Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension
Despite being high in calories, nuts are a great snack because they are full of heart-healthy fat and nutrients.
If you look at a nutrition label you will find that one ounce of nuts has between 160 and 200 calories and can have as much as 80 percent of the calories from fat. Most nutritionists would advise you to stay away from something with that much fat, but nuts warrant a closer look.
Most of the fat in nuts is unsaturated. A high percentage of the fat is monounsaturated fat, which can help rduce total cholesterol and the LDL (bad) cholesterol while maintaining HDL (good) cholesterol. This is one of the reasons why almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans are considered to be heart healthy. Many nuts, especially walnuts, are particularly good for heart health because they contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the risk of heart rhythm problems thus reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce triglycerides, reduce blood clotting and help lower blood pressure.
Nuts are a good source of protein and fiber, and contain other heart-healthy vitamins and minerals like iron, vitamin E, folic acid, niacin, vitamin B6, zinc, copper and magnesium.
The Food and Drug Administration allows a health claim for nuts that says, “Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as a part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Here are some measuring guidelines to ensure that you stick to the recommended serving size. The recommendation is 1.5 ounces of nuts per day, which is about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of nuts. One ounce of almonds is about 20-24; hazelnuts is 18-20; pecan halves is 18-20 and walnuts is 14 halves.
Another great thing about nuts is that they are very portable. Toss some into a small container and eat them on the run. The fat, fiber and protein will help hold you over until your next meal while your body reaps all the other health benefits of eating nuts.