The Incredible Edible—Nut
By Kelly Merritt
They are the “short line” at the DMV; the toll-free 800-number to better health; the one-stop-shop for protein, good fats, fiber, minerals and antioxidants; the go-to garnish for gourmet chefs. We’re talking about nuts—one of the easiest and best ways to ingest what the human body needs to fight disease and feel great. With a vast array of choices, Mother Nature has managed to squeeze a universe of benefits into something the size of a dime. And from ice cream to seafood, nuts add tons of flavor to just about any dish.
Nuts are like friends who push you do better. Choosing a bag of nuts from your grocer’s shelves instead of potato chips means you’re more likely to choose something good to go with them. Nuts add texture, helping transform a boring salad into a crunchy, salty treat. Plain, cardiologist-approved fish filet turns into a gourmet meal when coated with crushed pecans. Topped with a few toasted macadamia nuts and blueberries, an otherwise blah cup of Greek yogurt is a crispy dessert. Nuts seamlessly migrate from sweet to savory. After time, adding nuts to elevate healthy dishes becomes a habit and healthy weight management follows.
Here are a few big reasons to start eating nuts. The National Institute of Health’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) suggests including almonds, hazelnuts, mixed nuts, peanuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds as key elements in a low blood pressure diet. Though the mighty, multipurpose hazelnut is revered by gourmands in places like Italy and Spain, just 1.5 ounces of this official state nut of Oregon can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. OregonHazelnuts.org reports that hazelnuts are first among tree nuts in folate content, containing 2.7 grams of dietary fiber which is a cholesterol-lowering nutrient and are high in manganese and copper, essential for iron absorption and bone formation.
The nonprofit International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation which represents nine tree nut industries including almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts, references a Nutrition Journal study of 14,386 men and women. The study stated that tree nut consumption was associated with lower body mass index, systolic blood pressure, insulin resistance and good cholesterol. Consumption of nuts is also associated with a lower mortality risk of 20 percent, according to a Harvard study over three decades of more than one hundred thousand people. Even a one-ounce daily serving of the simple peanut is associated with decreased risk of stroke and gastric cancer, while those with diabetes can enjoy this low glycemic index food, which is recommended by American Diabetes Association.
Selenium is a trace element that plays an important part in reproduction, metabolizing thyroid hormone, DNA synthesis and oxidative damage and infection protection. One of the best sources for selenium is a fistful of powerhouse Brazil nuts, so says the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Composition Database. Just be careful not to get carried away. As reported in Prevention magazine, one serving of Brazil nuts has 10 times the recommended daily amount of selenium. And going nuts with nuts may reduce inflammation, but too many can pack on the calories.
Some of the best ways to infuse nuts into the diet is adding them to cereals, yogurts, baked goods, salads and crushed over fish or chicken. No matter how you prefer to have your nuts, just be sure to incorporate them—in moderation—to your daily healthy eating plan.