I usually have at least four different types of nuts in my pantry at any given time. I have walnuts (for baking); slivered almonds (a great salad topper); salt- and pepper-flavored pistachios (they taste like salt and pepper potato chips); and flavored cashews (my husband won’t eat cashews, so they’re all mine).
I try to eat a handful of nuts each day or include some in either a lunch or dinner salad. Why? Because I find the fiber and protein in nuts filling, but I’m also well aware that some studies show nut eaters A) are thinner; B) are less likely to develop type II diabetes; and C) significantly slash their risk for heart disease.
However, many women I know don’t eat nuts because they think they’re “fattening,” maybe because they are, well, fatty.
But high-fat foods don’t make you fat, as long as you don’t eat more calories than you burn off in any given day.
Because I’m at high risk for heart disease, I am most interested in eating nuts for my heart’s sake. The heart health benefits of nuts have been recently reaffirmed with new research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study found that a diet containing nuts significantly lowered LDL (bad) and total cholesterol levels, as well as triglycerides.
With nearly 600 subjects and data from 25 consumption trials, conducted in seven countries, this is the most comprehensive study of its kind and further substantiates that nuts can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Cholesterol levels were reduced in a dose-dependent manner, meaning that the more nuts eaten, the greater the cholesterol-lowering effects. The optimal heart health benefits were present when 20% of calories were consumed daily from nuts.
For the typical 2,000-calorie diet, 20% equals 400 calories of nuts (or more than two ounces of most nuts).
My nutty shopping list
I include a wide variety of nuts in my diet because each tree nut has unique nutritional benefits. For example, walnuts contain a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid; pistachios have lutein and zeaxanthin , carotenoids important for eye health; and almonds are the richest in vitamin E. For the greatest health benefits, mix it up with these five savory snacks (all the nutritional info is for 1-ounce servings).
- Almond Accents Ranch Style: 80 calories; 7 grams fat (0 saturated); 2 grams protein; 2 grams fiber
- Blue Diamond Oven Roasted Almonds, Sea Salt: 170 calories; 15 grams fat (1 saturated); 6 grams protein; 3 grams fiber
- Everybody’s Nuts, Salt & Pepper: 170 calories; 14 grams fat (1.5 saturated); 6 grams protein, 3 grams fiber
- Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts: 170 calories; 15 grams fat (2.5 saturated); 5 grams protein; 2 grams fiber
- Sahale Southwest Cashews: 140 calories; 10 grams fat (2 saturated); 5 grams protein; 1 gram fiber