Nuts: Trendy or Timeless?
Nuts are one of the latest food trends in the US and are popping up not only as nut butters/pastes but now in the form of oils, flours, milk, and in a wide array of snack foods. Despite their rising popularity, not everyone is jumping on the nut trend train. Many weight conscious individuals are still limiting or avoiding nuts because of their high calorie content. While nuts are loaded with calories and fat, these monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (including Omega-3) help to lower bad cholesterol and have been associated with a lower risk of heart disease. These heart protecting fats in nuts are also accompanied by vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals such as antioxidants.
It has been well established that nuts are a heart healthy food, but the nutrition benefits of nuts may extend beyond heart health. Although limited, new research is indicating potential positive properties including:
- Keeping blood sugars from spiking after meals (1).
- Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and cholesterol lowering properties among others due to the phytochemicals (2).
- Improved memory, cognition and inflammation in rats (walnuts) (3).
- Potentially lower body weight when consumed in moderate amounts (1,4).
How Much Is Enough?
The general recommendation for nuts is 1-1.5 ounces per day for heart health. This however needs to fit within your calorie limit to prevent weight gain. The USDA recommends 1 ounce of nuts as a serving size which equals:
- Pistachios: 47
- Almonds: 24
- Peanuts: 28
- Hazelnuts: 21
- Pecans: 20 (halves)
- Cashews: 18
- Walnuts: 14 (halves)
- Macadamias: 10-12
- Brazil nuts: 6-8
Although chocolate covered, salted, or candied nuts should be considered a treat for moderation, plain, raw, or lightly salted nuts daily can have a place in a healthy diet and provide many nutritional benefits. With the mounting evidence on the healthy properties of nuts, this trend is likely one to stay.
Megan Ostler MS, RD
1. Tan SY, Mattes RD. Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov;67(11):1205-14. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.184. Epub 2013 Oct 2.
2. Bolling BW, Oliver Chen CY, McKay DL, Blumberg JB. Tree nut phytochemicals: composition, antioxidant capacity, bioactivity, impact factors. A systematic review of almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. Nutrition Research Reviews (2011), 24, 244–275. doi:10.1017/S095442241100014X.
3. Poulose SM, Bielinski DF, Shukitt-Hale B. Walnut diet reduces accumulation of polyubiquitinated proteins and inflammation in the brain of aged rats. J Nutr Biochem. 2013 May;24(5):912-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2012.06.009. Epub 2012 Aug 20.
4. Jackson CL, Hu FB. Long-term associations of nut consumption with body weight and obesity.Am J Clin Nutr.2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:408S-11S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.071332. Epub 2014 Jun 4.
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