegetables as a way to include them in my diet without eating too many.
• Bring out the flavor of nuts by toasting them: Add nuts in a single layer in a dry skillet and toast over low heat stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes until lightly brown. Watch them closely as they burn quickly.
• Chocolate covered or yogurt covered nuts should be used only as occasional snacks and are usually packed with saturated fat.
Bottom line: Your best bet is to stick with straight nuts and include them as part of your healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean meat/poultry or fish.