What Makes Nuts So Nutritional?

nuts - circleNuts have always been known for their nutritional value.  In fact, sources, such as the Harvard School of Public Health, claim that even just a few servings of nuts a week is associated with living longer.  The Harvard 30 year study of nearly 120,000 participants, reported that people who ate nuts daily were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and cardiovascular disease.

So what makes nuts so nutritional that they decreased the nut-eating Harvard participants’ chances of dying over the course of the study by twenty-percent when compared to non nut-eaters?  Let’s take a look at the nutritional composition of nuts: health-friendly monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 essential fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber.  Scientists show through their research that these super components provide benefits to heart health, aid in preventing cancer, have anti-inflammatory properties that help lower blood pressure, protect against viral and fungal infections, reduce the risk of stroke, help prevent certain eye conditions, and increase energy.

Are nuts the medical miracle we’ve all been waiting for?  No, of course not, but they do provide health benefits that can aid in healthy living when combined with other healthy choices.

If you revisit the composition of nuts listed above, you’ll find the word “fatty” in that sentence twice.  Different diet fads over the years have deemed nuts a “non-diet food,” due to the high calorie and fat content in nuts.  Like most natural foods that improperly get deemed unhealthy, nuts can actually aid in weight loss, if eaten in appropriately portioned quantities.

First, it’s important to remember that nuts consist of “healthy fats.”  These healthy fats are also what aid in heart health.  Of course, too much of anything typically isn’t good for you, so the key is to find the sweet spot for portion sizing.  Nuts are also high in protein and fiber, which slow the absorption rate of food, keeping you feeling full for longer.  Additionally, nuts are full of fantastic nutrients that aid in the body’s processes and increase energy.  Great flavor, healthier heart, suppressed hunger, and increased energy – what’s not to love!

nuts2 - circlePortion sizing can be difficult, but fortunately with nuts, there’s a simple rule of thumb that can help you find the right balance between the health benefits and the amount of fat and calories.  It’s as simple as the palm of our hand; a handful of nuts actually comes pretty close to the recommended portion size for nuts of approximately 1 ounce.  For specifics, check out the following chart on portion sizing:

Nut 1 oz. serving (# of nuts)
Almonds 23
Cashews 18
Walnuts 14 halves
Hazelnuts 21
Pistachios 49
Pecans 19
Peanuts 42

We’re all unique, so it never hurts to consult your doctor about what portion sizes are appropriate for you.  You should also consult your doctor if you have certain health conditions that could restrict your diet.

Harvard Health Publications
Nutrition and You

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