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Healthy Benefits of Nuts

Nuts are not just for holidays anymore! Nutritionists say that certain nuts deserve an honored spot in the kitchen of every healthy eater — as long as you are not allergic, of course. Nuts have lots of protein, fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. Many studies have shown that nuts have powerful cholesterol-lowering affects.

The benefits were clear enough for the FDA in 2003 to issue a “qualified health claim” for peanuts and certain tree nuts — almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, some pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. The claim allows some nuts and foods made with them to carry this claim: “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.” Another recent study has even suggested that people who eat nuts daily have better health and longer lives than their counterparts who never eat nuts. This was based on a 30-year Harvard study, considered the largest ever done on whether eating nuts affects our risk of death.

Help Your Heart, Brain, and More

So why are nuts so good for our health, and how many nuts should we be eating? Dr. Mendelson, a nutrition professor at Ryerson University with more than 40 years of clinical experience, and Jennifer Sygo, a registered dietitian at Cleveland clinic Canada, are prominent voices in the field of nutrition and both acknowledge that all nuts are good for health.

The Harvard study looked at a wide range of nuts — pistachios, almonds, walnuts, peanuts and other tree nuts. Across the board, nuts helped stave off heart disease. The risk of cardiovascular disease dropped by 29%, and the risk of cancer dropped by 11% among people who ate nuts seven or more times per week compared to the people who never ate them at all. Another benefit noted in the study is that individuals who ate nuts on a consistent basis were slimmer than their counterparts.

Nuts also have been found to help with brain health, skin, nails and hair. A few of the options noted from the Harvard study include almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts. Almonds are high in vitamin D and magnesium. They are natural antioxidants, and they help with heart health and skin healing. They also contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which help reduce “bad” cholesterol in our bodies.

Walnuts are packed with antioxidants, phytosterols and other compounds that help prevent breast cancer. They are also full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with brain output and blood pressure. Macadamia nuts are usually eaten roasted, smothered in salt or covered in chocolate. In this case, they are a rare source of omega-7 fatty acids, which help with heart health and insulin sensitivity. However, these nuts have about 202 calories per ounce, which is on the higher end.

Making Nuts A Part of Your Healthy Lifestyle

Most studies recommend that you should eat about an ounce, or 28 grams, of nuts per day. That is about as much as what fits in the palm of your hand and can be a mixture of nuts or a handful of one type. I recommend my patients always carry a little stash of nuts with them, especially almonds, for a planned snack or when there is no time for anything else.

Nuts may be high in calories, and this may be one reason why they are often given a bad reputation. However, I am not suggesting that nuts should be simply added to our regular diets. They should be used to swap out unhealthy snacks. An ounce of nuts could clock in at about 120 to 200 calories, depending on what kind you have in your hand. However, instead of reaching for a bag of chips or 3 p.m. latte, a handful of nuts and some grapes could be a better option. They may be in the same caloric intake category as other snacks, but they offer much more to the nutritional table.

Enhance Your Overall Health

There remains a degree of speculation about why nuts may help our health, but another factor many of the studies suggest is that people who eat nuts on a regular basis also have more consistently healthy eating habits. People who choose nuts oftentimes choose them over other types of less healthy treats. Choices are as important as anything to health outcomes, and that shows up in study after study.

What we also must realize is that no single food is likely to account for the improvement of overall health; it is a pattern of eating. Some consumers eat nuts on tops of salads, so they are eating more greens. Others eat a few almonds instead of a candy bar when they want a snack. Either way, nuts make a great addition to the variety of snacks that we can enjoy.

Nuts come in a variety of prepackaged forms: raw, roasted, salted, oiled or bathed in a variety of different coverings/toppings. Interestingly, the Harvard study did not even look at how the nuts were prepared. However, if you are watching your sodium intake, you should not be eating salted nuts. Obviously, they should not be chocolate-covered or candied as well. But overall, most preparations are fair game, including nut butters. A healthier alternative is to use almond butter instead of peanut butter. You may surprise yourself just how tasty almond butter actually is!

Besides calories, most of my patients inquire about the high fat content and nuts. It is true they are high in fat, but most of it is the heart-healthy variety. The amount of saturated fat, the type of fat we should avoid, varies between nuts. Those with medium saturated fat content would include walnuts, pecans and cashews. Those with a low saturated fat content include hazelnuts, almonds and chestnuts.

A Part of Healthy Snacking

Including nuts and seeds as part of healthy snacking makes good sense. There are a variety of ways of using nuts and seeds in your meal preparation. It takes a little effort at first, but the discovery process can be fun. It’s a great way to engage your children in the topic of healthier eating habits.

The majority of all the varieties of nuts and seeds we sell in our “Healthy Food Pantry” are packaged raw. I feel these are absolutely the best for you and are easily used in almost any form of meal preparation. The health benefits of nuts are well worth you adding them to your daily dietary intake. Your taste buds are in for a treat! Bon appétit!

This article is authored by Dr. James R. Grilliot, a chiropractic physician and director of the Natural Wellness Centre; phone number: (740) 687-0279

For more information about the Natural Wellness Centre, or upcoming program about Nuts for Nutrition on November 11th, please visit us on the web: www.nwcdrg.com or reserve a seat by calling (740) 687-0279.

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