Nuts: The Nutritional Powerhouses That Are Good For the Waistline

A reader chastised me for leaving something very important out of last week’s almond butter post.  And she was right.  This is a family nutrition blog after all.

Besides making great nut butter, almonds–and other nuts–pack a nutritional wallop.  Small but mighty!

Can you identify this nut in its shell?

Can you identify this nut in its shell?

Lot’s of good stuff, including:

  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Antioxidants
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids
  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • Folic Acid
  • Magnesium

That’s quite an impressive list.

I have to admit that, even knowing this, I kept my distance from nuts. Because, while they’re healthy and all, they also contain a sizeable amount of fat.  Up to 80% of a nut is fat.  And while these are predominantly good fats (the heart healthy unsaturated kind), the calories do add up.  I was sure I could get more bang for the buck elsewhere.

Lucky for me, and anybody else who thought nuts would make them fat, the evidence proves otherwise!  For more information on studies that show nuts actually can help you lose weight, check out Dr. Michael Gregor’s post.

Here’s the catch.  You knew that was coming, right?  Nuts are really good for you–in a heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cholesterol lowering way.  In moderation.  We’re talking about an ounce or so.  Depending on the nut, that could be a small handful, or it could be just a few.  It also means you have to eat them in place of other fats–not in addition to them.

There is a lot to be happy about:

  • They’re filling!  My typical breakfast these days is an ounce of nuts and a piece of fruit to go with my morning tea.  I find I don’t need that mid-morning snack anymore.
  • Nuts are portable.  Grab an ounce and you’re out the door.  Nothing to prepare and nothing to clean up.
  • There’s lots of variety.  You’ll never get bored.  I switch from one kind to another day by day to mix things up. 

Here’s some useful information from the North American Vegetarian Society:

nuts_seeds_chart-smWhat about feeding nuts to kids?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies as young as 6 months can eat nuts ground up and in other foods–as long as they aren’t showing signs of any food allergies or have a family history of food allergies.  And whole nuts are fine for children age 4 and up.  They are filling and provide greater nutrition than snacks like crackers and pretzels which contain refined carbohydrates.  Parents magazine has a great article on safely feeding nuts to children which includes several kid-friendly nut recipes.

So, yeah, I’m feeling liberated.  I’m eating nuts, guilt free (!), and life is good.  My current nut of choice?  Pistachios.

What nuts are you eating?

Nuts get most of a shelf at our house.

Nuts get most of a shelf at our house.

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