Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Myth: Nuts are too fattening to be part of a healthy diet.

Answer: BUSTED!

variety of nuts
Nuts are a gold mine of nutrition and should be part of a healthy diet. In 2003 the FDA approved walnuts for a “qualified health claim” stating that walnuts may reduce the risk of heart disease. Since then other nuts have been added including pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts and pine nuts.

Ways nuts promote heart health:
  • Nuts contain L-arginine, an amino acid that helps make nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an enzyme released in the arteries that relaxes the blood vessels.
  • Nuts contain good fats like mono and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help decrease inflammation, lower bad cholesterol and are anti-thrombogenic (reduces your risk of developing blood clots).
  • Nuts contain plant sterols and soluble fiber that bind with cholesterol and prevent its absorption in the intestines.
  • Nuts contain vitamin E, an antioxidant that stops the production of free radicals.
  • Nuts are among dietary plants with the highest content of antioxidants!

Ways nuts promote healthy weight:
  • Nuts contain fiber, fat and protein. All contribute to the feeling of satiety.
  • Nuts contain oleoylethanolamide, an appetite-suppressing compound found in tree nuts.
  • Nuts contain a variety of B vitamins and minerals that all work together to help promote healthy metabolism.

snack-size bag of nuts
Nuts are calorie dense. You only need a 1/4 cup or a handful to get the nutritional benefits without exceeding your calorie needs. To help with portion control, avoid eating salted nuts. Salted foods promote over-eating and excessive salt isn’t good for your arteries, even if you don’t have high blood pressure. Use nuts as a topper on salad, yogurt or cereal to help control portion size. You can also portion nuts into snack-size bags.

For information on selection and storage of nuts, review Harvest to Health: Nuts on the MissouriFamilies website.

Go ahead and GO NUTS!!

Contributors: Mary Keels, Dietetic Intern, MDHSS & Denise Schmitz, M.A., R.D., MU Extension Nutrition & Health Education Specialist,

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