Nuts: A Healthy Option in a Small Portion

Monday, July 7, 2014 - 1:15pm
Senior Clinical Dietitian

A Harvard study released late last year found that the more often nuts were consumed the less likely participants were to die of cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease. This observational study adds to the increasing amount of research that shows nut consumption is related to reduced inflammation and visceral fat (surrounding the body’s internal organs), as well as reduced risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and colon cancer.

Recent research and findings around this study are specifically related to most types of tree nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts. Although small in size, these delicious snacks pack a powerful nutritional punch! Tree nuts are plant-based proteins that contain dietary fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. This combination of nutrients provides satiety, or a feeling of fullness, making them helpful for weight management. However, this also makes them calorie-rich: 160-200 calories per ounce. This “small handful” is equivalent to about ¼ cup, so a small portion is the key to making nuts a part of your healthy eating plan, including nuts to replace unhealthier foods in your diet.

In addition, nuts are a good source of potassium, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, selenium and vitamin E. Each type of tree nut offers a different profile of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants so a variety of these types of tree nuts helps you to better reap the potential benefits.

The Harvard study noted the more often participants included nuts in their food choices for a given week, the lower their death rate. They observed the participants that included nuts most often appeared to make overall healthier choices, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising more, and were also noted to be leaner and less likely to smoke. So the idea is not just to eat more nuts, but to include them as part of a healthy lifestyle involving healthy food choices and regular exercise.

So go ahead and pack some nuts for your afternoon snack instead of chips or other, less healthy foods. Or add them to your favorite dishes to reap those heart healthy benefits!

Click here for more information on the many types of tree nuts and delicious ways to include them to your meal plan.