When it comes to healthy snack foods, nuts are high on my list. They are full of important nutrients including protein, vitamin E, fibre, calcium, potassium, healthy plant chemicals and much more. They are also sources of healthy fats that are linked to heart health. Different nuts have different nutritional profiles. For example, walnuts contain some omega-3 fats and one ounce of Brazil nuts contains more than your daily requirement of selenium. A one-ounce serving of almonds has 6 grams of protein (similar to the protein in on egg), 3 grams of fibre, 35% of your recommended vitamin E as well as, iron, folate, magnesium, phosphorous and calcium.
Many studies have looked at the role of nuts in good health and lowering disease risk. They’ve been shown to help reduce heart attack risk, lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, manage blood pressure and a recently published study looked at their role in reducing levels of triglycerides (blood fats) and blood sugar. Some of these benefits are thought to occur when you replace refined carbohydrate snacks such as chips and pastries with nuts or when you replace some less healthy saturated fats with the healthier fats found in nuts.
The health benefits most studied are from tree nuts, including almonds,cashews, macadamias, pecans, walnuts and pistachios. Peanuts are technically legumes but their health benefits are similar.
The only negative about nuts can be their higher calorie content. But, when eaten in moderation, they can actually be a help in managing your weight. I generally suggest about an ounce or 28 grams per day. One ounce is approximately 24 almonds, 14 walnut halves, 20 hazelnuts, 20 pecan halves, 10-12 macadamia nuts, 18 cashews or a small handful. The calories can ring in between 140 and 180 calories.
I advise my clients not to eat them out of the bag but to measure out a smaller serving so it will be easier to control how much they eat. It also helps to eat them out of the shell, since the act of breaking them open will slow down how many and how quickly you eat them. And, its best to avoid the nuts with a sugary coating which add many more unwanted calories.
Besides snacking on nuts, here are a few ways to add them to your diet:
- Sprinkle a handful of nuts over your salad
- Toss them into your stir-fry
- Mix sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds into cereal or yogurt
- Make your own trail mix by combining cereal with a mixture of your favorite nuts and/or seeds
- Add peanuts or almonds to a spicy curry