by A’verria Martin, Ph.D.
Nuts are an essential (snack) food; fundamental to a heart healthy diet. Nuts are packed with protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUF) found in nuts include oleic and palmitoleic acids, which increase HDL levels or good cholesterol, while simultaneously lowering LDL levels or bad cholesterol. Nuts are a rich source of all omega-3 essential fatty acids, helping to decrease inflammation throughout the body. Consequently, when your diet is high in heart healthy MUF and omega-3 fatty acids, you are at reduced risk of high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, strokes, and various cancers.
Nuts are also a powerhouse of antioxidants such as carotenes, resveratrol, and lutein (please see 5/10/13 blog post on blueberries for more information about health benefits of antioxidants). In addition, nuts are complete with minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, fluoride and selenium, as well as vitamin-E and B-complex vitamins.
Not only are nuts nutrient dense and packed with MUF; they are easy to store and inexpensive to purchase. Nuts have an incredibly long shelf life and require no preparation. You can eat them alone or add them as an accompaniment to other dishes. Aim for consuming only one to two ounces (1 handful = approximately one ounce) at one time. You will feel completely full (satiated) and the high fiber count will assist in weight maintenance.
The two nuts that are at the top of our food list are almonds and walnuts!
Almonds are amongst the richest sources of health-benefiting nutrients that are crucial for optimal health. Almonds are high in vitamins (vitamin E and B-complex vitamins – riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, B-6, folates) and minerals (manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium). In addition almonds are rich in dietary fiber, aiding digestion and keeping you satiated. There are 163 calories in 1 ounce of almonds providing 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of protein.
Walnuts are extremely rich in MUF (approximately 72%) and include all omega-3 essential fatty acids. Eating 25 grams of walnuts each day, about ¼ cup, provides 90% of the recommended daily value of omega-3 fatty acids! In addition, walnuts are complete with all of the vitamins and minerals found in almonds. There are 185 calories in 1 ounce of walnuts providing 18.5 grams of fat, 3.9 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.3 grams of protein.
Fun fact: Walnuts have been regarded as a symbol of intellectuality since ancient times, as their kernels slightly resemble that of a brain!