Did you know 2/3 of all nuts eaten by Americans are peanuts? Peanuts outpace every other type of snack nut when it comes to consumption, but they are far from our only option! Almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, and many other nuts are just as tasty and have all, if not more, of the same health benefits.
And what are those health benefits, exactly? To begin, all nuts contain Omega-3 fatty acids – though some have a higher content than others. Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids, which means that they are considered “good” fats. Omega-3s are also essential fats, meaning that our bodies are unable to make them and we must eat them in foods. In numerous studies, Omega-3s have been linked to reduced chance of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Nuts are especially high in three different types of Omega-3s. The first, alpha-linolenic acid or ALAs, gives our bodies energy and help us build strength. The second, eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA, helps control inflammation in our bodies, lessening the pain and stress on our body systems. Nuts also include docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which supports the function of our brain and nervous system. Are you convinced of the power of Omega-3s? Be sure to eat plenty of walnuts! Out of all nuts, they contain the highest concentration of these essential fats.
In addition to Omega-3s, nuts are also great sources of protein and fiber. One ounce of almonds (or about 23 almonds) has 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. Protein helps us maintain normal body functions and ward off hunger. Fiber regulates digestion and controls cholesterol and blood sugar levels. These points, plus the fact that they are small and easier to transport, make nuts the perfect travel snack!
But when you snack on nuts, keep a couple of tips in mind. First of all, remember to control your portion sizes. Because nuts are made up of mostly fat (9 calories per gram) rather than protein or carbohydrates (both 4 calories per gram), they have a higher calorie count than other snacks. One ounce of nuts (a small handful) contains about 200 calories. Also, opt for unsalted nuts rather than salted or sugared varieties. You may be surprised to find that the flavor still comes through remarkably well!
Here are a few ways you can easily add nuts to your diet:
As stated above, nuts make a great snack all by themselves! Because nuts are high in calories, be sure to limit the portion size to 1 ounce (about a handful).
- In a trail mix
Nuts are a great addition in trail mixes! Pair your favorite nut with some dried fruit, seeds, grains (such as whole grain cereal or popcorn), and whatever else your heart (get it?! Nuts are good for your heart…) desires! And as we have learned today, your heart desires lots of nuts.
- For breakfast
Yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal all taste great with nuts or nut butter. Try making a parfait with nuts and some frozen fruit, or mix them into your bowl of cereal!
- In a salad
When added to a salad, nuts offer a source of protein as well as enhanced flavor. I especially like walnuts in mine!
Don’t let squirrels have all the fun. Go nuts this November!