Today is National Nut Day!
With so many delicious options like almonds, walnuts, cashews, macadamias, and pistachios, it’s easy to go nuts for nuts.
You might be thinking, Nuts? Aren’t they fattening?
Well, you’re not wrong—they are high in fat and calories. But a healthy diet is not based on fat content—it’s the nutrient content that’s important. And nuts are packed with nutrients like protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals, unsaturated fats, and antioxidants!
These little heart-healthy, nutritional powerhouses are a wonderful addition to your diet. Here’s why:
They Can Help You Lose Weight
While nuts have a reputation for being fattening, they can actually be beneficial for weight loss. The healthy fats in nuts are a good substitute for the saturated fats that may be a part of your diet (like those found in meat and dairy products). Their mix of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and fiber will help you feel full and suppress your appetite.
A handful of nuts is a good way to avoid food cravings and snacking throughout the day. Keep in mind, however, that when cooked in oils or sprinkled with sugary or salty toppings, they can quickly become detrimental to your diet. Go for plain nuts that are either raw or lightly toasted, as roasting nuts at high temperatures may reduce their nutrient content.
It’s important to remember that though they are high in nutrients, they are high in calories. So while a handful of nuts is a good way to pack more nutrients into your diet and avoid food cravings, a few more handfuls can pack on the pounds. They shouldn’t be eaten to excess. Dr. Fuhrman suggests “one ounce daily is usually appropriate for women trying to lose weight and 1.5 – 2 ounces for overweight men.”
They Are Heart Healthy
In general, “nut consumption has been identified as a dietary factor associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancers.” This is due to their anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties. The plant sterol content in nuts (highest in pistachios) is “structurally similar to cholesterol” and can actually help lower cholesterol levels. Those who include nuts as a part of their healthy diet can lower their LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol) levels, which is important because “high LDL is one of the primary causes of heart disease.”
In addition, nut consumption can improve the lining of your arteries and may help reduce your risk of developing blood clots—a common cause of heart attacks.
Nuts Can Help Your Body Absorb Other Nutrients
Eating nuts with leafy greens can help your body absorb more nutrients. Sprinkling some nuts on top of a salad or using a nut-based dressing is a great way to include more nuts into your diet. Try some of our favorite nut-based dressings, like our almond balsamic dressing or pistachio mustard dressing.
What are some of your favorite nuts, and how do you include them in your healthy diet?