Nuts - every day? Research shows one small handful a day can actually result in health gains. Diets that include 1 to 1.5 ounces of nuts (not salted or honey glazed) daily are more satisfying, leading us to eat less and have a more controlled weight.
Nuts as part of a healthy diet are good for your body and cardiovascular system. The type of nut you eat isn't that important, although some have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, you name it, almost every type of nut has nutrition packed into a tiny package.
Nuts can be an excellent source of vitamin E - a nutrient found to have significant antioxidant effect. Last November in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a study concluded that vitamin C and E supplements did not help prevent cardiovascular disease. The 14,641 U.S. male physicians in the study were evaluated for eight years. Neither vitamins E nor C had a significant effect on major cardiovascular events, including total myocardial infarction, total stroke and cardiovascular mortality.
Neither vitamin had a significant effect on total mortality, but vitamin E was associated with an increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke. This is not to say, however, that consumption of foods rich in these nutrients is not encouraged. Single nutrients in supplement form act differently than those found in food, where a variety of complex interactions occur.
Different varieties of nuts provide different benefits, and each has its own health benefit. A 1 ounce portion of almonds (24 nuts) and hazelnuts (21) is an excellent natural source of vitamin E and also contains more fiber than any other nut. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant, boosts the immune system, reduces the risk of cataracts, has a role in healthy skin and hair, and helps prevent coronary heart disease.
Pecans (1 ounce = 20 halves) contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals as well as 10 percent of the daily recommended fiber intake (and you thought it was just bran cereal). Pecans are ranked in the top 20 sources of antioxidants by the USDA. That 1 ounce is also rich in the cancer-fighting elegiac acid and is equal to one-third of the daily protein recommendation (2 of the 6-ounce recommendation).
Pistachios (1 ounce = 47) contain more than 30 vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, an agent thought to open blood vessels and reduce blood pressure. Walnuts (1 ounce = 14 halves) are high in omega acids to combat oxidative stress in the body as well as reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.
One to 1.5 ounces daily has some great benefits for most us. An exception would be pregnant women, who should avoid nuts to avoid increased risk of asthma in the baby. Conversely, eating peanuts (including peanut butter) during early childhood was found to result in 10 times less incidence of developing peanut allergies.
Nuts are compact, portable and fit a variety of recipes. If you don't like raw nuts, try ground nuts. Ground nuts can be stirred into pancake batter, sprinkled over cereal or used as a coating for meats such as chicken or fish.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.